Slovenian entrepreneur Kristjan Podgornik, the founder of Golden Experience

Kristjan Podgornik is the founder of Golden Experience, a brand that seeks to create what is the best of the best. Its olive oil, infused with 24 karat gold flakes, won numerous awards and even adorns the kitchen cabinet of one Melania Trump.

Kristjan Podgornik, a creative and entrepreneur from Slovenia, grew up surrounded by beauty. As the son of an international fine art dealer, Podgornik was raised on the sensibilities of artists like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. As a proud Slovenian, Podgornik also witnessed the beauty in his home country’s landscape. So he wanted to create something that moved beyond its aesthetic to offer a truly beautiful experience.

Podgornik launched Golden Experience — a brand to create what is simply the best of the best. Their organic extra virgin olive oil, infused with 24 karat gold flakes, ranks as the world’s best. It won several international competitions, including at Sol D’Oro, the most important international olive oil competition in the world.

“Based on my own taste, as it was developed through the years and through my father, I had my own sense to create a brand that combines the most winning product and the best experience in the world,” said Podgornik.

The gift of giving

Podgornik’s organic extra virgin olive oil is a work of art in its craftsmanship and production. The product is based in Istria, by the Mediterranean sea, a region that ranked the best in the world for olive oil production three times. The package the oil arrives in is a treasure trove of details: a velvet handmade box, hand-printed gold embellishments, a black glass cap with real gold hand-burned on, glass decorations created by the world’s best, and an extra engraved tree on the glass.

Yet what elevates the product is not just its beauty, but its intention. Golden Experience’s olive oil is a gift in its purest form. Every bottle is equipped with a personalized card and a message: “Have a great Golden Experience with your favorite friends while enjoying the highest quality meals in the world.”

Michelin star chef Tomaz KavcicPodgornik wants the recipients of his olive oil to create an occasion for it. Gift recipients can gather friends for a celebratory meal and enjoy the world’s best olive oil with fresh cheese, meat, or fish.

“This is not a materialistic product, but it’s a product that every receiver that receives this product, he has to organize a special dinner or a lunch invite,” said Podgornik. “Everything is perfect, the place, the serving, the food, and the company — I called this Golden Experience.”

In Good Company 

Podgornik is also a special events organizer and brand developer. One of his main goals is to share his love of Slovenia by bringing in A-list celebrities and showing them the wonders of his home country. He hosted and met John Malkovich, Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and many more. Malkovich sampled the Golden Experience olive oil and liked it so much, he even said it’s the “world’s best olive oil.” 

John Malkovich and Kristjan PodgornikFor Podgornik, the best part about Slovenia is what other people may not appreciate about it — how small the country is.

“Slovenia, at first, is a very small country and small is usually, for me, measured as high quality,” said Podgornik. “Like pasta, when you cook for two people or for 10 people, there’s a difference.”

Being such a small country, Slovenia is close to so many other beautiful tourist destinations, like Venice, Vienna, and Munich. The natural wonders of the country also manifest in the quality of Slovenian produce, making its cuisine one of the best in the world, according to Podgornik.

 “The restaurants here, the food and everything, because of the quantity of the people, is really on the highest possible level. So I traveled around the world and when it comes to culinary experiences, this is definitely one of the best in the world,” said Podgornik. His favorite restaurant for him the best in Ljubljana is CUBO restaurant where the Golden Experience is served. 

Golden dish by Michelin Star Chef Mario Gamba

Podgornik aims to make Golden Experience’s products among Slovenia’s most famous exports, alongside the country’s most recognizable export, First Lady Melania Trump. As a New Year’s gift from her friend back home, the First Lady Melania Trump received a bottle of Golden Experience’s olive oil.

FLOTUS Melania Trump (Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“It’s good to know that Melania, who is Slovenian, is in such a high position and that she was so humble and ambitious that she went to the United States to look for opportunities to be successful,” said Podgornik. “Seeing her in this position and that she comes from Slovenia makes me very proud,” he concluded. 

Candy Chan is studying History with a focus on War and Revolution at Barnard College. She is currently a staff writer at the Columbia Daily Spectator, covering issues pertaining to Columbia's...

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