The world's first dedicated food atlas, which was three years in the making launched online recently. We interviewed founder Matija Babic to find out more about this unique venture.
TasteAtlas is the world's first interactive food map, detailing dishes and ingredients from all over the world. The map allows users to search by ingredient, place or dish, providing a wealth of knowledge at the click of a button. The brainchild of Matija Babic, a Croatian journalist, TasteAtlas strives to educate the masses about food around the world.
Discovering local food and drink while travelling in Matija's true passion, he tells us. His background is in online media, as he started a wildly popular Croatian news site in the 90's, which became the country's most viewed website. A series of online editorial roles followed this, but Matija reveals that he eventually felt like he had to pursue his true passion:
"At the age of 37, I decided to step away from media to do what truly interests me and what I enjoy the most, which is to travel and discover local foods and drinks.
Then three years ago, I was travelling across the Greek islands and Italian Liguria and I was having difficulties finding information that interested me about local cheeses. I was missing information about which cheeses are made on which island and where to buy the cheeses. I then discovered Focaccia di Recco in Liguria, a sensational pastry with fresh cheese. How can a traveler, without “googling” too much, know that they should eat it in Liguria and where to find it? TasteAtlas was born out of that idea, as I decided to provide all such information in one place."
TasteAtlas is an intriguing idea. How did such a unique concept come to fruition? Matija tells us that it involved a lot of hard work on his part:
"I started developing the idea three years ago and in the meantime, I engaged a developers team, as well as roughly 30 authors and researchers from all over Europe. The authors investigate foods and drinks along with their history, while the researchers browse for relevant reviews and answers to the question: where can one find the best version of a dish? For now, I’m investing only my own money into the project, as I see it as my own very expensive hobby. However, if it becomes profitable in the slightest, I would love to increase the number of authors working on the website."
Having seen Wikipedia develop into a phenomenon, a similar idea focused on food should surely flourish, as food media is more popular than ever right now. However, this also means that there is more food than ever to consider when creating an encyclopedia of food:
"We would like to map all dishes, beverages, ingredients and food products. If a dish, ingredient, or drink hasn’t yet been included in our database, it will at some point in the future. For some dishes, it is nearly impossible to find out the exact origin. There are tens of thousands of little-known dishes and ingredients to be covered. Along with quantity, I also want to work on the quality of covering the dishes and ingredients.
For now, we include only the basic, a description and a photo, but in the future, I want to post stories, galleries and videos that will encourage people to learn more about authentic sausage producers, grandmothers making long-forgotten dishes and shepherds who still herd sheep in meadows.
However, we don't want to become too like Wikipedia, as I feel that TasteAtlas must be controlled with editorship. Everyone is more than welcome to send their suggestions, but every suggestion must be researched and checked by our editors and authors."
Even before the website officially launched, TasteAtlas' Italian pasta map had been viewed by over 4 million people. The global map of local ingredients can never be truly finished, Matija says, as there will constantly be more dishes being created around the world.
Having experienced food from all over the world, we asked Matija what the most important thing he'd learned through his travels:
"Travel and eat local. There are so many brilliant flavors to discover all around the world."
You can check out TasteAtlas here for more information.