Melkior Bašić, the Alfred Keller restaurant chef, is a star on the Croatian and regional culinary scene. This young chef grew up alongside his father, the famous chef Silvio Belužić, and worked for twelve years together with Miro Biondić in the renowned Kreativna kuhinja (‘Creative Kitchen’) consulting company, where he learned the secrets of high-quality cuisine. We asked Chef Melkior what it feels like to be the chef of one of the most ambitious restaurants in Croatia and Europe, what the secrets of his success are, and what type of food he personally enjoys.
Hi Melkior! It’s great to see you in our hotel and the Alfred Keller restaurant. The Hotel Alhambra aims to offer its guests the ultimate culinary experience and we‘re very happy that you are part of our team. You worked as a culinary consultant for many years, but we’re glad that you’ve now decided to go back to the kitchen as a chef. We really enjoy your work and the taste, appearance and creativity of your dishes. How would you describe your culinary credo, your gastronomic philosophy?
Keep it simple and use fresh local ingredients, prepare with care and focus on details. I always consider the season and adapt my recipes to the time of year. My team and I test each dish until we obtain a superb quality that we are satisfied with and which we can proudly present to our guests.
Was there a special moment in your life when you decided: I want to be a chef, or was it a spontaneous decision? Your father is a chef too, isn’t he?
I grew up with cooking and a love for gastronomy because my father, Silvio Belužić, was also a chef. The first thing that attracted me was fruit and vegetable carving. At first, I thought that this would be my profession, but later on I realised that cooking is much more important. I learned a lot from my father. He was old school. They learned more slowly but more thoroughly back then.
What does it feel like to be the chef at Lošinj’s most luxurious hotel?
I’m very glad to be part of this fantastic story. The Boutique Hotel Alhambra is a place with superb cuisine, and it gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to contribute to Lošinj becoming a world-famous culinary destination. We work hard, there are numerous culinary events and masterclasses, and this inspires us to always give our best.
Which are the dishes that you enjoy the most? What gives you the greatest culinary pleasure?
There is no specific dish that I particularly enjoy preparing – I fully commit to each dish and take care of every detail, whether it’s soup or a more complex recipe. It’s always vital to give it my full attention and to carry out all the preparatory steps in an impeccable manner. I enjoy working with fresh ingredients, creating new dishes, seeing the satisfaction of guests, and discovering traditional local recipes. It’s important to show a respect for detail, to choose the right olive oil for fish, and the right one for meat. It’s these details that in the end make a perfect culinary experience.
How would you describe your sources of inspiration? Who have been your greatest teachers?
Above all, that would be my father, Silvio Belužić, and Miro Biondić. I really appreciate them, as through all these years they have remained my teachers and source of inspiration. I know many excellent chefs, I respect their culinary vision, their work and mission, but I never take any dishes from anyone. It wouldn’t make sense. Each chef chooses his or her own ingredients, and even if you tried to achieve the same taste that they create, it wouldn’t be an original dish, because you can never obtain that specific flavour.
We know that you like traditional dishes and that you’re always searching for recipes from our grandmas’ time. What inspires you in the dishes of the Lošinj archipelago?
Lošinj’s cuisine has been influenced by various cultures, primarily Italian, but also from nearby Istria. In addition, Lošinj, like every coastal Mediterranean region, bases its cuisine on fish, seafood, aromatic herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary, but also lamb, dried fruit, and simple cakes made of flour, fat, dried fruit and lemon. Research has also helped us to discover some ancient dishes. In the Alfred Keller restaurant, we offer our interpretation of the tradition by respecting ingredients, quality and originality.
Which ingredients do you base your menus on? Which spices are you particularly fond of?
I try to offer each guest something special. I can’t say that I base my menu on a single ingredient, but I personally love fish, especially when it’s poached. Poached fish is a very healthy food. Sometimes I prepare poached shark, which always surprises our guests, as shark is usually served fried. Weeverfish is also excellent when poached. I also love to use seasonal fruit, so at this time of the year you’ll notice many dishes with peaches on our menu. We grow herbs on the roof of our hotel. Our guests are delighted with the fact that we make our own herb butter. Spices are fantastic, but I always follow the principle that ‘less is more’.
What can guests expect in the Alfred Keller restaurant? Apart from your menus, do you also cook to guests’ wishes?
Each guest of our restaurant can expect superbly prepared food, fresh ingredients, great care for detail, and top-quality wines that we carefully match with each individual dish. Our guests can choose dishes from the menu, but also order food according to their wishes. If a guest has some specific requirement with regard to dishes, flavours, or ingredients, it’s best if we are informed about it the evening before so that we can obtain all the ingredients and prepare everything. Our work is all about the satisfaction of our guests.
I pay a lot of attention to presentation – sometimes I rearrange the plate several times until I obtain a presentation that I am fully satisfied with.
Where do you find the inspiration for presenting your food? Your creations are truly magical. They have the harmony and balance of an artwork.
The presentation of my dishes is a matter of on-the-spot inspiration; I cannot say that there is a set of rules. However, some basic principles exist, for example with regard to the shape of the plate on which a dish is served, but there are just a few of these. What really matters is creativity, emphasising the beauty of the dish and its ingredients, adding colours, textures and shapes, and thus creating a harmonious whole.
When you’re a guest in a restaurant, what kinds of dish do you order, and which ingredients do you prefer, and why?
It’s best to ask for a recommendation, so I always try the chef’s speciality, but basically I choose lighter food. Poached fish and seasonal ingredients are the things that I always enjoy.
Thank you for talking to us!
Come to Boutique Hotel Alhambra and taste Melkior’s culinary creations.
Follow our blog – we’ll soon be publishing recipes by Chef Melkior that you can prepare at home. We’re sure that you’ll be thrilled!