Ricardo Luque, musician and amateur chef, was born in Venezuela and lives in Croatia since 1990. For years, he’s been introducing Venezuelan culture to Croatians through music and food. He’s well known for playing solo, as a part of band Cubismo and also in Zagreb Philharmonic. He’s been on the TV show Masterchef, and attracted a lot of attention because of his love for food and cooking. Now, he’s in Dubrovnik as a part of the Good Food Festival and he really has a lot to offer! He took some time to speak to us and discover what he will present at the Festival, what does he like about Dubrovnik and much more.
What brought you to Dubrovnik this year?
I am here again because of multiple reasons! I'm the guest of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, as a part of the Good Food Festival. First, I’m here as a gastronomy expert, even though I don’t see myself as a professional – I am ‘’soul cooking’’, since I learnt everything from my grandma, mother and my surroundings where I grew up. Then, I will also be a lecturer. And, finally, as a musician! I believe that music and gastronomy go well together, since everybody love to eat good and dance, sing… Life wouldn’t be the same without it.
Are food and music your two loves? If you should pick one, which would you pick?
First – yes! And second – no, they go together! I think that music, like any other kind of art, requires an open mind. I’m really happy because I have a chance to express myself and see who I am through it. That’s the part of my identity. And when it comes to cooking, enjoying a good meal, made by yourself or somebody else is great. Person is really free, not thinking anything. Eating, cooking is not only fulfilling the need, it’s also a pleasure and opening your mind, creativity, imagination! Music and cooking have a lot in common. That’s why I’m really happy to be here as a part of Good Food Festival.
What are you offering to the Good Food Festival visitors?
At Pile, you can visit the fair and there is my stand – Arepa de Ricardo. There you can try traditional Venezuelan bread – arepa – which is done every day in every house in Venezuela. Arepa is mostly done at home because it's made by special corn flour. It has a long history and it's been made in Pre-Columbian times. When people from Spain came to our continent, they wondered what people eat and they discovered 'erepa'', which meant corn. At this stand you can try this traditional bread made by my family, my team! We work from 9 in the morning to 9 in the evening during the whole festival, until Sunday. On Friday, in the restaurant Kantenari at the Sunset Beach Dubrovnik, I will make a traditional Venezuelan dinner with typical, Venezuelan meals from the different regions. There is a great interest for it! After the dinner, I will perform with my band Cubismo, so the good food and the good music will combine. On Saturday, at 5 pm in the Dubrovnik Tourist Board office I will hold a lecture ''Heritage of the autochtonous civilizations of Latin America'. We will make a journey through food and culture and interesting facts about them. Just like our languages, our gastronomy is a mix of cultures, it has been affected by Europe, Africa, Asia…
This is surely one gastronomy pleasure for you in Dubrovnik?
Yes, I want to say thanks to the Dubrovnik Tourist Board. Everything I do, I don’t do for money, I do it for that spark, to introduce the others to my culture, so they can understand me better. It all started with salsa in Zagreb, I opened a school – even though I’m bad when it comes to business, I tried. And it was a boom! There were events with 800-900 people and it was amazing. I feel like I gave my contribution in opening Croatia and Zagreb, making it more cosmopolitan. Croatia is changing! I remember, before when I was making meals, I was buying groceries in the other countries and now, you can find almost everything here.
So, you are here long enough to see the changes?
I’ve been living in Croatia for a long time now and I almost feel like a local. Croatia is changing for the better! Tolerance is higher and I don’t see xenophobia anymore. People are opening their minds and their hearts and understanding each other better.
Was it hard to fit in at the very beginning?
Yes, for sure. Even today I have some habits that are not common for the place I live in, but I fit in. The start could be more relaxed, but everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I’ve been in situations where people didn’t understand me and put me under the magnifying glass and discovered that I was normal! You found a perfect way to share your roots with wider audience through music, food..? Absolutely! I find it really important. It enriches you! I see that the society is changing, people are opening, listening. People are really reacting great. Sometimes, some older ladies approach me at the food market and say – I know you! And it’s really cute.
Do you miss something from Venezuela?
If I have to choose something, it’s the relationships between people. To be honest, I don’t know many neighbors in Zagreb and in my street in Venezuela, I know everybody. For Christmas, New Year, everybody have their doors opened and are going from house to house. I miss it! When I first came to Europe, to England I entered the train and said: ‘’Hello everybody!’’, everybody looked me like I was crazy. It was strange to me because back home we always say hello, it’s really relaxed, there is music, radio and you can even ask the driver to play some song or turn it up.
What are your impressions on Dubrovnik?
I come here almost every year, sometimes with my band, sometimes with orchestra to perform at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. I am always happy to come. There is one joke we have at the orchestra. We meet for drinks after the show in Zagreb and everybody wants to pay the round. First who takes the bill says – You will pay in Dubrovnik! Because we all know it’s expensive.
Do you like the city?
I love it, even my honeymoon was here. I have friends here, too. Every time I come it’s beautiful. However, it has some problems, such as parking and prices. I am sad for the people that live here, because they have those problems every day. But I love the manners of locals, they are very kind and warm. Ladies are beautiful and men are tall. Lovely people!
Do you have your favourite place in Dubrovnik?
I like to go to Peskarija. There are also lovely spots outside the Old City too, such as Konavle. Once I had an amazing concert, at Buza, we played Latin Jazz, there was a full moon, people were amazing… Also, I love the general rehearsals of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. I have so much lovely memories from this special city.