Vele's Thoughts

Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

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“A CRM is not for keeping track of what you did, it is to tell you what to do next” — Vele Samak

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Macedonian Brisket 1.1

This is my second attempt at a brisket here in Macedonia. When the butcher praised his latest steer I committed to try on the brisket one more time. Later on he told me the steer was 18mos old, but “1 in a 1000!”. Which is great praise for Macedonia with a very different beef culture.


This time, he took out the entire ribcage with the brisket still on it to show me the cut. He made a very nice cut preserving a much better fat covering than the first brisket couple of weeks ago. I asked him to trim a few odd parts and the silver skin around it, measured it, and packed it. 4.25kg.


Seasoning. This time I went with a 1:1 ratio of about 2% salt and 2% pepper. I measured about 80gr of salt, and added similar amount of finely ground black pepper. Before preparing the meat, I did a fair amount of trimming, based on what I understood from Aaron Franklin’s videos on trimming brisket. The major difference is his briskets are much bigger and have much better marbling. This Macedonian brisket is from a fairly young steer, but was quite good anyway. After seeing the prime rib and how the marbling was showing there, I had no about if this steer lived for another 6-9 months, would have been a fantastic meat with great marbling.


This brisket was left with a small covering of fat, except for a small portion where I left it hoping it would somehow add to the flavor. That’s for later, fat generally doesn’t trickle down into the meat, it simply slides on the side.


This time I left the seasonsed brisket for about 7 hours in the fridge. Didn’t have time for overnight. It was ready for cooking in the evening.


After reading a bit, and there’s a ton of conflicting advice on cooking brisket in the oven, I decided to try this one wrapped in baking paper and set for much longer time at around 100-120C. Left in the oven at 7:30pm, and opening it up at 6:30am. I looked good, has a nice bark, as nice as it could get from the oven, there’s was fat rendered in the bottom, but not too much. I left it open for half an hour and turned off the oven. Not sure what this last bit did, so will decide later.


The first cuts. The meat looked great, was soft, juicy and tasty. The combo of salt and pepper brings out a lot of flavor in the meat. The fatter cuts are not recommended with this type of brisket simply due to the lack of sufficient marbling. If there were more marbling, the fat would stay in and provide for juicier cut.


Left-overs. This meat shined as left overs. After sitting in the fridge for a few hours, somehow it started exuding more taste. To warm it up, I warmed up a bit of butter, made nice thin slices, <5mm thin, and warmed up the meat with portion of its own gelatinous fat sitting in the bottom on low heat. All it took was a minute, and some carmelization formed which made it very tasty.


Sandwich. Couple of nicely toasted buns with butter. Small smear of mustard and mayo on the sides, thin slices of briskets, milano salami, cheese, tomato, sliced pickles,  salt and pepper on the tomato, small drop of soy sauce on the top bun. Crunchy, full flavor deliciousness, dripping with fat all around. Gone in a few bites. This was the best part of the brisket. For kids, take thin slices, and just chop them up in small pieces before toasting in the pan with butter. Fantastic!

Macedonian Brisket 1.0

It ain’t Texas style but it’s next best thing: Macedonian brisket. Домашни јунешки гради, сол и пипер и 6 часа во рерна на 130С. Одлично и сочно за прв пат. Јунецот наместо 18м, бил 9м и немаше доволно мрсен слој од горе. Можеше уште некој час да помине на 100С и позатворен со пекарска хартија наместо алуминиумска. Тоа за следен пат.

Stir-fry lessons for western kitchens

Been reading about wok equipment and proper technique for western-style kitchens. TL;DR my velveting is good, my stir fry needs help. Found this video, among many others. So mesmerizing to watch. No wasted movement, pure craft.

New portal for my work at

Finally, after months of distractions, I’ve put more effort to make my portal at look up to date. I’ve included most of the key items to drive information to the right audiences. When I looked at the value-added to this, I started from the audience: foreign companies I’m currently targeting, foreign companies looking for more info on Macedonia, local Macedonian companies who want to meet foreign partners, job candidates, and finally the usual press and others.

The model for the site were the top-5 strategy consulting firms, VC firms and other PE shops. What we do, provide business and investment opportunities to foreign companies in Macedonia, is very similar to these sites. We have a small, but very active team of analysts, for which we always recruit. We target some of the largest manufacturing and service companies by employing consultative approach. Companies often are interested to identify Macedonian suppliers or partners. Furthermore, there is a need to understand the general competitiveness of Macedonia, ie, where we do and where we can’t help. Macedonia is as competitive as China in manufacturing today, and as competitive as India in outsourcing. Finally, we provide information on our past and future target visits, interviews and press activities.

I believe we still have some work and improvement to provide to the site. It should be a big help to various audiences to get in touch with us. Please check it out and see if there are any suggestions.


France’s Montupet to Build Aluminum Car Parts in Macedonia, Signs Memorandum with Government

I should have published this back in late May when it happened, but better late then never. After working on this project over the past year and a half, I can finally say this:

The Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia today (May 28, 2008) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with executives from the French company Montupet S.A. for an investment project in Macedonia. Montupet will build a plant in the Free Economic Zone near Skopje, Macedonia to produce aluminum cylinder heads for automobile manufacturers. The plant, which will employ up to 500 people in the first phase, will be part of an initial investment of 55 million euros. Montupet plans to initiate construction by the end of 2008 and be operational in 2010. Macedonia was chosen in competition with a number of regional sites in Bulgaria and Romania, among others.

Montupet is third in a row Tier 1 supplier which has chosen Macedonia, following the likes of Johnson Controls and Johnson Matthey. This momentum over the past 2 years confirms the competitive position of Macedonia. I initiated discussions with Montupet in February of 2007, and focused constantly on the developments and opportunities with this company but also with the automotive sector in general as part of my mission to attract companies to invest in Macedonia.

Today, Macedonia has one of the best tax regimes in Europe, at 10% flat corporate and personal rates, and lowest wages with high unemployment of skilled people. When combined with excellent logistics to Europe and Turkey, and Government incentives, Macedonia presents a sustainable investment destination for European manufacturers.

Montupet works in partnership with many of the major European and American automobile manufacturers and is acknowledged as a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of aluminum cylinder heads, as well as being a major supplier of other aluminum automotive products such as wheel rims.

I’m enclosing a photo of the signing moment in their plant in France right here (I’m standing in the back, to the left and grinning): gj5r2840_std

Personally, this was a very satisfying moment, not just for me but also for my cabinet who excelled at all aspects to win this project. Fortunately for us, there’s more to come.

Johnson Matthey Signs MoU with Government of Macedonia

Johnson Matthey, one of the largest producers of automotive catalysts, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Macedonia. My team and I are extremely excited to finally see this project slowly come to fruition. We have been working with JM in relative secrecy over the past several months to ensure Macedonia met and exceeded all of JM’s requirements for a new site to produce catalysts. While this is not a final decision — JM’s Board has to ratify this in July 2007 — the MoU deepens our cooperation and formalizes Macedonia as a top choice for a new plant.

With Johnson Controls already building an electronics manufacturing and assembly plant, and JM a new tenant in the free economic zone near Skopje, we are picking up momentum as a destination for manufacturing. This is especially exciting considering that JM looked at over 10 countries and 100s of sites to settle on Macedonia. It’s a combination of extremely attractive fiscal policy (0% taxes for 10 years, very low lease rate), available, inexpensive and well-qualified labor force, logistics to Western Europe and other infrastructure factors.

Read some of the Macedonian press coverage here:



Makfax online (english)

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