Chef Primorac Kristijan grew up in Germany watching his parents running their restaurant, though the father wanted him to go into other professions but not cooking. The father thought he will not be rich if he becomes a chef, but the he said he did not listen to the advise as he is happy being a chef today and married to one too.
Here is the story of the 39 years old Croatian who is the Executive Chef at Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos as he shared it with JIMOH BABATUNDE. Here is an excerpt .
On how he came into the profession
I am 39 years old. I have been with the Radisson Blu for five years.
I was born 39 years ago and grew up in Germany. My parents are from Croatia. I was born into this industry as my parents have their own restaurant which they have been operating for over 45years.
Though my father advised me not to take up the profession believing that as a chef I will not make money as well as have time for my family. So, he said I should look for something else to do.
But, I did not listen to him as I am in the profession today.
On why he didn't listen to his dad
If you grow up in a restaurant like I did growing up in my parents restaurant then for you everything is normal in helping to set up the kitchen, assist in cooking and helping out generally at the the restaurant. So, it was something I know and feel comfortable with and so it was normal decision to want to become a professional chef.
My father was head waiter and my mum was head chef in their restaurant, I started as a waiter and discovered I was not having fun outside as I felt more comfortable in the kitchen.
Why was he comfortable in the kitchen
Growing up, I was always in the kitchen watching and eating as my mum cooked lot of local Croatian food, so most times I was there with her chopping and helping her.
Outside the kitchen, my dad was short of people so I do help him as a waiter. So my decision to help was a normal one as I was familiar with the kitchen. I know how to cook. So it was a nice decision at the end.
On formal training as chef
Yes in Germany you have three years training in a school and hotel. Five days in the kitchen, one day in school and a day off.
During the training , I was always saying after school let see how far I can go. I had high hope of graduating and start working for big companies like Hilton Hotels.
I worked first in a small private hotel, French cuisine, a high level restaurant in Germany. Then I said it was time to work in a bigger hotel to see big operations.
To cook in a small hotel is different from working in a big hotel, for me it was interesting to see what was going on there, so my first work was with Hilton in Dusseldorf with ball room for 10000 people, one fine dining restaurant, one banquet and a restaurant with buffet.
From their I met lot of good people, I had a head chef that gave me space to grow and cook what I liked.
Though you need to follow the hotel policy, but he gave me space to experiment. He always says Kristen do it, if fine great, but if not do it again to make it better.
Before moving to Radisson, I worked in a fine dinning restaurant for a year and another private restaurant and after German I moved to Croatia with Radisson Blu.
Then you have choices of where to work, to have taste of different kitchens and to work with different people from different countries. I spent six years with Hilton Hotel and now six years with Radisson Blu Hotel.
This is the second hotel I am opening with Radisson Blu in Nigeria and my second time here in Nigeria
On how it has been in Nigeria
Africa and Europe is completely different. I have never been here before . The food here is very spicy. Nigerians like very spicy food unlike Germans or Croatian.
It is completely different
On his food philosophy
I am from a Mediterranean country, so I work a lot with herbs, different kind of olive oil, this is where I grew up and what I learnt, but here in Nigeria it is completely different,
So I like to put all, Germany, Croatia and Nigeria, together
I find a way to put together what the different people like , like adding different chillies and pepper .
On his favourite dish
I have two. First I like chicken pepper soup. My mum used to cook chicken soup for us at home, but not in the same way with what you have here in Nigeria, where you have lot of pepper.
But I do tell my guys here that when you cook Chicken pepper soup for me, please, add less pepper.
I also like chicken suya and beef suya with a star beer.
Funniest experience in the kitchen
I have lots. My first time here at Radisson Blu in Lagos. I had my cutting board ready for preparing my breakfast. I had my tomatoes, cucumbers and toast. One of my staff was also coming. She brought chillies to cut on the board while I stepped out.
Then took his stuff off the board and went away. When I returned I started with same knife on same board to cut my tomatoes, cucumber and bread.
With same knife spread the butter on my bread. You can imagine a European in Nigeria for the first time eating such hot food as the pepper cut on the board found its way to my food.
My mouth was burning. I could not shout.
The best food he enjoys cooking
It depends on where I am. If in Croatia, I like to put the fish in a charcoal grill with olive oil, potatoes and a good beer. In Germany, red cabbage, potatoes and a good roasted beef.
On what guests should look for in terms of food at Radisson Blu
I have to cook large. Nigeria likes snails, spicy pepper inside. I think I can make same but not spicy and used same base of tatase, pepper, fish, snails combined. I like to fuse food of two countries as this defined my philosophy of combining the two ingredients in one plate.
During the yuletide season, the biggest buffet in town will be here. As we will be serving Nigerian cuisine and international favourites,
If he cooks at home
My wife is also a chef. So, in most cases she cooks. If I need to cook, it means she cleans the kitchen for two days, so she tells me to sit why she cooks so she can clean the kitchen easily.
When I cook at home, I don’t know when I start cooking some specialities bringing in different spices, but my wife tells me I spend too much time in the kitchen.
She cooks, so I don't have problem with that.