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Tilen Župevec

Kogo Restaurant

Slovenia is his universe. He intends to reach the stars through the inspiring recipes of our ancestors.

About chef

He describes himself as a culinary patriot and swears by the exploration of local approaches to gastronomy.

The foundation of Tilen’s creativity is Slovenia’s rich culinary heritage. Wherever he makes his work base, he first explores the local ingredients and old recipes, which he then modernises with his unique style. He supplements Slovenian diversity with a pinch of French luxury and a touch of Scandinavian elegance.

Tilen understands modern trends as reruns of historical culinary episodes. “Blood sausage and shrimp together? Nothing new,” states this convinced master, who seeks inspiration in old cookbooks and from Istrian nonas and other grandmothers across Slovenia. He finds at least 80 percent of his ingredients in the local area, others he selects so that they emphasise flavours of local excellence.

Favourite dish
Potato žganci

A dish that his mother enriches with an egg, porcini mushrooms and warm cream, reminds Tilen of his childhood in Dolenjska.

Favourite ingredient
Butter

Real butter from a farm, with a full aroma and flavour, spread on sourdough bread and sprinkled with a pinch of fleur de sel makes a perfect meal.

After completing his studies in the field of hospitality, this ambitious chef, born in 1993, methodically and with great discipline forged his culinary career path so as to acquire experience and deepen his knowledge in a series of posts. Year after year, he took jobs in various Slovenian restaurants where his chosen culinary “fathers” worked. Finally, love brought him to the Slovenian coast and Istria and to the position of chef in a restaurant that quickly gained a Michelin recommendation. “Already as a child I said that I was going to be a cook, but they didn’t believe me. Well, now you can see that I am on the right path,” says Tilen laughingly. He plans on getting his own star from the world-renowned Michelin Guide, sooner or later, in his own boutique restaurant.

Chef Tilen Župevec
Photo: Kogo Restaurant archive
»I love to overcome prejudices with my dishes. Many ingredients that are not considered first-class can be turned into an amazing dish.«

On the coast, guests bet on fish that are considered to be of higher value, while Tilen loves to include in his dishes more affordable and, in his opinion, more interesting fish for cooking, such as mackerel or mullet. “The sea offers a lot more than just seabass or seabream, we just have to abandon our prejudices,” says the chef. He is also enthusiastic about wild edible plants and values the olive oil from selected Istrian producers, fleur de sel from the nearby saltpans, the produce of local farmers and, of course, wine produced in Istria. “Usually, wine is selected to complement the dish, but I also like it the other way around: to create, together with a sommelier, a dish that goes well with a particular wine and strengthens the wine’s character.”

a shrimp and pasta dish
Photo: Kogo Restaurant archive

It is important to be a well

Working in a restaurant that on the one hand offers affordable daily meals, and on the other delights discerning guests with the à la carte creations of an excellent chef is a special challenge. In such circumstances, it is essential to be a good organiser and motivator and above all a person that loves their job and does not mind going into the kitchen before regular working hours.

Experiences gained in different restaurants have taught Tilen that collegiality is an important asset and that it is nice to share knowledge. “I think that I am like a traditional water well from which you can draw all sorts of things with a bucket on a rope. Whether my team, assistants and trainees use the bucket is for them to decide,” adds Tilen, who intends to achieve his ambitious goals in Slovenia. “Global knowledge is now accessible remotely, and right here, at my fingertips, are culinary riches worth exploring.”

Photo: Jaka Ivančič, Kogo Restaurant archive

MICHELIN GUIDE 2023

Chef's Restaurant

Kogo Restaurant

If you want to show visitors the real local character, you must first create a living space for locals.

Read more