New dining room, new kitchen and the new chef, Jure Kapelar. Always fresh and excellent food at Dewesoft. 

By Petra Skarja, author and entrepreneur

"The new kitchen and dining room is a great acquisition at Dewesoft. Operating since the beginning of this year, the food, thanks to our new chef Jure Kapelar, is just wonderful and we are proud to have him here,” said Helena Lapi working in HR at Dewesoft in Trbovlje, Slovenia.

I had come to Trbovlje, a town of around 16.000 inhabitants located at the Sava River in central-eastern Slovenia. It is known for its long coal mining history, but today it is the operational center of the high-tech company Dewesoft.

I shook the hands of a cook whose specialities are everyone`s daily peak at Dewesoft. Through his career, he cooked in several upscale restaurants - among others Pula Estate, Tabor Castle, Hotel Benda, ... and also in the excellent hotels like Claridge’s and Savoy in London, where he even cooked for the queen.

"I do not know where to begin ... I like cooking," our conversation began. "Wait a minute please, just let me have a look if they have enough. I don’t want anyone to be hungry ..." he smiled and carefully looked into the dining room.

Sunlight and chatter fill the dining room. All in black and white, with subtle touches of company-orange, and decorated by rows of grass-like weeds - it looks almost like a modern style Japanese restaurant. Small tables for four all over and an elevated corner with softer benches in the rear. A central buffet with lines of reflecting chrome containers for the warm food.

The food says it all

I asked him where his desire to cook comes from. "As a child, I loved cooking. At that time, we did not have much ... but I still created. My father wanted me to become a mechanical engineer. Well, I work in such a company now. However, not as an engineer, but as a chef." He looked under the lid, stirred the sauce and described the current menu with enthusiasm. People who enjoy their work and perform it with passion have a special spark in their eyes. I felt that passion every time I looked into his eyes.

As a child, I loved cooking. At that time, we did not have much ... but I still created. My father wanted me to become a mechanical engineer. Well, I work in such a company now. However, not as an engineer, but as a chef.

Every working day of the week Jure prepares a buffet with at least two hot main dishes with meat or fish complemented by variations of rice, potatoes, pasta, polenta, beans or vegetable tarts or pies, two soups, a salad bar, and freshly baked bread. Once a week all this nice and healthy food is topped by a sweet dessert.

"Is there any difference between cooking for the royal family or for employees at DEWESoft?"

"Not really. Just that I can’t decorate the food on each plate here. But the preparation is similar - first I pay attention that fresh and high-quality ingredients are used. Mostly they are delivered from local farmers. Then the important preparation takes place. It really matters whether you put fish on hot or cold oil. I never use the flavour enhancers, prepared sauces or flour for thickening ... People should eat quality food! Of course, it also matters if someone is cooking with pleasure or pain. The food says it all ..."

Helena Pirc from administration told me: “Jure prepares fresh food, according to the season and seasonal ingredients. He has a personal approach to cooking and we feel that he cooks with heart and a lot of joy. He always asks us, employees about our opinion. He knows exactly when each and everyone comes for lunch and personally greets all.”

Modern cuisine with traditional flavors

He took another look at the dining room. I saw homemade bread on the buffet: "Do you also make the bread yourself?" "Of course!" He proudly replied. "Every morning I come a little earlier to knead. The type of bread changes daily and there are at least two different available every day. I can’t serve people bought bread ... It is completely different when you bite into it! Today, I made spelt and walnut bread."

"It really is delicious!" I tried it as well. 

Two soups every day! Soups are a popular part of Slovenian cuisine, and it offers more than 100 different kinds. A typical dish is aleluja, a soup made from turnip peels, but the most common soup is beef soup with noodles, which is often served an entree at both lunch and dinner. Almost any restaurant offers a choice of beef noodle soup or creamy mushroom soup.

Without hesitation, he shares tips and recipes, which he collected during his career in one of the most prestigious French cooking schools in London. Moreover - I felt like he could talk about it for hours and hours. What was most fascinated by when he first entered the world of French cuisine as a student?

"It was interesting how the herbs and spices were already a crucial part of cooking. You know, at that time, in Slovenia, food was decorated only with peels of apples and oranges. Times were different then. It was more difficult to come up with recipes and ideas that today when everything is available on the Internet." This knowledge he shared with Slovenian colleagues that are among the most significant names of the present cuisine in Slovenia.

Local cuisine is mainly based on cereals, dairy products, meat – especially pork, sea, and fresh-water fish, vegetables, beans, olives and grapes – and flavours of neighbouring countries have made their mark. Sausage, Wiener schnitzel, and strudel from Austria, pasta, gnocchi and risotto from Italy, goulash, paprika and pancakes with nuts, jam, and chocolate – palacink – from Hungary, while buckwheat porridge, dumplings and meat pockets have a Slavic touch. Diversity is apparent and there is said to be more 1,200 different Slovenian dishes.

Jure introduces the preparation of modern and rich cuisine in combination with traditional flavours and recipes.

The local community - our valley

"I am fond of making local dishes. For example, "fundšterc" that is a mixture of eggs and potatoes. Last week I prepared a special omelet, "knapovsko sonce", a traditional dish of the coal miners from Zasavje."

How well it coincides with the company's philosophy, I thought. DEWESoft also acquires knowledge all over the world, gets international recognition, but never forgets the importance of hometown and the local community. They are aware of their roots and respect them.

Jure is also from Zasavje, the valley around the river Sava in central Slovenia, from a village near the neighbouring town of Hrastnik, Dol pri Hrastniku, be exact. How did he land right here at DEWESoft?

I've worked a lot around the globe. I also cooked for our politicians, ministers, the president and even for the Queen of England. Now, I would like to give more to my own community.  And there is something else ...

Whatever I have achieved in my career, I did it with my own hands and hard work, nothing has been given to me by a chance. I'm proud of that! And Dewesoft is similar. They are - pure.

"Pure?" "Yes, there are no dirty games, political bribes, inappropriate media coverage ...  the founders, Jure Knez and Andrej Orožen, also built their own careers with their own hands, their minds, and their own money. In a fair way with hard work. I appreciate that very much. We like this company in our valley. They give a lot to the community and to locals. So, I'm proud to work here!"

Not only words but also the attitude and respect expressed pride and dedication to the company. He feels the commitment because the food is an important component of quality living, he added. The employees go for lunch in two shifts – eating either at 11.30 and 12.00. It is 12:00 already at 11:57," Rok Vetršek from the web team said, "the food is TOP. It is diverse and always delicious. There are almost no similar dishes. The only problem - it is so good that we eat too much.

A modest man

Jure gladly accepted the praises; "It is nice to hear", he replied. Whether you are a royal or a neighbour, you are equally valued. Judging by the greetings, the praises, the smiles and the comments he received every time he appeared in the dining room, it is obvious that he was warmly welcomed by the employees. They appreciate his contribution as he appreciates them.

Whatever I have achieved in my career, I did it with my own hands and hard work, nothing has been given to me by a chance

Has it ever gone wrong in the kitchen with so many servings? "Of course, it has." He began to laugh when he approached the gas burner with the apron and explained to me in an ever-growing laugh that he burned his apron in this kitchen the first week of his new job. "But we will not talk about that, will we?" 

In his free time, he likes mountain climbing. He still has to climb Triglav - Slovenia's highest peak  (2864 m), so this challenge is waiting for him.

Modest he is as well, our chef Jure. He did not even mention his high culinary masterpieces, which I later discovered - among other things, he is the only Slovenian recipient of the honorary international award for outstanding achievements in gastronomy, Prix d'honneur international Otto Eckhart pour la Cuisine Exemplaire.

I also came across the almost glorious anecdote - when Jure was cooking in the restaurant "Na hribu" in the western Slovenian town of Vipava, the former Slovenian minister and ambassador in Zagreb, Boštjan Kovačič, was so enthusiastic about his specialties that he had to have his own permanent table there.

With a good excuse that I have to check the skills of a chef that is so greatly praised, I tried his delicious polenta with truffles, homemade bread and “prebranec”, a dish made of beans. I do not know what is behind the story with panna cotta, as everyone started laughing when I mentioned it ...