"Home and family are the cradle of any type of love, cradle of tradition... For me, my home and my family were a cradle of my love for cooking." Matija Balent, Executive Chef Sheraton Zagreb Hotel
Cooking As Family Tradition
Matija Balent has had contact to the world of aromas and spices already at a young age, his first steps were accompanied by encounters with imaginative combination of tastes. When cooking his first creations, he felt an incomparable feeling of happiness and pride when witnessing people's satisfactory reactions to his creative attempts. It was his grandfather and father, both outstanding chefs, who inspired him and guided him, while his mother, as a culinary and pastry teacher, provided him with a gentle direction to continue the family tradition and one day become an excellent chef. Despite knowing that this type of job means long working hours, no weekends and holidays, the wish to become a chef was not any less for Matija, his love and passion for aromas and creative pairings much stronger than anything else. High school passed in the blink of an eye and he soon found himself working on his professional development in the internationally renowned hotel Inter Continental, where he had the privilege and honor to work with excellent chefs. They never got tired of supporting and sharing the many secrets of their cuisine with young apprentices as Matija and to guide them to find their own personal touch. According to Matija, however, his biggest privilege was to have his father and grandfather constantly keeping and eye on him, putting him in tricky situations and see how he manages to resolve them.
His Grandfather As Role Model
"An excellent chef is not made out of his little secrets, but out of his willingness to share those secrets with others, especially the younger generations". These are the wise words of Matija's grandfather, who lived for this principle and handed down all his knowledge to his grandson. Because of his perseverance and his great wish to learn and constantly improve, after only a few years of working at the hotel InterContinental, Matija was promoted and became the Garde Manger Chef, the role he kept until continuing to his next professional endeavor.
Encouraged by his passion for cooking, he shared his work with colleagues at the Croatian Culinary Association and participated at various competitions, which ultimately got him to the National Championship award in 2007. This was a truly special year for the chef winning at the same time as well the Chef Cup and the Golden Chef award. In addition, he participated at the European competition Bocuse d'Or, which is an achievement he is most proud of. However, it was only at King Tomislav Restaurant, where to this day he creates the dishes, where he started to apply everything he has learnt so far and thus formed his gastronomic signature.
His focus is the illustration of the wealthy Croatian gastronomy, that is filled with authentic tastes and a long tradition, and which he prepares with a modern twist. Istrian olive oil, Adriatic salt, quality local ingredients... paired in a creative expression, and combined with fine Croatian and international wines are his secret of his delicious dishes and his success at King Tomislav Restaurant. "I desire to use my cooking as a paint brush in demonstrating the beauty and diversity of Croatian regions".