Snežana Ćalić, a Serbian woman originally from Dalmatia, has wowed not only Jamie Oliver but also the entire panel of the renowned cooking competition show in Australia. She proudly represented the Balkans, and her simple yet perfect dishes from both Dalmatian and Serbian cuisines have opened doors to a new career.

Born in Zadar, she moved to Serbia during the war, studied economics in Belgrade, and has been living in Australia for the past 12 years. She works in a demanding banking job but her true passion lies in cooking.

In her kitchen, Snežana combines Dalmatian and Serbian specialties, featuring fish and fresh vegetables in the summer and heartier Serbian dishes in the winter. Both cuisines have captivated the judges and viewers of the world-famous “Master Chef Australia”.

Recently, the show has become available to viewers in Serbia. Snežana explains that the show’s popularity in Australia is evident from the number of applicants and the caliber of the judges, who include top chefs like Michelin-starred chefs and Jamie Oliver himself.

Stuffed Peppers the World Wants

Snežana never intended to apply to the show, nor did she plan to become a chef. She studied economics and works in banking, but her love for cooking for friends and family persisted. Her husband Aleksandar signed her up for the competition, where she stood out among 42,000 applicants. Her first dish was a Dalmatian specialty, brudet, accompanied by homemade bread and kaymak. However, it was her unique stuffed peppers, made with fresh beef and bacon instead of rice, that truly amazed the judges.

She recounts her early days in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother, making her first dish at the age of seven—a goulash-like dish that left a lasting impression on her uncle.

Bread That Conquers

Jamie Oliver was particularly impressed by her simple yet perfect bread and three kinds of butter. She created one with Croatian flavors using parsley and garlic, another with Serbian ajvar and prosciutto, and a third reminiscent of Bosnian baklava.

Staying True to Her Roots

At 42, Snežana is the first person from the Balkans to participate in Australian “Master Chef.” She aimed to showcase Balkan cuisine, which is largely unknown in Australia. Snežana left the competition when tasked with replicating a complex dessert, a skill she didn’t excel at as she prefers creating original and modified dishes from her heritage.

She visits Serbia almost every year, traveling around Europe with her family. This summer, however, she will stay in Australia, where she is now a star, cooking and talking about food.

Mission to Showcase Serbian Cuisine

Snežana plans to create a show highlighting traditional Serbian cooking and hospitality, something she feels is missing in Australia. She also dreams of writing a book about Serbian traditions, customs, and cuisine. She continues to receive invitations from various shows and opportunities, including ongoing support from “Master Chef.”

Currently, she enjoys cooking healthy meals like pasta with broccoli and tuna for her family, and she hopes to connect with Serbian restaurants.


Source: Serbian Times


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