Down to SplEAT, a Beautiful Initiative in the Split Community

For the past month, something a little special has been going on in Split which you may or may not have been aware of…

Just to refresh your memories or maybe enlighten you, ‘SplEAT’ is the name of the collaborative organisation of 6 esteemed Split restaurants: Bokeria, Corto Maltese, DeBelly, Artičok, Uje Restaurant and Galerija Food.

Last year, they brought us 6 spectacular gastronomy events, thanks to the help of their friend and superhero – Žlica Man; but this year, they changed the tone somewhat and brought us a series of beautiful dining events with heart.

This year, SplEAT teamed up with Sindrom Down 21, an organisation that works with those who have down syndrome. Once again, the restaurants of SplEAT created wonderful set-menus and, they all had ‘new staff’ for the evening – people from the Split community with Down Syndrome were given the opportunity to work in each restaurant.


Before I continue, I need to say that the reason I am writing about this so late is because the restaurant owners specifically told me that they didn’t want these events turning into some sort of ‘media stunt’ for good PR. Having attended the dinner at Artičok, I can say that their hearts were definitely in the right place.


The evenings presented by SplEAT were about creating an opportunity for integration and socialisation. It has now been proven consistently, that when people with Down Syndrome are given opportunities, their capabilities and confidence grow. It is a matter of humanity, not sympathy – we all have a need to feel useful, connected, part of a community and we can each only flourish to the extent that we are allowed.


Read any paper or watch any video about people with Down Syndrome in the workplace and they all show the same thing – they are great employees. While it can take them longer to learn some skills, they are loyal, reliable and generally have a positive attitude which is contagious – so they improve staff morale. People with Down Syndrome are capable of working in a lot of fields and have shown particular promise in hospitality thanks to their positive and outgoing nature.


Collectively, SplEAT decided to involve them in all of their 6 gastronomy events and if possible, for those who wish, they are also offering an opportunity for ongoing cooperation and perhaps a chance to become staff at any of the venues.


I attended the event at Artičok earlier in April with my sister-in-law and I can easily say that I have never dined in a restaurant with such positive energy. The 'new' Artičok staff, filled the room with such joy, it was impossible not to smile the entire evening. As well as helping to serve each course, they also provided entertainment – singing traditional Croatian songs, which had the whole room on their feet, dancing and singing along.

I cannot explain just how full my heart was after the dinner, nor how humbling it was. One of my good friends attended the event at DeBelly and to use her words, she also said she felt humbled “it really puts life and small stresses into perspective”. A sentiment expressed by everyone I spoke to.

There are very few people with Down Syndrome employed in Croatia, in Split there are only 5. There is a proverb which says – “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” A strong and thriving community is one who looks after everyone in it; it is time to look beyond stigma and find ways to include everyone.


Credit: Damira Kalajzic, the team at Articok restaurant

Bravo to the members of SplEAT for such a beautiful initiative; I look forward to seeing the continued good that comes from this. Watch the beautiful video below of the evening in Artičok, thanks to their team and the wonderful eye and talent of Damira Kalajzić.


All photos credit to Damira Kalajzic