Meet TasteAtlas, the First Global Local Food Map: Interview with Matija Babic

By 23 April 2018

Three years in the making, the world's first global local food atlas is almost ready to launch. Meet TasteAtlas and the Croatian man behind a project to make the best local food options available to travellers all over the globe in a way that TripAdvisor doesn't. TCN caught up with TasteAtlas owner Matija Babic on April 23, 2018, to find out more.

1. TasteAtlas - the world's first global site mapping local food, with more than 5,000 dishes so far, each with recommended restaurants where you can try the best versions. Can you introduce the site and what you are trying to achieve?

TasteAtlas is the world's first global map of local dishes. We register information about traditional dishes and recipes, local ingredients and authentic restaurants. Additionally, we compile reviews from professional food critics and local experts with recommendations where a particular dish should be eaten. In short, when you visit Dalmatia: Tripadvisor will tell you where most tourists eat ice cream and pizza cut, while TasteAtlas will tell you that you should eat brudet, Imotski cake, fritule, and drink plavac mali and maraschino. We will also advise you to try brudet at the Senko tavern, pinca at Kirigin, etc. I talk about Dalmatia here, but we have the whole world covered in the same way. I believe that people increasingly want to try local stuff when travelling, and not bland general dishes. TasteAtlas is the only website in the world which at the moment provides this information in a high-quality way.


2. How does a visitor best use the site?

Whenever you are travelling, try to enter the location (city, region, country) in our search engine, and you will find out what locals eat there and where it is best to eat it. Try it and let us know how it went.


3. Even though you have not officially launched yet, your Italian pasta map has been seen by more than 4 million people already, and your map of French cheese looks extremely appealing. How many of these maps do you have already, and do you have any favourites?

The Italian map with pasta has already been seen by six million people, and it has 25,000 shares. This is a signal that there will be a lot of interest, globally, for what we offer. TasteAtlas has not yet been officially launched, we have no homepage because not all technical problems have been resolved, UX is not yet wholly slick, and we have taken the time to correct some of the crucial mistakes. When I say "crucial mistakes," I mean situations such as when we put a photo of Argentinean empanada instead of Galician empanada, and so on. Angry users let us know about such mistakes, and we immediately correct them. Food, primarily local and traditional food, is a very intimate thing and people see it very personally. We take that seriously.

However, with the exception of the homepage, the rest of the website can be tested at 

We will have an official launch within a few weeks.


4. Apart from being visually appealing and with detailed information of many local dishes, one of the strengths of Taste Atlas is that it recommends the best places locally to try that particular dish. Tell us a little how you came up with these recommended places? Based on what criteria?

TasteAtlas has a team of about a dozen researchers who are searching for reviews. We gather reviews from professional food critics and local experts and collect them at one place. For example, we try to find all the critics, chefs and local experts who have mentioned they had eaten the best štrukli in the world, we quote and link their reviews, giving them a particular coefficient depending on their reputation, and that is how we come to the final score: the best štrukli are eaten at the Esplanade Hotel and Le Štruk. All the reviews which have led us to such an outcome can be read on TasteAtlas.

Existing sites have a big problem with fake reviews, with attempts to destroy competition by using fictional profiles, or lifting your own status by providing false praise. At TasteAtlas, this will be a lot more difficult.


5. A global food map. A great idea and now that it has been created, such an obvious one. Why do you think it has never been done before?

I am afraid of answering this question. It took me three years, a lot of people, a lot of money and a lot of effort to do this. This is a tremendous job. Now we need to see if there is enough interest for it in the world. If it turns out that there is no interest – that will be the answer to your question… But, I hope there will be.


6. You have obviously made plenty of new culinary discoveries mapping the gourmet world. Were there any countries in particular that aroused your interest as you learned about their cuisine for the first time?

I am a great fan of travelling, getting to know different cuisines and cultures. There is no country which I do not consider to be beautiful or a cuisine which I do not like. I even worship English cuisine. The world is a great place, and it is delightful to get to know it. I hope that TasteAtlas will help people in achieving that goal.


7. There are still some local dishes not yet on Taste Atlas, and I am sure that local people would be keen to have their cuisine added to the global map. If someone would like to suggest a new local dish for inclusion, how would they do that and what information would you be looking for in particular?

We have a list of some twenty thousand dishes, and it grows every day. For the time being, we have initially covered a little over 5,000 dishes. So, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us – we have to expand the number of covered dishes and even more importantly to increase the quality of information. At some point, we plan to publish extensive photo reportages and stories about many dishes, to go more thoroughly in a search for recommendations, record video recipes, etc. But resources are limited.

We are happy to receive all suggestions for dishes which should be covered, as well as photos and recipes. The address you can contact us is available at the bottom of almost every page at TasteAtlas, and many people have already reached us.


8. With such a high-profile global site, there are several monetisation and promotion possibilities. Which kind of local partners are you looking to work with, and in what capacity?

For now, we are actually working on our own, our in-house team covers everything, in addition to e-mails which we send for additional queries. We have contacted tourist boards to have a look, if they want, at their regions and towns, and to let us know whether they think something crucial is missing or if we made an error somewhere. We are terrified of mistakes – as I have said, food is too serious a thing to allow mistakes, such as an almost identical, but still an incorrect photo of the wrong empanada… Tourist boards, including many local ones from Croatia, have given us good feedback. We will gladly accept information, advice and photos from anyone who is willing to give it to us.


9. This is not your first attempt at a website. You also own Croatia's most popular news portal, which is ranked in the top 3,000 most popular in the world. How much did your experiences of running Index help you with planning this project?

I was involved in journalism in Croatia for 15 years, and I thought I would be doing journalism for the rest of my life. was crucial for entering this project as well. Through Index, I realised that doing journalism in Croatia, trying to change Croatia for the better, is a futile job, because you almost have no one to do it for. The majority of people want the future of Croatia to be different from what I wanted, and in a democracy there is no sense to fight against the majority. They will have the kind of Croatia they want. Actually, they already have it. A corrupt, marginal country full of “uhljebs” and with no future. My future, thanks to them, will not be in Croatia. It will be in projects like TasteAtlas, for which they have motivated me. And I thank them for it.


(Matija Babic, the man behind TasteAtlas, explains the project to TCN over lunch in Zagreb)

Although the project has yet to officially launch, initial users are already benefitting from the TasteAtlas local expertise. Croatian entrepreneur, currently attending a conference in Istanbul, put Taste Atlas through its paces in search of the perfect baklava, and he was not disappointed with the Taste Atlas recommendations: 


Why not check out the best local food where you are currently living or travelling? The TasteAtlas search page is waiting for your visit.