Raise the Bar helps to develop young talents in Croatia’s gastronomy scene

16. September 2020.

The Raise the Bar project enables young talents in the gastronomy sector to brush up their knowledge at prestigious schools worldwide
As a real tourist destination, Croatia has been able to pride itself for several years now on a growing number of quality restaurants, cafés and bars that offer not only good food and drinks, but also a unique experience. However, one of the problems employers in the hospitality sector are continuously faced with is the lack of a well-trained workforce. For this reason, Coca-Cola HBC Croatia launched the comprehensive Raise the Bar project to help to solve this burning issue the domestic hospitality and tourism sectors have to cope with.
The Raise the Bar project consists of three project modules: the Raise the Bar Academy for waiters, bartenders and baristas, the Raise the Bar scholarships for chefs, pastry chefs and waiting staff in restaurants, and the cooperation with regional competence sectors in tourism.
Marina Levak is a pastry chef and Raise the Bar scholarship holder who recently returned from her training at the prestigious Ecole Nationale superieure de patissierie – Ducasse & Thurie. Ever since she was a child she has shown an interest in confectionery and created her own recipe book by adding dessert recipes she would cut out from newspapers and she says that she would always be in the kitchen mixing creams and biscuits. Although she could not attend a high school specializing in confectionery, she did not give up on her dream and enrolled in the Culinary Institute Kul IN in Sisak after graduating from high school to learn the basics of confectionery, which she continued to expand.

And thanks to her dedication, knowledge and love for what she does she won a joint scholarship by the Raise the Bar project and the Budi Foodie Foundation last year, which enabled her and the other two finalists Tibor Valinčić and Nikolina Putica to train at prestigious schools. “I didn’t expect all three of us to win, I don’t think any of us did. When the winners were announced, I had a rush of emotions and I’m particularly happy that the winners were announced in the hotel where I had started working to pay for the Culinary Institute in Sisak,” recalls Marina.
She began her training at the Ecole Nationale superieure de patissierie – Ducasse & Thurie in July this year with a program called Expert in French Pastry Art. “From the very beginning of my training I did very well and adapted to the environment. The campus is very impressive with as many as 9 laboratories, but there were really few of us in the group, only about a dozen. I think this really helped us because the chefs could completely dedicate themselves to each of us,” Marina points out. They would receive work and lecture schedules on a weekly basis and would generally work from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Most of the training is practical, as much as 90%, which was especially important to Marina.
She has many plans and ideas for the future, but she’s in no hurry at the moment. She completed her training two weeks ago and says that she’s currently working on getting to know herself and figuring out how she wants to develop. “Nothing goes away overnight and everything requires patience. I’ve always been a dreamer, so I want to tell all those interested in the Raise the Bar scholarship program to dare to dream. Although many things seems impossible or unrealizable at first, you should believe in yourself and be patient. Don’t hesitate to apply, simply do it because fortune favors the brave,” Marina concludes optimistically.

Apart from the scholarships, Coca-Cola HBC Croatia also established through the Raise the Bar project aforementioned academy for waiters, bartenders and baristas at a modern training center, where participants have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and the skills required for quality work in the hospitality sector. Coca-Cola HBC Croatia also intends to raise the workforce quality in the hospitality sector through cooperation with regional competence centers for tourism, to which it makes available its know-how and expertise, advice and curriculum. 
Raise the Bar will continue with its scholarship program this year with the difference that it is launching its own foundation to award scholarships to gastronomy talents. Scholarship applications will start soon, more information about upcoming activities of this comprehensive socially responsible project can be found on the project’s website and Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.