Valfresco Direkt – Online Food Shop With Delivery
When Valfresco Direkt was born in spring 2020, the idea behind the service was to deliver farm-fresh local ingredients and ready-made homecooked meals to our hotels, camps and resorts. Because, when you think about it, who wants to cook on vacation? But there was just one catch, though a major one: the service was conceived during the pandemic that disrupted everyone’s plans and business. By the time Valfresco Direkt came to life, the world was an entirely different place. Still, the power of food to make people happy remained. In fact, even more than that. For a lot of people stuck at home, food became centerstage. A comfort, a joy, a distraction – and many things in between.
“It just makes me so incredibly happy to see a person pleased with what I prepared,” explains Ezio Coglievina, the head chef of Valfresco Direkt. “I’ve always been an artistic soul. In food, I found my medium of expression. There’s nothing like creating a dish, presenting it to someone and seeing the look of delight on their face.”
A city boy from Rijeka, Ezio always loved cooking; he felt right at home in the kitchen. With his passion clear from the early days, it only made sense he would go on to study and graduate at a hospitality school in Rijeka. After graduating, he worked in several small restaurants, seeking know-how from people who were always somehow different. A free spirit, he was inspired by people on the restaurant scene who were doing things with an edge. “I never wanted to be the type of chef who whips out Wiener schnitzels all day and then goes home at the end of his shift. I wanted to find people who would teach me to take whatever was in my mind, put it on a plate and make someone happy with that.”
Ezio’s plan was to learn a variety of cooking techniques and preparation methods, but without departing from home too much. “I wanted to learn about molecular cuisine, sure, but my focus wasn’t on what I could make with the expensive extractors, infusers and other tools. Instead, I wanted to learn what I could create with my own two arms and ten fingers, with local ingredients available to me at the time,” he adds. “My focus was getting the basics perfected, like a simple pasta or risotto dish. Then I could build on that.”
Coglievina’s collaboration with Valamar’s F&B department started on Krk island. He began by overseeing breakfast and dinner at Atrium and Corinthia in Baška on Krk, then moved on to work at properties in Poreč and Rab. The next step in his career happened when he began to train restaurant staff at various Valamar properties. He travelled from Dubrovnik to Poreč and Rab to Krk and Austria, and back again. “I loved that period. I was doing exactly what I wanted, plus I was working with my colleagues and supporting them.”
When Valfresco Direkt came to life in spring 2020, this homegrown brand did everything in-house, from IT, marketing and product development to packaging and food production. The first basic menu was tested out with Valamar’s own staff first; 1600 people had a chance to try the dishes delivered to their workplaces. The feedback was great, and Valfresco Direkt had a jumping board for a perfect pivot: in addition to offering farm-fresh ingredients sourced locally, it launched a line of ready-to-eat and semi-ready-to-eat dishes available for delivery to guests of Valamar but also to anyone residing in Istria, Rijeka and the islands of Krk and Rab.
When Valfresco Direkt brought on Coglievina as the head chef six months after its launch, things got even more exciting. The idea was to inject some fresh energy and have a new pair of eyes that would finetune the brand and take it even further. “We all know what it’s like to come back home from work and then have to start cooking. Our new product was exactly for those people, for busy bodies who like to eat tasty, healthy, quality food but can’t or simply don’t want to spend countless hours preparing it,” explains Ezio. “There’s no place out there where you can buy three hours of your time; we offer that with Valfresco Direkt.”
In just over a year, Valfresco has become a household brand across Istria. In addition to offering free deliveries, it also supports the local community of food producers and gets its customers access to fresh ingredients that are otherwise difficult to find in supermarkets. “We work with a variety of OPGs (family farms) from the region and do tastings of their products all the time. What we end up choosing is what we would eat ourselves.”
Valfresco’s customers can order dairy products by the family-run Latus from Žminj in central Istria and the Buretić brothers from the Kvarner area, famed for their meat and cheese products. Free-range eggs are sourced from the Tomažin poultry farm in Istria, while the freshly baked goods come from Jedinstvo, the oldest company in Labin which has been producing bread, pastries and confectionery products since 1953. From linden and chestnut honey from the Brečević family farm in Tinjan to honeydew produced by Branka Trivunović and her bees from Pula, it’s all carefully curated to showcase the best of top-quality products the region has to offer.
But it is in Valfresco Direkt’s secret lab that magic happens: the Valfresco kitchen. Inspired by stellar food producers from the area, Coglievina keeps the creative spark alive, always brainstorming new dishes. “We have such beautiful foods here, how could I not want to feature them? Say, wild asparagus handpicked in springtime by one of the hardworking farmers we work with and prepared fresh as a deliciously creamy soup in our kitchen. Or the rustic stew with homemade sausage and wild asparagus, paired with handcrafted pljukanci pasta. It’s almost a souvenir.”
Seasons guide the menu on offer by Valfresco. While you can try some of them year-round, it proudly features unique, seasonal dishes, such as those featuring that wild asparagus picked in spring and in autumn, chanterelle mushrooms and game meats. Around the holidays, Valfresco honours Croatia’s food traditions by offering distinctive dishes; for Easter you could order baked ham, for Christmas, turkey stuffed with apples. While meat dominates the menu – you can order anything from roasted suckling pig and lamb to duck breast with orange sauce and veal ragout with peas and carrots (as well as fresh meats for grilling and roasting, like Boškarin ox steaks and black angus burgers) – vegetarians are more than catered for in Valfresco’s kitchen. They can choose from dishes like barley with vegetables, kale strudel with crème fraiche and cannelloni with spinach and Istrian cheese.
The Valfresco team, headed by Coglievina, is always inclusive and one step ahead. Plans are underway to introduce dishes that vegans can also enjoy; the menu will soon be featuring humus, tapenade and a bean dip served with crudité, raw daikon, cucumber, carrot and peppers. Really excited about expanding the seafood repertoire, Ezio is plotting a new fish meal featuring seabass. “Imagine this: you come back home, turn the oven on, pop the dish in, take a quick shower or a nap. 15 minutes later, you pull it out, unwrap the parchment paper and inside you have two fillets of seabass, potatoes, fennel, a couple of olives, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of olive oil and white wine. All you have to do is put it on your plate and enjoy. You can’t beat that, a delicious fresh fish meal in 15 minutes.”
Also in the pipeline is a new line of burritos. “That’s as fast food as we’ll go. The idea is to have food that’s convenient and high-quality and delivery that runs smoothly.”
From the first day Ezio and his team have poured their hearts into Valfresco Direkt. Still, they are always thinking of ways to improve the product; among their new projects is testing out environmentally friendly packaging, to be released shortly. “We do our best to act responsibly, not because it’s fashionable but because this is the right thing to do. This is our backyard, after all, and we want to keep it as pristine as it is,” adds Ezio.
“It’s great to be part of the Valfresco team. We feed a large number of people – and they are happy. Honestly, what can be better than that?”