In September last year, late one evening while holidaying in Dubrovnik, I sent Ana an email. I wrote to her singing praises about our fabulous evening at her restaurant Pantarul. It was so wonderful in fact that it encouraged me to blog about Dubrovnik’s best restaurant. As mutual food bloggers we got to talking…or should I say typing? Ana is an accomplished and talented woman making a positive impact on the foodie scene in Croatia, read on to learn about her endless talents!
1. Please tell us about who you are, where you’re from and what you do?
I am Ana-Marija Bujić, a 28-year-old from Dubrovnik in Croatia (a country so small you sometimes need a magnifying glass – or a good zoom tool – to find it on the map). I hold an MA degree in French and English (teaching and translation, respectively) and I love all things food. This has led me to two different careers which I have so far managed to juggle quite successfully – the first one is connected to languages (I teach English and French online and I subtitle TV series and movies for the television) and the second one to food (I write a blog ‘Sweet Cravings’, have published a cookbook and opened a restaurant, Pantarul, in Dubrovnik).
2. What sparked your interest in opening/running a restaurant?
If several years ago someone had told me that I would open a restaurant, I would have told them they were out of their mind. However, five years ago, I met my partner and we ended up in a long-distance relationship as I was living in Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) whereas Milan was in Dubrovnik. As I had been writing a food blog and he had a lot of experience working as a waiter in some of the best Dubrovnik restaurants, after giving it a lot of thought, we decided to open our own restaurant. To make things a bit easier on both of us, we decided to start the business with another partner so now there are three of us.
3. What would you say to other people considering doing the same?
Do not start a restaurant (or any other business for that matter) unless you are prepared to think about it all the time and dedicate a lot of your time to it. You must love food, be prepared to work long hours and be very flexible because working with people is usually very rewarding, but it can also be terribly demanding.
4. Finish the sentence “I just won’t eat”…
Stinky cheese. I’ve even tried to force myself, but it seems to be physically impossible in my case.
5. You won’t travel without…
Tons of prior online research. It keeps me excited for weeks or even months ahead of the trip.
6. Favourite takeaway any night of the week?
In Dubrovnik you don’t have many options when it comes to takeaway so I will go with sushi.
7. Person who inspires you the most and why?
A tough one! There are so many people in my immediate and virtual surroundings who are amazing in different areas of life that it’s very difficult to choose. Let’s just say I like people who are true to themselves and who stick to the path they’ve chosen no matter what.
8. If you were holding a dinner party what would you serve?
Shareable dishes – I love it when food makes people come together. Dips and sauces, preferably homemade crackers or bread or as a starter, then maybe some oven-baked fish with seasonal vegetables (it’s easy to pop it in the oven while you’re at the table enjoying yourself with your guests) and a decadent dessert at the end.
9. Most memorable travel destination and why?
I’ve just come back from a trip to Portugal so I am still under Lisbon’s spell – warm weather, hospitable people, picturesque streets and delicious food and pastries – what more could a traveller ask for? I also love France, particularly Paris – that is a city that I always go back to.
10. What is your secret shameful food love?
The amount of chocolate I am able to eat. I reserve the right not to disclose the exact numbers.
11. If you had to relocate to another country today where would it be and why?
Probably France – I love their language and culture and I think I would fit in easily.
12. What have you learnt about yourself on your travels?
I have been travelling since quite an early age and I can’t say I’ve had an aha! moment, but rather I believe that travelling has shaped me along the way. All of those experiences influenced my outlook on the world and made me appreciate people’s diversity and similarities (we’re all so different, but also very much the same). Further, travelling has made me appreciate my own country in a different way – I can be very critical when it comes to my town and my country and I hate chauvinism.
13. What is your Proudest achievement?
I have to go with two here, both of them rather recent – publishing my cookbook What’s Cooking in Dubrovnik and opening the restaurant with Milan and Đuro. Both of these events were preceded by years of preparation and hard work so it was a true pleasure seeing those wishes finally come true. The book has also been nominated for The Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2015.
14. Most awkward or funny travel moment?
On our first night in Athens, we got lost and asked a local for directions to a restaurant we’d been looking for. He didn’t know where it was, but offered to take us to one of his favourite restaurants. We accepted, but it took quite a long time to reach it and we were walking up some dark alleys which got me quite scared. Finally, we reached the restaurant and had one of the best meals ever. We still laugh when we remember how I grasped my partner’s hand thinking that we were being taken God knows where.
15. Most memorable foodie moment?
There have been many recently, but I particularly enjoyed a day in Mali Ston Bay near Dubrovnik a year ago. My partner and I visited my friend’s family there and they took us oyster-fishing and later we shared a meal in their garden – fresh fish off the grill, oysters and mussels and some local wine. Lots of laughter. As good as it gets.