Slovenia, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2021
“I could say that the inspiration for my dishes comes from my roots: my hometown; my region Dolenjska, in southeastern Slovenia; my parents; my grandparents; … My ambition for the future is to create culinary stories on plates in my own restaurant. Stories that are connected to my roots, but with a modern twist.”
Špela Kuhel is the young chef who represented Slovenia, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2021 at the European Young Chef Award 2022 and won 2nd prize.
Špela is a 19-year-old student of Hospitality and Tourism at BIC Ljubljana Vocational College where she enrolled after completing her secondary education at the School for Hospitality and Tourism in Novo Mesto.
“I am very proud of being a student at BIC Ljubljana, because our professors guide us in acquiring new knowledge and experience at the highest levels of gastronomy and cuisine” claims Špela, who is also upgrading her skills in the BIC Ljubljana school restaurant KULT316. The restaurant is open to the public and frequently hosts top chefs from Slovenia and abroad (including Michelin-starred) who come to cook for guests and students.
The joy of discovering the secrets of gastronomy and learning how to cook by doing has been her passion since she was a child. Raised on a farm where they grew all the basic food they needed, Špela was guided into the world of cuisine by her grandmother and mother.
Throughout her education, she has been gaining professional knowledge and got to know Slovenian cuisine: “I believe that it is extremely important for any great chef to firstly know the basics of cooking, the culinary heritage of his/her own country and the local ingredients; and then continue to learn the characteristics of different world cuisines.”
Špela’s passion for cooking competitions grew tremendously after participating in the local contest where she was selected as Slovenia’s finalist to the European Young Chef Award 2022. And she enthusiastically supports the philosophy of IGCAT’s international competition: “I am aware of the importance of our culinary heritage and tradition because my parents and grandparents raised me that way, and I get taught these values at school as well. I am also very aware that it is necessary to act sustainably when cooking, for example by using seasonal and local ingredients, and operating according to the zero-waste principle.
“Despite all the difficulties that burden the field of hospitality, I still strive for new sustainable knowledge and professional experience, because I believe that knowledge, passion and desire are the keys to be a successful and happy chef” claims Špela.