Meet Marko Gajski - Head Chef at the Michelin Starred LD Restaurant in Korcula, Croatia

Meet Marko Gajski - Head Chef at the Michelin Starred LD Restaurant in Korcula, Croatia

In 2021, as many as 10 restaurants in Croatia proudly hold Michelin star. Among them, we especially like the LD restaurant on the island of Korcula. Therefore, in this blog post, we bring you an interview with the man in charge, Marko Gajski, head chef at Michelin starred LD restaurant, located in Korcula old town.

Table of Contents

First of all, I would like to thank our renowned chef Marko Gajski for the time he dedicated to sharing the story of his personal journey from MasterChef to the Michelin star with the readers of Luxury Croatia Travel Blog and VIP Holiday Booker Team. Also, Marko shared his thoughts on the future of Croatian gastronomy and what inspires him.

Can you please introduce yourself and describe your culinary journey. How did you become a chef? Was it your dream job from childhood? Who had or still has the biggest impact on your culinary development?

"My name is Marko Gajski, coming from Nova Gradiška. Currently, I'm living in Korcula and enjoying my life as Executive chef at LD Restaurant, part of Lesic Dimitri Palace. I feel free to say, that to describe my whole culinary journey, it would need lots of time, for example, a film with 3 sequels.

But, in short, after graduating from the college, Faculty of Organization and Informatics in Varaždin, I started to work on the Croatian stock market. I like to call my path "from crisis to crisis" because in 2010 when the big economic crisis started, I lost my job."

The path from MasterChef to Michelin star

"Then, I went to the first Croatian MasterChef. After the show, accidentally, because I was willing to work anything, literally anything, I ended up in the kitchen. At the time it seemed like the worst choice, but it turned out to be my dream job and I'm still here.

Why from crisis to crisis? When the second crisis started in 2020, which was a much bigger crisis caused by coronavirus spread, we at LD Restaurant got the first Michelin star. So, that's the long story short!

And, my culinary idol who I still call my mentor would be Tom Gretić who was a judge at my first MasterChef. He was my guide and a person I could always and at any time rely on, and we are still friends. And if I have to say who my culinary idol is it would be him."

Fine dining at LD Restaurant in Korcula Photo Credits: Courtesy of LD Restaurant, Korcula

Your current position is Head Chef of LD Restaurant in Korcula. You earned your Michelin star in 2020, and together with your team managed to maintain the prestigious status in 2021. How do you feel about it? Was it difficult, was it something you expected or was it a complete surprise?

"Yes, I'm the Executive chef of LD restaurant and as I mentioned, we got our first star in 2020. I have to say it is a team effort. If we are looking at it as one play, I would be a director. But, you have to have good actors, good scenarios, good everybody so that the movie or the play could be successful. That is the same way in our team. These are the people who are now in our restaurant for the last 5 years, people who can I rely on. They have become my family and this is for sure a success of all of us."

The highlight moment

"The feeling of getting the first Michelin star for the first time, for me was indescribable. Literally, my legs were shaking, I was so excited, so happy... For sure, that was the highlight moment in my life and I'm sure it will stay for that for a long time.

I have to be honest, we worked hard for it, we were expecting it. I won't be humble to say it was a surprise. It was something that came as a consequence of what we did. It was never a cause of what we were doing or what we are doing. So, we were expecting that, we were hoping for that, we worked hard for it, so it came at the right time."

Inspiration and gastronomy story at LD Restaurant

Can you please present the gastronomy story of the LD Restaurant?

"The gastronomy motto of LD Restaurant would be that we always have a focus on fresh ingredients and the best ingredients. We want to be a part of the region we are coming from. We want to present our region, the philosophy of Korcula island, and ingredients from our island. But, if we don't have the best ingredients on our island, we don't dare to go elsewhere to find them. That is our philosophy. "

Where do you find inspiration in creating the menu?

"There is always some kind of pressure to have a new menu, to do new things, and to do even better things. Because to go forward you need to be better every time. So that depends."

Fine Dining Korcula Restaurant LD

Photo Credits: Courtesy of LD Restaurant, Korcula

"Sometimes my dishes are inspired by some people like it was this year. This year's menu was a Menu of lost things. It was called Lost things. "

"Lost Things Menu"

"Inspiration came because I was separated from my family and my friends for such a long time. I got inspired by favorite things they like to eat, and by some dishes that remind me of somebody. So, it was very personal this year. "

Last year's menu was inspired by the island and the traditional dishes how I see them in my way. It was a transformation on the plate in my way. So, inspiration really comes to me in different shapes and forms.

Sometimes I even dream something. Sometimes is something that I experience on my travels. Either way, the great ingredients inspire me."

Does the menu offer change often or do you gradually evolve the menu offerings?

"I have to say we don't have the whole year window to work. So we are losing some part of the season. This is the part I always have a wish that we can cook in, winter and autumn. Those are the periods that are also beautiful and give a wide palette of ingredients that is impossible to work within the summertime.

We have a pre-seasonal menu, seasonal menu and after season, when it is a little bit colder we do some new things."

Signature dishes: prawn gyoza, chocolate crocant, and Foie Gras

"Every year we like to change the complete menu. The difference is now that we have several dishes that guests would kill us if we remove them from our menu. So, those are our signature dishes: prawn gyoza, chocolate crocant, and Foie Gras.

Right now, these are the dishes we would like to keep for all people from all around the world. For people who heard about it or their friends tell them about it and we want everybody to try them."

Top service and kitchen team deliver happiness

How would you describe the culinary experience that diners at LD can expect? What would be your message for the future visitors of LD?

"Our guests at our restaurant can expect a beautiful gastronomical journey. Maybe it is a little bit egoistic to say it but I'm very confident about it. It is because I know that we have a great service team, we have a great kitchen team. And, I know the reason we are doing this is that we want to make our guests happy."

I'm sure if they come with an open heart, if they come to enjoy, with no pressure, they will have such a great time. This is a culinary journey we are walking with them together.

So, my advice would be to come here, to relax, just to give themselves to us and we will lead them to the beautiful experience."

Dish Presentation Michelin starred Restaurant LD Restaurant on Korcula Island in Croatia

Photo Credits: Courtesy of LD Restaurant, Korcula

What is your favorite dish on a menu at LD?

"As I mentioned earlier, my signature dish is prawn gyoza. That is a dish that I'm very proud of. It came as an idea. First, there was a dish fritto misto. From that dish, I came to this one because it has everything. It has sustainability, it has a local story, it includes lots of techniques, and offers plenty of flavors.

So we are doing squid ink gyoza filled with prawn meat. We are using their shells to make a sauce. We are dehydrating their heads and making some dust. Since the dish is very fatty, we cut it with a little bit of chili, some chives, and daikon marinated in island vinegar."

The most favorite dish: Prawn Gyoza

"Prawn gyoza is the dish that became bigger than our restaurant. Literally, people from all over the world are coming for it to try it. For sure, as long as I'm here it is going to be on my menu. And that would be for certain the dish on which I'm the proudest of and my favorite dish on the menu."

LD_Restaurant_prawn_gyoza_signature_dish_Marko_GajskiPhoto Credits: Courtesy of LD Restaurant, Korcula

Korcula is every year more and more popular destination for holidaymakers looking for a retreat away from crowds and loud party destinations. Based on my personal experience in the travel industry, I would say Korcula is the dream destination for the ones who want to enjoy the natural beauties of the Adriatic Sea, explore secluded bays and enjoy the Mediterranean pace of life while on vacation. Here also comes the part of the enjoying the excellent food and wine. Do you see Korcula also as a destination in Croatia that people would visit for the sake of the rich gastronomic offer?

"Korcula is definitely becoming a gastro mecca in Croatia. As you mentioned, it is definitely a destination, a little quieter, more oriented towards a peaceful vacation. It offers untouched beautiful nature, lots of small islands that people can enjoy and relax in the tranquility.

This distinguishes our island of Korcula from Hvar and Dubrovnik, which in my opinion is very good. This allows us to position ourselves as a leader not only in our region but in the whole of Croatia as a gastronomic and wine mecca.

Korcula is an island that is only a 15-minute ferry to another beautiful wine region, the Peljesac peninsula.

Lumbarda and Smokvica on the island of Korcula and Peljesac are the most influential wine regions in Croatia. So we have something so valuable in such a small space, which gives us the best wine, the best wine producers, and the best wine labels."

Korcula as Croatian wine & gastro mecca

"I believe that in the future Korcula will become not only a top Croatian and European destination, but I also see Korcula as one of the world leaders. Figures and experiences tell us that this is already happening. I expect this more and more in the future because a lot of smart investments and smart moves are currently underway. I believe that in a few years we will talk about Korcula as a sensational world destination. "

Dish Presentation at LD Restaurant Korcula

Photo Credits: Courtesy of LD Restaurant, Korcula

What is your most favorite typical Croatian dish you eat at home?

"My favorite traditional Croatian dish would definitely be "sarma" with mashed potatoes in winter, and in the summer that would be "punjena paprika" (stuffed peppers) with mashed potatoes as a side dish."

What are your most favorite restaurants in Croatia? How do you see the future of Croatian gastronomy?

"Well, it is really difficult to mention the restaurants and the chefs who are my favorite because most of them are my friends and colleagues. Of course, I don't want to point anyone out.

There is no doubt that there are great restaurants in every region in Croatia you go to. It depends on what you want to eat or what you like best. For example, If I would like to have some traditional grilled fish, I certainly wouldn't go to a Michelin-starred restaurant. But if I want that experience, there are now 10 restaurants in Croatia with Michelin stars, for which I can guarantee, the one will enjoy wonderful food in each of them.

Furthermore, there are also many good restaurants in every region with plenty of talented chefs. I think in the next 10 years you are going to hear more about them.

Definitely, there is a bright future in front of Croatian gastronomy. "

If you’re still wondering what is behind the raving reviews from visitors around the world, as well as accolades like the Michelin star for the LD restaurant, we recommend you try it yourselves.

Is it some kind of magic, a secret ingredient or is it a combination of hard work, dedication, creativity, and great love and passion for cooking ...? The best way to discover this is to book a table, head to Korcula, and indulge in a brilliant experience at the LD restaurant!

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