Sunday, 24 July 2022

Lesic Dimitri's Michael Unsworth Named Korcula Town Person of the Year. Bravo!

July 24, 2022 - If a foreigner has done more for a Croatian island, I have yet to meet them. Congratulations to Michael Unsworth, the pioneering owner of 5-star, Michelin Star Lesic Dimitri Palace, the new Town of Korcula Person of the Year. 

It is a love affair that started more than 50 years ago, when a young English student followed a pretty young lady from Yugoslavia, who was also studying in London. What was meant to be a short holiday in Orebic to woo her turned into a lifetime passion for both the Peljesac town, but also the magical island across the channel and birthplace of Marco Polo himself - Korcula. 


Little did that young student know back then that he would go on to marry the girl and still be humoured by her half a century later, but that he would leave an indelible mark on the island that was to become his second love. 

There is so much that one could say, but the simple facts say it best - and Michael Unsworth is a very modest man, who will probably be upset at all this attention. For that reason, I decided to leave his photo in the body of the text, so that the lead photo could showcase the very latest addition to the incredible Lesic Dimitri Palace, the first 5-star boutique hotel on a Croatian island, where every room is themed to the Silk Road of Marco Polo, the latest being the Sumatra Residence pictured here (more details in the press release below).


The hotel and restaurant scene when Michael started was average at best, with pizza and other faster foods the common fare. Walking around the old town these days is a gastronomic delight, as the standards have been raised considerably. It all started with Lesic Dimitri Palace, which has never compromised on quality. And there is a good reason why Lesic was the first island hotel to be awarded the prestigious Michelin Star, thanks to magician chef Marko Gajski, who has blossomed under Michael's guidance. 


If there is one place on the coast that I had to spend the rest of my life, it would probably be on the LD Terrace, the gentle afternoon breeze from the water cooling the air, listening to Michael's stories from around the world, while sampling Marko's latest creations washed down with the best Korcula wine pairing. 

Several people have told me over the years that they have never met a foreigner who loves an island as much as I love Hvar. That is perhaps because they have never met Michael, who has Korcula in his veins. 

Congratulations to you, Sir, richly deserved and fully fitting. I look forward to toasting you with a glass of Posip or six the next time we meet. 


You can learn more about LD Palace on the official website.  

Press release:

Korčula's Lešić Dimitri Palace has been synonymous with high-quality tourism experiences – both on the island in Croatia – on the global luxury tourism map for over a decade. The oldest part of the palace (dating back to the 15th century), which received the World Architecture Community Award back in 2010, got an additional accommodation unit this season – the Sumatra Residence. Sumatra's interior draws inspiration from Marco Polo's Silk Road, which is also the focal point of what the Palace has to offer, and excellence as the core business principle. An open space attic with one of the best views of the ancient walls, islands around Korčula and the blue waters of the Adriatic, is a new luxury heaven for romantic couples and anyone who identifies as such. Sumatra completed the story about the famous place in Korčula that stood out from the beginning as a rarely successful example of conversion and restoration of cultural monuments into a cultural good that the entire town can be proud of. With his forward-thinking planning and tireless efforts, Lešić Dimitri Palace owner and director Mr. Michael Anthony Unsworth has managed to prove that Korčula can be and is a world-class exclusive tourist destination. Thanks to his outstanding business results and years of wholehearted enthusiasm for the benefit of society, he received the Town of Korčula's Person of the Year Award.


Learn more about Korcula in the Total Croatia Korcula in a Page guide

Friday, 3 December 2021

Marko Gajski of Korčula's Lešić Dimitri Given the Rising Chef of 2022 Trophy

December 3, 2021 - At the annual Relais & Chateaux Group conference Marko Gajski, the chef in the Michelin-starred Lešić Dimitri Palace was awarded the Rising Chef 2022 Trophy!

Relais & Chateaux Group is one of the world's most prestigious hotel and restaurant associations. In November, awards were given to the best members of the group, ie deserving individuals who stood out with their enthusiastic work. The annual congress of the group was held virtually, and broadcast live from Paris to more than a thousand top chefs, managers and hotel and restaurant owners in 65 countries across five continents. This was a truly extraordinary moment for the Lešić Dimitri Palace in Korčula, one of the first Croatian R&C members in the world's most luxurious tourist map. For eight years the LD team has been present on this list of exclusive, unique and independent hotels, villas and restaurants.

"The award came as icing on the cake after a great season! I know that these names mean close to nothing to many people, but for us chefs it means a lot! When you know that Relais & Chateaux includes restaurants where chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, Mauro Colagreco or Elena Arzak cook and some of the restaurants in the group have two or three Michelin stars each. The award if for the top rising chef, but I can’t say that I personally won the award. No award in gastronomy is personal, everyone in this business knows that it is a product of hard work of the whole team and the team experiences it that way. This award is not mine, but ours together," chef Marko Gajski said. He is one of the most famous and most talented chefs in Croatia, who had his first Michelin star in confirmed this year, after first getting it in 2020.

As far as their further plans to establish the hotel and the restaurant on the domestic and international gastro scene, Marko is extremely optimistic and ambitious: “Our ambitions do not stop there. The Rising Chef Trophy, as well as the confirmed Michelin star for 2021, are a confirmation of the quality of our work. When you receive such recognition from the most respected and authoritative gastronomy institutions in the world, you can only get more motivated to perfect yourself more, and move the boundaries of innovation and creativity in everything we do even further!”

Friday, 28 February 2020

Michelin Stars for Croatian Islands: Congratulations Lesic Dimitri (Korcula), Boskinac (Pag)!

February 28, 2020 - Two more Michelin Stars for Croatia - the first on Croatian islands. Congratulations to Lesic Dimitri Palace on Korcula and Boskinac on Pag!

Great news for the gourmet scene on Croatia's gorgeous islands, as for the first time, the Michelin Star has been awarded to a restaurant on a Croatian island. And not one, but two.

LD Terrace, the exquisite restaurant of leading boutique 5-star restaurant on Korcula, Lesic Dimitri Palace, and Boskinac on the island of Pag, are the two new additions to the illustrious list of restaurants with Michelin stars, bringing to seven the number of such restaurants in Croatia. 

The first five restaurants to receive their Michelin stars all retained them in 2020. They are - Draga di Lovrana in Lovran, Monte in Rovinj, Pelegrini in Sibenik, Noel in Zagreb, and 360 in Dubrovnik.

Congratulations to both LD Terrace and Boskinac, both of which have pushed the boundaries of culinary excellence on their respective islands. I am particularly pleased for the Lesic Dimitri team, whom I know well due to my close friendship with owner Michael Unsworth. It is the perfect start to the year for them after the tragic loss of key team member Drazen Matkovic in a car accident recently. I asked Michael to say a few words:

"We are delighted that our team led by Chef Marko Gajski has received this recognition for the outstanding effort they have put into achieving this. We are sad that our colleague Drazen Matkovic is not here to enjoy it with us."

Learn more about both restaurants and their luxury boutique hotels from their official websites. 

LD Palace


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Emanuele Donalisio Excels at JRE Chefs on Sea at Lesic Dimitri, Korcula

July 2, 2019 - Partnering with resident Lesic Dimitri chef Marko Gajski, Emanuele Donalisio put on a night to remember on Saturday's JRE Chefs on Sea dinner on Korcula. 

Before we talk about the food, I have to tell you about the wind. 

For it is it one of the great unmarketed gems of life in Korcula Town during the hottest months. As others swelter, guests in Korcula relax with a glass of wine as the constant gentle breeze keeps temperatures at an altogether more acceptable level. 

Since first discovering it a couple of years ago, the terrace at Lesic Dimitri Palace has quickly become one of my favourite spots in the country, as well of one of the shining examples of how to do gourmet and luxury tourism par excellence. Arguably the top boutique hotel in the country, Lesic Dimitri Palace takes food very seriously and can be credited with raising the culinary bar in Korcula Town considerably, as other restaurants have followed. The hotel is already in the Michelin Guide and its young head chef, Marko Gajski, is a rising star on the Croatian gourmet scene. Lesic Dimitri is also a member of JRE (Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe), an excellent association of restaurants whose head chefs are younger than 42. The association is very active, bringing together chefs from all over Europe, who learn from each other. 


Initiatives such as these are great for Croatia's young chefs - an opportunity to work with and exchange ideas with their European peers. Last year, the first Chefs on Sea event was held in Croatia, where 6 quality Croatian restaurants and their JRE chefs welcomed an international JRE chef to prepare a culinary feast to remember. This year, the number of restaurants expanded to ten, all of them cooking at the same time last Saturday evening. 


An invitation by JRE had me heading to Korcula and dreaming of that beloved breezy terrace. Chef Marko Gajski was joined in the kitchen by another JRE chef from Italy, Emauele Donalisio. Donalisio comes from Ventemiglia, the region where Liguria and Piedmont meet France, in a complex and well-intertwined zone of culinary experiences united by a word “Riviera”. It is interesting to note that Emanuele restaurant Il Giardino del Gusto was part of the travel feature published in New York Times in September 2017, selected as an example of the gastronomy tradition and elements that form the heritage of this Italian region.

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The stage was set. The terrace awaited. 

A wonderful evening was had by all, as Donalisio's creations were extremely well-received and washed down by specially paired Korculan and other Croatian wines. 

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Rather than try and describe each myself, I took the opportunity to spend a little more time on that lovely terrace with our Italian visitor the following morning, and he kindly described each dish in much more detail than I could muster, so the information about each dish are his words, not mine.

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A quick note on the olive oil before I hand over to Emanuele. Extra virgin olive oil from Chiavalon, the Istrian brothers who are taking the olive oil world by storm, and are regularly featured among the best olive oils in the world. This was going to be quite a culinary delight.  


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The tuna canape starter with caper leaf and dried pesto powder. 

Dentex sashimi

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Dentex sashimi made with flower, which grows locally near us by the sea. We use the leaf from the flower and the seeds. The seeds are very similar to wasabi, for example, and the leaves are very spicy. The flower has a beautiful colour, and so we make this sashimi with a sauce from the leaves and Trebbiano wine. Add a little bit of soya sauce, some extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper.


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The scallops are smoked with pine in the oven. In my restaurant I do it on wood. As a sauce we use cauliflower with sugar from the Philippine, which is a good match. And then we make a crispy cloud with rice with black ink. So this is the crusty part, and we also top it with beetroot powder. 

Foie gras

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The third dish was pasta, tortelli which is made from home-made dough. The tortelli is stuffed with foie gras, put in the oven at 100C for 20 minutes, and add salt, pepper and brandy. Then when it is cooked, we blend everything. We add a little bit of cream. The result is an explosion of taste with the fois gras. We also make a fish ragout with yellow cherry tomatoes. As we do in Italy, we put the cherry tomatoes on a very hot pan, add garlic cloves and sea salt. We cook it slowly on the side and after that blend everything, adding the ragout. We also have some olive foam which is good with foie gras, as well as some spinach leaves. 

Sea bass and gambero rosso

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The main course was sea bass with red shrimps from Sicily, and mushrooms. A fish version of Beef Wellington! It is all held together with a pork net. We take the fillet of the fish and, just like with meat, make it flat and then season everything with mushrooms which we sautee. The important thing about the shrimps is that they need to be nearly raw, because if they are cooked more, it will affect the texture of the dish. We cover it with foil and keep it warm. The sauce is a demi glace. I like to use mashed potatoes with tamarind, which adds a little acidity. 


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Dessert was from one of my classic recipes, based on almonds. We use strawberries to give some acidity, then we make some soft meringue, which we burn a little. We put some foam of coffee on top. And at the bottom we have Maraschino. The most important thing is that the taste must remember the almonds.

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Marko Galjski was clearly enjoying the stimulating company in the kitchen and brought much cheer with his regular appearances at the table.  

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And the kitchen team looked happy and relaxed at another spectacular dinner for almost 50 guests delivered to perfection.  

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A few thoughts from Gajski on the evening.  

In an age of overtourism and chasing the money, it is refreshing to find beacons of excellence where the quality of the product and the satisfaction of the guest is the most important thing. The food apart, the rooms are just stunning. Just nine rooms in total, each are themed around important locations on the Silk Road made famous by Korculan explorer, Marco Polo. The rooms are themed to Venice, China, India, Ceylon and Arabia - above a tour of China from my visit during the Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival.  

And what better way to start the day after such an amazing evening that a morning stroll through the empty early-hour streets of this absolute Dalmatian gem. Take a 6am walking tour above. 

To learn more about Lesic Dimitri Palace, visit the official website

To learn more about JRE in Croatia, click here

You can learn more about Emanuele Donalisio on the JRE page dedicated to him and his restaurant

To find out more about the island of Korcula, check out the Total Croatia Korcula in a Page guide. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Chefs on Sea 2019: 10 Croatian JRE Restaurants Not to Miss on Saturday

A culinary extravaganza on June 27, 2019, as the JRE Chefs on Sea initiative returns to Croatia for the second year, bringing together talented Croatian and international chefs in some of Croatia's top restaurants.

It is seven years since the late, great Anthony Bourdain discovered Croatia and its cuisine. He was blown away by what he called the 'world-class food, world-class wine, world-class food.' I remember watching his No Reservations programme on The Travel Channel back in 2012 and commenting that this was the finest tourism promotion of Croatia I had ever seen. 

It still is. 

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Croatian cuisine is getting more popular, and a LOT more creative. A new generation of chefs, coupled with higher standards in the luxury tourism sector have moved things forward. There are an increasingly number of gourmet choices and events taking place, a welcome trend that looks set to continue.

And this Saturday will see a great example of the creative flair of 10 of Croatia's brightest young chefs, cooking side by side with some of the brightest international talent from Italy, Holland, Slovenia, Germany and Switzerland. All are members of the prestigious JRE Jeunes Restaurateurs organisation. Chefs like Emanuele Donalisio, above, who will be cooking on Korcula at Lesic Dimitri Palace with rising star and resident chef, Marko Gajski. 


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Emanuele Donalisio comes from Ventemiglia, the region where Liguria and Piedmont meet France, in a complex and well-intertwined zone of culinary experiences united by a word “Riviera”. It is interesting to note that Emanuele restaurant Il Giardino del Gusto was part of the travel feature published in New York Times in September 2017, selected as an example of the gastronomy tradition and elements that form the heritage of this Italian region.

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Marko Gajski, right, and pictured on the occasion of the opening night of Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival in 2018, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the famous Lumbarda Bire winery, is one of Croatia's brightest gourmet talents, and the Italian-Croatian duo will be one of ten cheffing partnerships in Croatian JRE restaurants all over Croatia. One of the aims of the event is a culinary cultural exchange between these exciting chefs - to learn from each other's heritage and methods - very much a two-way process.  

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Add in the Lesic Dimitri terrace as one of the locations (TCN gladly accepted an invitation to this special evening and will be reporting back in full) and one of ten perfect Chefs on Sea locations is ready for another outstanding evening.  

About JRE:

JRE is an association of young restaurateurs and chefs who want to share their talent and passion for food with likeminded people. We have over 350 restaurants and 160 hotels in total, spread across 15 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

JRE chefs combine extraordinary talent, a deep passion for cuisine, a love of local produce, and a strong sense of tradition. Their cooking expertise paired with the outstanding atmosphere of their restaurants offers a truly incredible experience.

JRE membership is open to young restaurateurs and chefs under the age of 42. However, when members reach the age of 50, they are awarded ‘honorary’ status and join JRE’s ‘Table d’Honneur’.

At JRE, everything revolves around sharing, encouraging and inspiring passion and talent for food. Our young chefs show great solidarity with each other and are delighted to exchange their cooking knowledge and expertise. As a guest at a JRE restaurant, there’s no doubt you will reap the benefits of this collective passion.


 To learn more about JRE restaurants in Croatia - and to book a table for Chefs on Sea 2019 on Saturday - visit the official website


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Meet 2 Brits Raising the Gourmet Level on Dalmatian Islands (VIDEO)

April 30, 2019 - While British cuisine may not have the best global reputation, meet two Brits who are raising the level in the land of the UNESCO Mediterranean Diet, Michael Unsworth on Korcula and Jo Ahearne MW on Hvar. And when the two combine... 

It is perhaps my favourite of all expat integration stories in Croatia. 

The year in 1972, and a young British student meets a pretty Croatian student from what was then Yugoslavia. Things develop, and our lovestruck British hero decides to visit his new love in her native Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula. While that love flourished throughout the summer, a new love developed for that young British student - Peljesac and Korcula. So much so that when his girlfriend headed back to London, the young Brit stayed on with her family, despite having no language in common. 

The Michael Unsworth love affair with Dalmatia had begun. And if burns ever brighter, almost 50 years on. 


A very successful financial career in the City of London and in Asia helped to finance some projects in Croatia, including the 5-star Lesic Dimitri Palace boutique hotel in Korcula Town. Having bought the property in 2001, Lesic Dimitri Palace, one of only four Relais Chateaux hotels in Croatia, and with its own Michelin-recommended restaurant, opened in 2008. It quickly set the standards not only for Korcula but also for the region. 

There are few locals who will disagree that the arrival of Lesic Dimitri Palace has been the inspiration for the raising of quality of Korcula's restaurant and accommodation offer. 


Not content with simply running and enjoying the hotel, Michael has also been very active in helping to extend the season and promote the island's considerable culture. Great examples of this are the Korkyra Baroque Festival in September, and the Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival, the latter of which was responsible for bringing another overachieving Brit over from the neighbouring island of Hvar. 


I first met Jo Ahearne MW five years ago at Dalmacija Wine Expo. Her love affair with 'my' island of Hvar began soon after (although she had visited back in 2003), when she moved to Hvar and became the first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia, and from indigenous Hvar grapes. How better to describe her background that her biography on the Master of Wine website:

Jo is a winemaking consultant. In 1998 she completed her Oenology Degree in Australia where she has worked with iconic boutique wineries such as Charles Melton and Pipers Brook, as well as making wine for global brands such as Jacobs Creek and Hardy's. During the early 1990's she worked with UK wine merchant Oddbins, returning in 2004 as winemaker/blender for the influential supermarket Marks & Spencer. In 2011 Jo moved on to become the Head Wine Buyer for Harrods. In Europe she has had a variety of consultancies in Spain, France, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia working with wineries to refine and improve the quality of their wines in general and to fit the UK market specifically. Since 2014 she has also been making her own wine on the Dalmatian island of Hvar in Croatia.


The occasion which brought these two gourmet Dalmatian island Brits together was a 5-course dinner at Lesic Dimitri Palace, paired with local wines chosen by Jo. As you can read here, it was quite an evening, with the escargot tempura, above, just one of the many highlights..  


A true gastronomic masterclass from Lesic chef, Marko Gajski, who is clearly enjoying life working with his British boss. 

Both Jo and Michael kindly agreed to a TCN interview on the Lesic terrace the following morning, before just had to rush off for wine judging duties at the Dubrovnik Wine Festival and then the Decanter Awards in London. 

You can follow Jo Ahearne MW's wine journey on the Ahearne Vino Facebook page, and explore the Lesic Dimitri Palace website here.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Korculanske Pjatance 2019, a Spring Food and Wine Festival Not to Miss

April 12, 2019 - Gourmet heaven in Spring, as historic Korcula comes alive with the Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival.

It was without doubt the nice thing we did as a family last year. 

And if someone asked me to cherry pick a Croatian gourmet experience, I don't think I could have done better than a 5-course special at arguably Croatia's leading luxury boutique hotel, Lesic Dimitri, whose restaurant is in the Michelin Guide, with wines from Bire, who was coincidentally celebrating 20 years of his iconic Lumbarda winery, most famous for its Grk. A perfect introduction to a fabulous food and wine festival on Korcula, which this year returns from April 26-30. You can read about the opening night here.

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Tara's Lodge in early MayTara's Lodge in early May with such glorious Korcula weather - it was impossible to get the kids to get in the car back to Varazdin. And the workshops! My kids adored the homemade pasta masterclass at Filippi, and foraging for herbs with pastry chef Petra Jelicic before learning how to use them to make some outstanding desserts in another Michelin-rated restaurant - Konoba Mate in Pupnat

Could that outstanding programme be bettered? Impossible! Or so you would think. But this year's programme looks tantilising indeed. Check out the press release and programme below. 

And I know that we Brits are not famous for our food (at least in terms of high quality), but what a fantastic opening night combination to start the festival. British owner of Lesic Dimitri will be the host, and Londoner Jo Ahearne MW, the only Master of Wine in Croatia, will make the short journey from her adopted home on Hvar, to sort the wines. 

This is a truly fabulous event - don't miss it. 


Dino Galvagno, Hrvoje Zirojević, Jo Ahearne, Marko Gajski, Biljana Milat, Lucija Tomašić, Damir Šarić and others famous names of the Croatian food and wine scene, will be our guests at the third edition of the Spring Food and Wine Festival Korčulanske Pjatance, which will be held from 26th to 30th April, organized by Korčula’s finest restaurants. 

Korčulanske pjatance is already recognized by the profession and the media. Last year we offered creative plates defined within the framework of modern Croatian cuisine, with additional guest appearances from people like the famous chefs David Skoko and Steven Pieters, or pastry chef Petra Jelinić. 

This year, masterclasses will be held by some of the most famous names of Croatian culinary art, chef Dino Galvagno who is in top 10 Croatian chefs, chef Hrvoje Zirojević, recently established as the chef of the year in the Gault&Millau, gourmet guide and successful young pastry chef Lucija Tomašić. The art of making homemade bread will be presented by Damir Šarić, and Jo Ahearne, a British Master of Wine who lives in Croatia will preside over our Wine Night with her personal selection of the best wines from Korčula. 

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All the Festival visitors will enjoy our Chef’s creativity, great seasonal produce and the finest local wines at special prices. 

The Korčulanske Pjatance Association brings together the finest Korčula restaurant: Adio Mare, Aterina, Barić, Filippi, LD Restaurant, Marco's, Nonno, Radiona, Konoba Maha, Konoba Mate as well as OPG Eko Škoj, a producer of organic local olive oils, jams and herbs. They all take their inspiration from locally grown, seasonal food and herbs. 

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This year's Festival will see collaboration with the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula, which will host masterclasses in their well-equipped demonstration kitchen. 

The value and importance of the Festival and Korčula's gastronomic offer has once again been recognized by the most prestigious global gastronomic guide Michelin which for the second year in a row has assigned three recommendations, for LD Restaurant, Filippi Restaurant and Konoba Mate. Together with our visiting experts local chefs will be presented, primarily chef Marko Gajski, a participant in this year's Chef's Stage in Šibenik, Biljana Milana who recently won the prestigious Gault&Millau award for pastry chef of the year, and the Slow Food Pelješac Association, whose members will hold a workshop for children. Participants will also take part in a cocktail workshop in cooperation with Coca Cola and an education course on local olive oils.

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Korčula and surrounding places

26 – 30 April 2019



Konoba Maha

Official opening of the festival with presentation of participants, business partners and other associates – for invitees of festival and public media


Cocktail Workshop – Powered by Coca Cola


LD Restaurant

Korčula in the Bottle – five-course dinner with wine choices by Jo Ahearne - Master of Wine



Bistro Radiona

The Art of Brunch – traditional brunch of Korčula


Demonstration Kitchen at the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula

Pastry shop Mala Truba – healthy desserts and bread made of homemade yeast and whole-wheat flour workshop


Konoba Maha

Guest chef Dino Galvagno – multi-course dinner with wine



Demonstration Kitchen at the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula

Masterclass: Wild Edibles & Entrails – chef Dino Galvagno


Korčulanske pjatance

Lagoon Regata – dinner for regatta participants



Demonstration Kitchen at the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula

Slow Food Peljesac Association – Lecture and workshop for children


Demonstration Kitchen at the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula

Masterclass: Sea on the Plate – chef Hrvoje Zirojević


Aterina Restaurant

City museum of Korčula – Culture of nutrition through history of Korčula, lecture powered by Aterina snacks



Demonstration Kitchen at the Petar Šegedin High School in Korčula

Eko Škoj and Sensory analysts of Korčula island – presentation, tasting and education about olive oils of Korčula island


A joint dinner of all “Pjatance” participants for all gourmets


Festival After Party

Follow the latest on the official Facebook page.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Meet the Relais Chateaux Hotels of Croatia: Lesic Dimitri Palace, Korcula

November 22, 2018 - Where are the best places to stay in Croatia? A tour of the luxury listings recommended by Relais & Chateaux, starting with Lesic Dimitri Palace on Korcula.

Croatian tourism is evolving, and one of the areas where great progress has been made over the last few years is the luxury sector. Mass tourism in the 1960s in former Yugoslavia gave way to an explosion of construction of concrete eyesores to meet the mass need, and many of these hotels still exist today on a 2 or 3-star level. But finding top-quality, luxury accommodation for high-spending guests who are looking for a hospitality experience to match Croatia's 5-star destination billing in terms of beauty, has proven to be not such an easy task. 

Things are changing slowly, however, and several top-quality luxury boutique hotels have appeared on the scene. While small in number, these hotels have proved to be enormously successful, addressing the needs of luxury tourists looking for that something extra. The well-respected Relais & Chateaus website shows just how rare they still are, however, with just four listings for Croatia on its global website. Let's meet them.

Few would argue that the top luxury hospitality hotel experience in southern Dalmatia is to be found on the island of Korcula at  Lesic Dimitri Palace. Apart from establishing a successful business, the arrival of Lesic Dimitri on Korcula a decade ago has done much to raise the level of quality of the tourism offer of its competitors. So much so that  Korcula can now rightly be regarded as an elite gourmet destination, whose strategy is to move its hotels to a minimum of four stars. No mass tourism here, just an island focused on nature, culture, heritage, gourmet and adventure tourism.


Here is what Relais has to say about Lesic:

"Hotel and restaurant on the seafront. People say that the Silk Road started from this island; Korčula has good reason to be proud to be home to Marco Polo's house, a stone’s throw from Lešić Dimitri Palace. The building's history dates back to the 17th century, when the Lešić family, rich property owners and merchants combined a number of semi-detached houses to create a palace worthy of that name. It has been meticulously renovated yet with a touch of contemporary design; its historical character and original layout have been retained and it now offers a small number of independent suites. Each evokes a step in Marco Polo's journey towards China, in a harmonious décor, with top-quality materials."

One of the things that fascinates me about walking through the stone towns of Croatia is that one has absolutely no concept of what is behind the walls of each building. And while the buildings may look reasonably similar on the outside, inside can take you to different worlds entirely. Nowhere is this truer that at Lesic Dimitri Palace - spacious journeys to India, Ceylon, Arabia, Venice and China - a true flavour of the Silk Road, just yards from the birthplace of Marco Polo.

I have never stayed at Lesic, but have been fortunate to have eaten there on several occasions. One thing that comes across very strongly is the passion and dedication of its staff, none more so that chef Marko Gajski, who clearly loves what he does and has found the perfect home to grow and innovate. Lesic Dimitri is also included in the 2018 Michelin Guide, one of two entries on the island (Konoba Mate in Pupnat is the other).  

More flavours from the East - an in-house massage service from Thailand.  

A top boutique hotel has its own luxury services for its guests - here is chef Marko again, on the hunt for sea urchins, just part of the luxury Lesic sailing experience. 

The man behind Lesic Dimitri is Michael Unsworth, a retired British financier who first came to Korcula about 50 years ago to visit a local girl he met in London. He ended up falling in love twice, and is not happily married to Masa, that same local girl, as well as in love with his beloved Korcula. Here is Michael, featured in a recent British Embassy video on what unites Croatia and the UK. 

To learn more about Lesic Dimitri, click here.  

To learn more about Korcula, why not check out our dedicated portal about the Marco Polo island?


Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Ivana Pačić Unković from Lešić Dimitri to Present at Best Stay 2018

Once more, Best Stay 2018 Conference, one of the top conferences for tourism professionals from all over Europe takes place in Dubrovnik, on November 8 and 9.

The venue hosting this event aimed at exchanging experiences, sharing ideas and meeting new business partners will be held in Rixos Libertas Dubrovnik hotel, with the third-day additional networking workshop planned off-site. Over 70 speakers and panelists working in various aspects of the tourism and hospitality industry will contribute to the discussions, including general managers of major hotels in Croatia, United Kingdom and other countries, marketing managers, business consultants, HR managers etc. 

Among the superstars presenting at the Best Stay 2018 conference is Ivana Pačić Unković, Marketing Director at Lešić Dimitri Palace, whose will present a case study of Lešić Dimitri Palace & Korčula town as an example of effective destination management. She also gave an interview to the event website, where she summarized what her talk will be focusing on: 

"Reconstructing old bishops’ palace into an exclusive five-star property on an island not known as a luxury destination was quite challenging in terms of promoting Lešić Dimitri Palace. From the very beginning, we knew that on top of the high-end accommodation we had designed, we would have to create the offer that would, through a creative approach, highlight the best of Korčula to make it desirable to the luxury goods consumers. By developing successful partnerships with small local business and the local community we have influenced the quality of the local tourist offer. Through various events and projects – cultural, sport, culinary that we have either created or participated in, we have significantly contributed to the re-positioning of Korčula as a destination on the global tourist market. The creation of such a new offer of high-quality experiences thus opened doors to the desired affluent consumer segment."

We're sure that Ivana's talk at the Best Stay 2018 will be very well attended and that the participants will be paying attention, as anyone who's been to Korčula knows how much work on the destination management Lešić Dimitri team has done, and how much they've contributed to the image Korčula as a destination has today. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Chef Marko Gajski from Korčula's Lešić Dimitri Features in Relais et Châteaux 'Food for Change'

It has been another creative year in the kitchen of boutique hotel Lesic Dimitri, as chef Marko Gajski has once again impressed his 5-star guests. Marko took time from his busy schedule to take part in the 'Food for Change' project on October 7, 2018. 

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