Paul Ivić: From garden roots to Michelin stars

In the heart of Vienna, you'll find TIAN, a vegetarian gourmet restaurant out of the ordinary. The man behind this culinary gem is Paul Ivić, a chef whose journey from a young food enthusiast to a Michelin-starred maestro is as rich and flavourful as the dishes he creates. We sat down with Paul to delve into his approach to food and what drives his sustainable mission.

Paul Ivić’s love affair with food began in his grandparents' garden. As a child, he delighted in the fresh produce, developing a keen sense for quality ingredients. "Food was always important for me," Paul says with a smile. "I loved going to my grandparents' garden. Good food always put me in a good mood."

This early connection to food stayed with him, but it wasn't until he was 32 that Paul fully understood his calling as a chef. "I wasn't really aware of why I became a chef until much later," he admits. This realisation came during a period of change in his life. It was then that he began to see food in a new light – not just as a source of pleasure, but as a means of nourishment and connection.

A journey to self-discovery and sustainability

Paul’s transformation wasn’t just personal, it also reshaped his professional philosophy. "When I was younger, I didn’t care about my suppliers or the quality of my ingredients. I didn’t care about my guests or myself," he says candidly. This lack of care led to a stark revelation. "I realised I was poisoning my guests with food that was full of chemicals and hormones."

Determined to change, Paul shifted his focus to sustainability. He began sourcing only the best organic ingredients and working closely with farmers who shared his commitment to healthy, chemical-free produce. "Sustainability is my key driver," Paul emphasises. "I don’t want to poison my guests, myself, or the planet."

This commitment to sustainability is evident in every aspect of TIAN. From the soil the vegetables grow in to the final presentation on the plate, Paul’s approach is holistic. "Good food starts with good soil," he insists. "We work with farmers who care about the soil. That’s our secret."

Paul Ivic working in his restaurant and a dish
Good food starts with good soil. We work with farmers who care about the soil. That’s our secret.
Paul Ivić, Chef de cuisine at TIAN

The art of beautiful, meaningful food

For Paul, food isn’t just about taste; it’s about engaging all the senses. "Food has to invite all the senses," he says. "When my team and I create a dish, we search for the best flavour, but we also respect the ingredients and want to create a beautiful plate. It’s like a kind of art."

This artistic approach is reflected in the stunning presentations at TIAN. Each dish is a visual masterpiece, carefully crafted to delight the eye as much as the palate. Paul believes this visual appeal is crucial. "If you choose the best ingredients, it can only be beautiful," he states.

Yet, for Paul, the ultimate reward is not just the visual impact but the joy his food brings to his guests. "The best moment is when guests leave the restaurant and tell me they had a great experience," he says. "They enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and they saw that my team enjoys their work. That’s my goal."

Embracing innovation with Polestar

Paul’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the kitchen. As an ambassador for Polestar, he finds a kindred spirit in the company's values. "Their mindset and values resonate with me," he explains. "I love that they are driven to make sustainability a priority in their cars and are constantly searching for new techniques."

Driving a Polestar 2 has been a revelation for Paul. "When I drove the first time, I felt really happy," he recalls. "I was never excited about driving a car before, but with Polestar, I love to drive."

Paul Ivic walking outside his restaurant TIEN
Chefs plating dishes in the kitchen
The Michelin Green Star is a new distinction introduced by the Michelin Guide to highlight restaurants and chefs committed to sustainable gastronomy. Unlike the traditional Michelin stars, which recognise culinary excellence, the Green Star focuses on environmental practices and sustainability efforts in the restaurant industry.

Michelin stars and beyond

Achieving both a traditional Michelin Star and a Michelin Green Star is a testament to Paul’s dedication and skill. Each star holds significant meaning for him. "The Green star has a big value for us because we want to create sustainability," he says. "The Michelin star makes us proud because it shows we are respected in the industry."

But for Paul, these accolades are just milestones on a larger journey. "It’s not just about the stars," he reflects. "It’s about creating something great with my team and making a positive impact through our work."

Looking ahead: A sustainable future

As Paul continues to innovate, his focus remains on sustainability and the joy of discovery. "It’s always exciting to work with the team and figure out how we can make no waste," he says. This drive for zero waste leads to creative solutions and unexpected flavours. "Sometimes we discover really great flavours," he adds with a grin.

Sitting down with Paul, it’s clear that his approach to food goes beyond mere sustenance – it’s about connecting people, respecting nature, and crafting beauty on a plate.

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