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Text: Petra Kovič
The interview was published in the SPAR PLUS magazine.
MARTIN ROJNIK, CO-FOUNDER OF THE RECOGNIZED LJUBLJAN VEGAN RESTAURANT KUCHA, WHICH WAS NOTICED AND AWARDED BY THE INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED GASTRONOMY GUIDE GAULT&MILLAU, BECAME A FARMER THIS YEAR.
The pandemic that took bistro Kucha from him prompted him to return to his roots. To youth. He moved to a homestead in Carinthia and started to create a new Grashka brand and at the same time a new career and life path.
"After my studies, I devoted ten years of my life to work in advertising agencies, marketing campaigns and the fashion industry. My managerial career broke when I realized at the age of 29 that I had to move on. I moved to Berlin where I got to know different levels of the culinary world from Michelin standard to vegan, paleo, German, French and Italian cuisine. Food connected me forever, I began to return to nature again. After returning to Slovenia, we founded the SURF Institute in 2014, where we developed plant-based nutritional concepts. In 2018, we founded the company Kucha, d. o. o., where I was the director until October 2020. But then we had to close the doors due to the pandemic," says Martin Rojnik, who now signs under the vegan brand Grashka, which was also recognized by Spar Slovenia as an excellent extension of its vegan offer.
The beginning was not easy; the path to the status of a farmer, of which Martin Rojnik is extremely proud, was in fact very urban and attractive; but fortunately, immediately after the closure of Kucha, Spar Slovenia offered him a helping hand and gave him new strength and impetus to create. Yes, in reality, the light at the end of the tunnel came on for Martin Rojnik. So now Spar.
For all gourmet enthusiasts, Slovenia exclusively offers Grashka brand products on its shelves: BIO Tempeh, BIO Tofu, BIO Buck, BIO Chiko, BIO Oyster Mushroom and Pate - a smoked spread with beech oysters. During the conversation, Martin Rojnik explains what kind of goodies they are.
What does alternative nutrition really bring to the environment?
If we talk about a plant-based diet, statistics show that this kind of eating is becoming normal for a wider mass of people. 98 percent of vegan products in North America are bought by omnivores who realize that they will have to significantly reduce their intake of animal protein if they want to do good for their health and the state of the environment.
Why is the decision to go vegan a good one?
I believe exclusively in a whole plant-based diet. Why? Veganism does not yet mean an environmentally and health-friendly story, as vegan food has become a tool of larger multinationals. This is precisely why our products do not have the label 'vegan'. But to answer your question, I can say that food definitely transforms us, shapes our character; the way we eat creates culture. And what kind of culture do we want? By showing compassion to animals, we not only show our soft side, but show that we are sentient beings. It would be a shame to lose touch with the natural and nature, where everything is interconnected.
Most people think that this type of eating is difficult, saying that it is easier to quickly grill a steak? Is this true?
Today, this is a complete myth, especially on the European market. We now have so many delicious, natural, compelling plant-based sensations on offer. In the same way that you have to collect a good piece of meat at your local butcher, you will also have to research the plant offer in order to decide on the right product. We must not forget that most of the flavor is created by spices that come from the plant world, fermentation transforms the experience into something extraterrestrial, and dehydration and aging deepen the experience.
Are vegans and vegetarians healthier or sicker?
There is no absolute. The whole point is that we need to recognize the difference between natural products and products that have a high content of trans fats, artificial flavors, processed additives, and harmful sugars. Eating vegan doesn't mean you're eating healthy; if you eat wholesome, natural plant foods, you're on the right track.
What and which products will you offer to Spar's customers?
Above all, our ideas originate from the region and we work directly with regional organic producers because we want to influence the development of regenerative agriculture and resilient short supply chains, which will be the key to food security in the future. For this reason, we choose super crops that are well resistant to increasingly severe climate changes and have a rich level of essential fats and proteins. Currently, we are mainly engaged in the processing of beans, chickpeas, mushrooms, buckwheat and hemp. We are mainly thinking about food formats that people already understand and will be able to use more quickly in the kitchen, such as Buck - smoked buckwheat roll, Chiko - fermented chickpea block or Oyster - smoked beech oyster.
Were you surprised that Spar Slovenia opened its doors to you and gave you the opportunity to sell products in their stores?
They say that good work opens doors.