- Tell us about yourself, what did you do before?
Hello, my name is Alexander Djourdjin, and I am from Sofia, Bulgaria. Food has always played a big part in my life, but it has only become my main focus quite recently. Before enrolling at UNISG, I did a BA in Politics and Japanese studies in the UK. And maybe it was my year in Japan that truly opened my eyes to the world of gastronomy. After completing my Bachelor’s, I worked in Diplomacy for a while, then took up a job as online editor-in-chief for a newspaper in Bulgaria, focusing predominantly on politics and economics. Throughout it all, food always managed to somehow stay at the forefront of my mind, so I finally decided to quit my job and applied to UNISG. It was the best decision in my life!
- What did you study at UNISG and how did that influence you?
I did the Food Culture and Communications: High-Quality Products degree in 2016. One of the things I loved the most about the course was the diversity of backgrounds people had, yet we all clicked together so well, driven by our shared passion for food. That was maybe the first time I truly understood how important food is to everyone and how it can break and transcend pretty much any boundary. This social aspect of it is still the one I am most passionate about. Another one is food memory – the way every one of us has this distinct and vivid memory of our favourite treat our grandmas used to cook for us when we were little, or that fantastic dish we tried on that trip so many years ago, which we can still taste when we close our eyes. These two aspects are something I try to work with at my current job today.
- Do you have any recommendations for the current students?
First and foremost – travel. Every day, all the time. Living in Piemonte is one of the best opportunities that should not be wasted. My friends and I were visiting a different town around Bra all the time: after classes, during the weekend, during the holidays. There is no need to wait for the university to organise a study trip – you can do it yourself. There are so many producers, wineries, and businesses that would be delighted to meet and talk to you, even if your Italian is not that perfect. What is more, travel around Italy, as the respect, Italians have for food, is something truly unique and special. Having a better understanding of it can teach us a lot and make it easier to take that knowledge back to our own countries.
And second, just like in any university, it is quite easy to get lost in your studies, so avoid that at any cost. There are always different food-related events around-dinner parties to attend, courses to take, people to meet, books to read, documentaries to watch, etc. Don’t lose out, because there are no other places like Pollenzo and Bra and time flies, especially when you’re having fun.
- What do you do and why?
I work for the oldest and biggest food and wine magazine in Bulgaria, called Bacchus. We are a small team, so we do a little bit of everything really. From writing articles to taking interviews to marketing campaigns, the magazine's repertoire has expanded immensely in the past two years. Before it was mostly dinners with chefs or foodies. At present, 'Restaurant of the year awards' is the most significant event we host. It is a great project to be a part of, as I get to meet many different chefs as well as all kinds of professionals from the field. Last year we were also the first to organise a street food festival in Bulgaria, not the burgers and beer kind of way. We actually got many restaurants to cook on-site at one of the oldest markets in Sofia, alongside the stands of small-scale producers, boutique wineries, craft beer producers, etc. We are already working on the third edition. All of our events are focused on promoting quality products and nurturing a food culture amongst the people. In other words, it is an exciting thing to do.
- What would you like to change through your work?
Compared to Italy, Bulgaria sadly does not have such a strong relationship with its food and food legacy. Due to a very complicated history, in the last two centuries, quality and tradition have not really been a priority to most people, so this is something I would like to change. The food festivals we held, show the significance of the two aspects of food I admire the most. Through them, we gave a voice to many small producers, wineries or even restaurants, who cannot reach out to a big audience. This is one of the ways we promote the message of the importance of quality in all its aspects. And of course, we try to create a long-lasting, tasty food memory while doing it.