ALUMNI SUCCESS

  Lucija Bilandžić Matić
  RIT Croatia, Class of 2007
  Hospitality and Service Management (IHSM)

  Employment:  Dva srca i kuhača d.o.o.

  Job title: Owner, Gastronomy Consultant


 

Lucija, you have launched a new project: "Dva Srca & Kuhača, one-stop-shop za šmekere”. Can you tell us a little bit more about the project? Where did the idea come from?

Dva srca i kuhača is a gastronomic platform consisting of online one-stop-shop for connoisseurs, consulting agency and web portal. The idea came during the lockdown. Even though I gave birth in December 2020, I continued to work as we were preparing Chefs’ Stage (international gastronomy and hospitality congress) that was supposed to take place in March 2020, but it was cancelled last minute and suddenly everything went very quiet.

I realized that it was going to be a difficult year for gastronomy but that I had to move forward and adapt. Basically, I put all my services under one umbrella and made it more visible via gastronomic web portal and online shop where you can find all you might need for a great dining experience at home - fresh vegetables, products from Croatian small producers, international delicacies, fine spirits, cooking equipment, specialty coffees, cookbooks, wine and small luxuries such as one of a kind flower designs as well as designer glasses and cups. We deliver as well. Soon we’ll come out with special packages so you’ll be able to buy everything for a DIY brunch at home, for example, or for wine tasting.

How did you come up with the name Dva srca & Kuhača?

As they say, there is no love like the love forfood. Dva srca i kuhača is a love story about food and food culture, family and friends.

You have launched this project in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, which is courageous. How has it been rolling out despite of the situation around us? Did you meet the expectations?

Thank you! I have to say that the project grew organically and soon became a collective of creative individuals who are willing to share their passions with each other. I don’t know was it because of COVID-19, but it seems to me that people were more than usual willing to collaborate. Both B2B and B2C streams developed very fast. We created some great gastronomic stories and our aesthetics became recognizable, which makes me very happy.

In this project, you cooperate with two other colleagues from RIT Croatia: Ksenija Matić owner of Event lab& Certified Sommelier, who writes wine blogs for Kuhača i dva srca and Dario Drmač, owner of wineandmore.com platform.  Do you find working with colleagues easy?  Would you say the alumni connections is one of the things that you cherish the most from your college years?

Yes and I love working with my colleagues because I have a feeling we’re always on the same page. Ksenija demystifies wines for people who would like to know more - she talks about different grapes, styles, regions, food pairings… Her tone is witty and it’s always fun to read her blogs.

Ines Nanić, wedding and event designer par excellence, wrote a blog about wedding menus.

Dario and I go a long way back. We started collaborating back in 2012 and we’ve been working on and off since on different wine related projects. wineandmore.com revolutionized Croatian wine market and they are a great match for Dva srca i kuhaca platform. I must say Dario has been very supportive of my one-stop-shop since the beginning which means a lot.

I feel very honored to able to work with my colleagues. A lot more people from RIT were involved during the brainstorming process for this project and they’ve been very helpful with their feedback.

After your BS degree from RIT Croatia, you completed your MS degree (Food Culture and Communications) at Universita di Scienze Gastronomiche. What made you pick this track? Anything particular that impacted your decision/love for food industry?

Food is a vital part of my life. It has always been like that in my family. Everything important happens around a table. I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen, everyone in my family loves to cook, my father is extremely selective about the food we bring to the table, we love having people over for festive meals… It was a logical next step and one of the best decisions of my life.

Over the years you have been working on many impressive projects, from being a project manager for Chefs’ Stage, Gourmet columnist for journal.hr, fashion.hr and wine and more.com, consultant for Roxanich, MM kantina to having your own business - Dva srca i kuhača. What is the one thing that all these experience have in common? What made you decide to start up your own business?

I started my company in 2012 and my long term goal was to become a leader in gastronomy consulting. I love this feeling of freedom I have with my own business.

Working in gastronomy and hospitality allows you to meet interesting people, travel, discover new ingredients, exchange knowledge with international colleagues, it is a great career path.

I work long hours and on several projects at the same time, but it is very rewarding to see my clients/projects thrive.

What is that you love the most about food industry?

Food is connecting people on so many different levels. I can tell a lot about a person by what they choose from a menu at a restaurant ;)

Also, there is always a moment of pleasure involved. I love to see people enjoying good food and good wine of fine spirits. It is always a very personal experience.

Among other things you do, you are also in charge of PR & brand development for leading Croatian Michelin restaurant Pelegrini, quite impressive. What is that you like the most in this position, has this position opened up any new opportunities in your career?

I love working with Pelegrini team. They don’t even feel like a client. We are friends and partners. This is one of the most important experiences in my career. Chef Rudi Štefan is my friend and mentor, and we created many remarkable stories together. We dreamt of a congress that would position Croatian gastronomy on the world map and we made it happen. We started a charity foundation for education of young talents in gastronomy as well. Rudi is a visionary and it is a pleasure to work with him. Moreover, he "raised” a small army of professionals who are now setting trends in restaurants all over Croatia. That is something to admire.

Since the industry you work in has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, do you see the changes that are occurring as a threat or opportunity?

It is a very complicated situation. You don’t have a lot of maneuvering space when you are a restaurant owner. Lots of people are struggling to find a way to keep their heads above water. Of course there is an opportunity, but you have to be financially strong enough to make it work.

What is your message to our current and potential students?

You have to be resourceful and creative enough to turn a threat into an opportunity, and brave and persistent enough to make it work. Education is the key. You have to gain tools and resources to adapt to changes in life.



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