Interview: Emil Minev, Culinary Director at Le Cordon Bleu

We caught up with Emil Minev, Culinary Director at Le Cordon Bleu, to discuss his food journey, his career in high profile kitchens, what excites him about being back at Le Cordon Bleu after once attending as a student and his thoughts on the shortage of chefs in kitchens today.

Hello Emil, thank you for taking the time to talk to Chatting Food.

When did your journey with food begin?

My first day in a professional kitchen was on my 15th birthday. It has been a long and very exciting journey since then. I cooked, worked and lived in various countries and a few continents. The one thing that has not changed in all these years is my love for food, and anything related to cooking.

You originally studied for a Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, how did this help your career?

At some point in my career, I concluded that if I wanted to be a completed Chef, I had to have more advanced pastry skills. I decided to take a “break” from cooking, took a trip to London and enrolled on the Patisserie Diploma.

It was a whole new experience for me, a whole new world of flavours and tastes. I loved every single moment, and I learnt a great deal during this time.

You are currently Culinary Arts Director at Le Cordon Bleu and have returned to the iconic cookery school to teach. What have been the highlights of your current role?

After nearly four years as Executive Chef at Shangri la Hotel at the Shard, I was humbled to be offered this position and to return as head of school this time. It is a great honour, and it comes with significant responsibilities.

For a Chef, there is no greater satisfaction than sharing knowledge, and to see students developing and progressing is an amazing feeling.

My role however is more complex and more strategic and covers a few different areas. The highlights so far have been the launch of several new programs in the last couple of years:

Boulangerie Diploma, Diploma in Gastronomy, Nutrition and Food Trends, Bachelors in Administration Culinary Industry. In January 2020 we will launch a new program: Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts.

There have been many articles recently about the issues within hospitality, especially regarding recruiting and retaining chefs. As someone teaching the next generation, what do you believe needs to be done to ensure chefs continue to thrive and establish careers in this industry?

We work closely with our Industry Partners, and we are very much aware of the issues. There is a significant shortage of Chefs in the industry, and that’s a fact, at the same time cooking as a profession has never been so popular. To be a Chef has never been more prestigious, Chefs are true celebrities these days, and we are very well respected. So many young people are attracted to our profession, now more than ever.

However, the reality is that Chefs are working unsociable hours, poor work/life balance and low salaries.

The industry has to evolve and adapt if there is no other way. We have to create a better environment for young Chefs.

Before working at Le Cordon Bleu you have worked in the best kitchens in the world including The Ritz, El Bulli in Barcelona Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai and the Shangri-La Hotel London. How did these roles shape you into the chef you are today?

I was lucky enough to work in some great kitchens, through these experiences and through my professional travels I learnt a great deal, and this has a great impact on me as a Chef and as a person.

What advice would you give to a chef looking to make a move into such high profile, fine dining kitchens?

The advice is always the same: have a clear idea of what would you like to achieve, choose the right kitchen and always do a trial before you sign a new contract. And put your heart and your soul in it, give 100%.

Which chef inspires you?

I would say Albert and Ferran Adria have the biggest influence not only on me but the entire generation of Chefs that I belong to.

You have travelled extensively as part of your job; which country has your foodie heart?