Ever wondered what it would be like being in the presence of royalty? Hilton Sydney’s Executive Chef, Kruno Velican, could tell you because he once cooked for a Saudi Prince #jealous!
1. How long have you been in the industry?
I have been in industry for 23 years. I started as apprentice in The Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, Croatia and have since worked in many award-winning Australian restaurants.
2. What’s your most amazing hospitality experience?
It’s very hard to choose as I’ve been fortunate to of had so many. One that always stays in my mind was a last minute request to cater for Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal for his private jet when he travelled from Sydney to Tokyo. That really pushed my team to think outside of the box and deliver on very tight schedule. It took us 14 hours to source, cook, chill and pack food with strict dietary requirements, but it was an amazing experience.
3. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Probably making Haggis. Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, and mixed with stock. Traditionally Haggis is encased in a sheep’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing.
4. First country you ever travelled to?
Growing up in Croatia, meant that my family often travelled throughout Europe, namely Germany where some of my close family reside. My first big trip was to Malaysia, and was definitely my most memorable. I felt a mixture of culture shock and excitement to explore South East Asia and experience the fantastic food from this region.
5, Wish list of places yet to visit?
South America, Iceland, Burma, Laos are definitely at the top of my list.
6. Who was your biggest mentor growing up?
Personally my parents were there always to offer guidance and support, whilst professionally I’ve learnt a lot from the many chefs I’ve worked with. Mr Karkovic whom I worked with in Croatia at the Espalande Zagreb Hotel, gave me a solid foundation in what it takes to be a chef and cook well.
Furthermore, Mr Julije Babic whom I worked with at the Esplande’s restaurant ‘Bistro Espanade’ opened my mind to different textures and food combinations. I also worked with Mr. Walter Keller at the Westin Sydney who was a great mentor and assisted with the development of my leadership and people skills.
7. How has working in hospitality changed you?
Working in many multicultural environments has opened my mind and eyes to different cultures, cooking methods, dining traditions. It has changed my palate and increased my knowledge about food, ingredients and flavour combinations, but above everything else, I am very proud to have met so many great friends from all corners of the globe.
8. What’s your biggest life achievement to date?
Representing Croatia and being part of the national culinary team that cooked for the United Nation’s general assembly meetings in New York. The honour of showcasing my country through food and culture to the leaders of the world was an unforgettable experience.
9. What’s one tip for a chef starting new job?
Make sure that your knives are sharp on your first day when working in a new kitchen. It says a lot about how you prepare and your readiness.
10. What advice would you give an industry newbie?
Be patient, don’t have unrealistic expectations of becoming an Executive Chef in first two years of your career – be open-minded, listen, ask questions, and don’t give up. If you are persistent and hard working success will come. Remember to put in the effort; read cookbooks, increase your food map, and try new things. Focus on the job and not on a clock, develop relationships, stay humble and respectful, but have fun!
11. What’s one in-flight travel tip?
My recommendation for those who may have sensitive stomachs or who are a little picky with food is to have a nice big pre departure meal. Pack snacks to tide you over and drink plenty of water on the plane. Most airlines don’t offer herbal tea, so pack a peppermint or chamomile tea to help settle your stomach.
Have a question for Kruno? Leave it below and we’ll get you the answer.
Getting to Know You is our good will gesture to promote the TIME program. The TIME program is focused on a Mentor/Mentee relationship that is ‘mentee-driven’. Mentors are drawn from the senior ranks of the industry and have generously volunteered their time and energy to the mentor process. They are matched to Mentees on the basis of non-conflicting business skills and experience that enables them to offer advice and perspective to the Mentee. The role of the Mentor is to hold their Mentee accountable and to offer challenging ideas that will inspire the Mentee, helping to building the individuals self confidence through praise, encouragement and constructive feedback.
If you are interested in joining TIME as a mentor or mentee visit their website
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