Who trains at the HRC Culinary Academy in Bulgaria, dreams about an international career. Will the next Jamie Oliver come from Bulgaria? Reason for a visit….
“Chef” is working on a slow-cooked chicken. “Pliers please”, “Knife please”, “Sauce boat please”. Utensils are immediately provided, accompanied with a “Here you go Chef”. An Entourage of students watches him with respect. Hugues Boutin is 3rd Semester Chef Instructor at the HRC Culinary Academy in Sofia. Chef is a tattooed man, with a Canadian Flag on his Chef’s outfit. He fits the profile of what you expect from a chef, and you probably expect to find him in London or Paris. But in this case, he is located 2.000 km to the east in Bulgaria.
We find ourselves in the center of the capital city of Sofia, in the kitchen lab of Restaurant Talents. Chef confirms that Respect and Discipline are important in a kitchen, just like in the Army. Does it make sense to have a culinary institute in Bulgaria? We ask Chef… Oh absolutely, frying is frying, regardless in which part of the world, kitchen language is the same everywhere. The Academy’s founder Frederik den Hollander confirms that the school could have been established anywhere. But why would you build school number 13 in Paris or Italy? With the initial support of the European Commission in the Balkan region, this was the perfect place to start, explains Frederik den Hollander. And now the school hosts students from more than 15 nations and features international allure in the cosmopolitan city of Sofia.
Sofia’s High Society and Ambassadors have found their way to restaurant Talents. Guests enjoy the starter of Goat cheese mousse with sundried tomatoes and a mix of fresh herbs, or a home-made Lavender Cheesecake with apple sorbet and caramel.
Back to Boutin’s culinary students: cooking is not guessing, but carefully measuring. But the back office of the kitchen also leaves room for the students to experiment. One of the students is Sacha Agassi from Luxembourg, who dreamed as a little kid to become a Chef. He has interned at the Hilton Frankfurt, and enjoys the discipline at the Academy, despite the long hours.
We try to explain from day 1 that kitchen chefs make long days and nights, says Frederik den Hollander. Glamour life of Micheline stars or the stardom of TV kitchen chefs is quickly forgotten after a few days in the Academy’s training kitchens. Boutin confirms: when you make a Burger for the 1001 time, it should be just as good as the first one!
German students have not visited the Bulgarian Academy just yet. Germany itself has a long tradition of culinary education, linked to the training institute where the student trains for 3 years. The advantage of the Academy however is the international aspect with 2 internships abroad, including America. And the English instruction language assures that students graduate as bilingual cooks which opens a lot of doors.
Business man Frederik den Hollander is already preparing for the future. The next generation of Restaurant Managers should also come from the HRC Academy. And there is one more thing that the “Start-up” man finds very important: It is not the expensive oven in the kitchen, but the people at our Academy that make the spirit and the success of our school…