SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns will have the chance to partake of the cuisine of a renowned Croatian chef when he visits the state this month to share not only his expertise but also his message of hope to anyone affected by congenital heart disease.
Chef Branko Ognjenovic of Zagreb, Croatia, will be honored at Utah Valley University on April 12 and will participate in two fundraising events April 13-14.
He is the founder of “Renato — Chefs Without Borders,” a nonprofit organization in Croatia dedicated to training chefs and raising awareness of and providing access to medical treatment for congenital heart disease. He created the organization after the sudden death of his son Renato, after whom the organization is named, due to congenital heart disease. According to information provided by event organizers, Renato Ognjenovic’s condition was undiagnosed until after his death.
“When Renato died, at his grave I gave my promise to do something (so) that same tragedy would not happen to other parents,” Branko Ognjenovic said in a news release, adding that his son was 31 years old and seemingly healthy when he died.
At the April 12 event, Chef Todd Leonard, chairman of UVU’s Culinary Arts Institute, will highlight Ognjenovic’s healthy culinary approach as well as his charitable work, and Ognjenovic will provide training for the university’s culinary students.
The fundraising events in Utah, both titled “Croatian Cuisine and Concert for the Heart,” will benefit “Renato — Chefs Without Borders” and will be held at private homes and include meals prepared by Ognjenovic. The April 13 concert will be in Orem and will feature a performance by Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker and her children. The April 14 concert will be in Sandy and will include music by Kurt Bestor and Lexi Walker.
Utah’s Intermountain Healing Hearts, a local nonprofit organization for families of children and adults with congenital heart defects, is hosting Ognjenovic’s outreach efforts while he is in Utah, including a visit to Primary Children’s Hospital.Comment on this story
“Renato — Chefs Without Borders” has a two-fold mission, according to event organizers. The first is to provide children, especially low-income children, with opportunities to receive an echocardiogram for early diagnoses of heart conditions. The second is to provide culinary education, especially to those who would not be able to afford training otherwise, with an emphasis on healthy eating.
“If we save one child, we have done a lot,” Ognjenovic said in the news release.
Those interested in attending either of the “Croatian Cuisine for the Heart” concerts can email Linda Turley-Hansen at [email protected]