From ChevapRolls to Glow in the Dark Food, Martina Županić Pushes the Envelope in Croatian Gastronomy

By 13 January 2016

The Croatian gastro scene has exploded in the last few years, and it is always a pleasure to report on new and innovative food concepts seeing the light of day in our country. We introduced Martina Županić's new project Lumabites and her newly opened ChevapRolls restaurant on January 10, 2016, and now it's time to meet the unstoppable lady behind these new and exciting culinary ideas.

Martina, can you tell us where did this love for unusual and „outside of the box“ cooking techniques come from?

I've always loved cooking and experimenting with food. As I got older I started implementing more sophisticated cooking techniques and developed my own style. I am currently very into molecular gastronomy.

How did you develop the ChevapRolls concept?

The idea for ChevapRolls was based on a very simple question: how can you turn the most popular dish in this region, ćevapi, into modern street food – a cocktail snack? I wanted to know if there was a way to take the taste of ćevapi to a brand new level. And after a lot of experimenting and many, many volunteer tasters later, ChevapRolls were born. It is a brand new snack but still recognisable and a firm favourite not just with the locals but also with all the tourists that have grown accustomed to ordering „chevapi“ wherever they go in this region.

Many entrepreneurs spend years developing and strengthening one brand and you are now finishing your second product „Lumabites“, or glow in the dark snacks, so soon after „ChevapRolls“. As you mentioned in your previous interviews, Lumabites were created accidentally, but how long did it take from the first idea to get to this (almost) final stage realisation?

Lumabites are still in their final development stage, I have perfected the recipes as well as the glow in the dark effect. Now, I am concentrating on the technical aspects – how to serve this new „glow in the dark“ food and all the added content. I have to say it took a year to get to this stage from the first time I came up with the idea. I just finished the ChevapRolls project with the opening of my first restaurant in Zagreb, so all the focus is currently on that.


ChevapRolls restaurant is now up and running in Zagreb. How hard is it to find financial backing for such „out of the box“ projects, especially in this economic situation?

I opened the ChevapRolls restaurant with my own money and with a micro-loan granted by Hamag Micro. My partner, Iva Pehar, winner of the Croatian Masterchef 2015, was in charge of designing my first ChevapRolls restaurant and she handled our branding. When I first started, I received invaluable support from Plavi ured (Blue office) of the City of Zagreb. They prepared me for entrepreneurship and helped me gather all the documentation required to obtain a loan. As for the future, I believe innovativeness will be the determining factor with investors.

Does Croatia have a market for this particular type of product and are we still reluctant to try something new and different when it comes to food?

ChevapRolls is a product which combines two different dishes – ćevapi and crepes. Both of which our consumers are very familiar with. ChevapRolls is a new form of the good old favourite. The reactions we've had so far are positive across the board and I am making sure our offer is constantly enriched with new flavours.


Martina, Iva and one of their MasterChef judges, Radovan Marčić


How to you explain the growing number of superb new restaurants in Croatia and what is your view of the development of the Croatian gastro scene?

I am thrilled to see so many restaurants with different concepts opening up all over the country. Competition excites me because together we are creating a brilliant collage on our small but vibrant gastro scene.

As you've already mentioned, Plavi ured helped you a lot when you were starting your business. What would  be your message for all young women out there that have an idea and simply don't know what to do next? How should they present it and who should they talk to?

Plavi ured was my first and probably the most important step. They provided me with valuable education, I had the opportunity to exchange experiences and receive information about all incentives available to young entrepreneurs. It is a unique institution which supports entrepreneurs and all individuals wanting to start their own business. My advice would be to make Plavi ured the very first place you visit. They will tell you all you need to know and prepare you for your endeavour.

Plans for the future? Conquering other Croatian cities with ChevapRolls or do you already have new ideas?

We have many plans for the future. My main task is to market the restaurant so that I can start the next phase of this project – expand the production of ChevapRolls and enter supermarkets. Of course, at the same time I am adding the finishing touches to the Lumabites project so that it can see the light of day, or better yet start glowing on our market.

Photos: ChevapRolls PR, Lumabites Facebook