Spotlight on the Chefs of Küstendorf

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At this year’s Küstendorf, we are lucky enough to have two guest chefs – Peda and Dejan — who are making sure that all the guests are eating well. We sat down with them to learn more about their love for cooking and their experiences here at Küstendorf. They hail from two very different walks of life. Peda is a veteran cook who started cooking while serving Yugoslav National Army in 1985, in the barracks in Skopje. He comes from Jagodina, a town in Serbia. Dejan is a cook in an upscale Belgrade restaurant, Madera. He started his career by working in catering service of a film production. He is also responsible for creating the menu here at Mećavnik, so he is happy to come back and continue helping out and cooking with his friends..

Both our chefs like making traditional food – Peda excels at making sarma exactly the way everyone’s grandma used to make. Dejan feels the most at ease when making traditional Serbian food, including vegan food traditionally eaten during lent period, which is made without any animal products.

They both take pleasure in sharing their food with other people. Of all people, Peda prefers to cook for his family. He’s a nomadic chef and cooks by invitation only. He explained that he has high standards and that “when he makes five meals, all five have to be exceptional”. Dejan likes to cook for good people in good spirits, “who say what they want through their smiles”, regardless of whether they are in rags or riches.

Peda takes pride in being a “doctor for preparing meat”, so his friends call him “doctor Lazarević”.

They are both very honoured to be here at Küstendorf cooking for our guests. They said cooking at Küstendorf is a unique experience because the guests here are artists who bond and relax over food during breaks.

If asking for more food is a chef’s biggest compliment, then Küstendorf guests are full of praises – and sarmas, a cabbage wrapped minced meat dish. Peda said that a certain French guy here ate 17 sarmas the other day. He explained that, “people eat a lot when the food is good, in other words, when Peda and Dejan are cooking.” Peda emphasized that,”when you eat, it means you’re healthy. When you don’t eat, you’re sick.” Dejan wrapped up by saying “that everyone here will leave with at least two extra kilos, and those who ate 17 sarmas, will leave with three and a half extra kilos.”