Slovenia - Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj
Conseiller Gastronomique
In conversation with Bailli Délégué Tomaz Ravnikar

Conseiller Gastronomique Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj is an ethnologist, historian of art and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Ljubljana. Gastronomy and food culture are part of his research and expertise in his pedagogical work.  He is the author and co-author of over 60 books, numerous scientific and specialised articles, researches and studies. He has appeared in educational films and on radio and television shows. For some of his books he received acclaimed international awards, such as the Gourmand World Cookbook Award.

Ravnikar: A member of the Chaîne in Slovenia from the start: why did you join?

Bogataj: For several reasons: naturally the subject field which is indirectly connected to my specialised research and pedagogical work in the culinary field and gastronomy.  Human economic efforts, relationships within the society, spiritual creativity and knowledge enable a discovery of different lifestyles and cultures.  A bowl of soup or a plate of some kind can reveal an everyday or festive character of individuals, families, groups and communities. The honourable history and tradition of the Chaîne was most influential as was participation in scientific and expert circles. I believe that our role is also to share our findings in different spheres of the public. The Chaîne has such a role ringing together people of different professions but with uniform culinary and gastronomy interest.

Ravnikar: How do you see the role and activity of the Professional members in our Bailliage?

Bogataj: I believe we have a lot to do to educate potential Professional members regarding the importance and meaning of membership of this prestigious organisation. We are very familiar with quality systems and how to raise the bar to achieve the highest level. This involves more than simply food and beverages. However, these matters take time requiring changes in approach. More important is the understanding of the concept of gastronomic culture, not to say behaviour and knowledge. Many of our caterers promote Slovenian cooking beyond Slovenia.

Ravnikar: Cooking and gastronomy have become the central focus of world interest and also two of the main reasons for tourist travel. Why has there been this surge in popularity?  How do you see the role of the Chaîne in this global phenomenon?

Bogataj: Actually, we are dealing with a paradox: on one hand global, major issues of hunger and food shortage, on the other, different, continually evolving forms of regional and local cooking and gastronomic cultures. Success in gastro-diplomacy is being achieved. So-called “Positive Street Food” is also one of the ways raising interest. The number of food events and festivals is growing. Although the computer industry is still developing, we are seeing an increase in printed cookery and gastronomy books rather than e-books. Practically all travel packages include getting familiar with local and regional food cultures. People have started to eat according to the seasons, urban areas have vegetable gardens. This proves how aggressive global development has reached a point of its own demise. This is not just about basic nourishment it is also about the discovery of knowledge and different cultures. It is even in the old saying: "We eat to live, but we do not live just to eat".