Student Stories

Erno Munka: “Always make sure you are 3 steps ahead.”

Meet our talented student Erno Munka.

02/07/2024

Today we meet our talented student Erno Munka. He graduated from our two-year Culinary Arts program in 2023. His culinary journey is filled with a lot of work, inspiration and a constant striving for improvement. In this interview, he tells us about his education at the Academy, his experience during the internships and the great career opportunity he got afterwards.

1.Why did you choose to become a chef?

I was a troubled kid. I didn’t get the grades I need to go to high school and to pursue higher studies. When I was 14 years old, my mom took me to the „SIRHA“ – which is the biggest culinary exhibition in the world and an hour away from the town where I grew up. After that experience I was mind blown and chose to pursue a career in the culinary world. When I was 15-18 years old, I studied 2 years of culinary arts and 1 year of pastry.

2.Why did you choose HRC for your education?

I moved to Sofia in October 2017 for a fresh start in a different country. I worked at “Boom! Burgers” for over a year, then at the “Happy Pig” by Jun Yoshida. After that in 2020, I decided it was time for me to go back to the basics and study culinary arts from scratch. Since I already lived in Sofia, it was the most obvious choice, but not the easiest. Going back to “school” at this age takes a lot.

3.Do you have any key memories or funny stories from your HRC days that you would like to share?

A great experience was when we won the Bulgarian culinary cup in 2021 with Ivan and Desi.

I was very busy during the first semester, combining studying at the Academy in the morning and going to work afterwards because I was financially independent. I ended up doing 60/80h a week. It was very draining mentally and physically, but overall times were good.

4.Can you describe the meaning of being a chef and working in a kitchen? How do manage your time?

Being a chef in a kitchen is about the attitude and how people perceive you. Always make sure you are 3 steps ahead and that’s how people will perceive you as a chef, a problem solver and inspiration. It’s also about being creative and always sharp in your line of work.

5.Did you have any second thoughts about becoming a chef or staying in the industry?

I have had them when I was younger, I have been mistreated and abused by some chef. I paused my career for 6 months when I was 18 and went to police school. But I chose to go back to the industry, because I believe it is what I am meant to do.

 

6.Tell us about your internship placements and the biggest advantage you gained from them. Especially studying and working during the pandemic.

I was lucky to go to “Villa Ruimzicht” for my first internship. This has been my biggest step up in my whole life (professionally and personally). It was very hard, I had to work twice as hard as usual, but it unlocked something in me, and I really became a better version of myself.

My second internship was in Phoenix, but I expected higher standards.

7.What is one valuable lesson that you learned from your journey at HRC that you would never forget and why?

Work hard, it always pays off. Everyone can do it, it just takes focus, repetition and dedication. Simple as this and at the end of the day everything you do is a choice.

8.What would you say to the current students who aspire to become young chefs?

Everything is a choice, and everyone can succeed.

9.Can you tell us what you are doing now? How you found yourself back to working with people you met during your placement and a little bit more about networking in this industry?

Soon I’m going to be a Sous chef in the restaurant „Lokaal“ in Doetinchem where I did my internship. I am leading a team of 8 people, mostly students and follow them on their journey. I make sure we keep high quality, that everyone feels good, and that we get proper products. Also, I’m responsible for the vegetables and work with the local farmers, adapting the menu with the products they offer. As the entremetier, I am responsible for the staff food every day.

About the network, I have plenty of chef that I know in Bulgaria, France or Netherlands. My network really has grown for the past few years, and I am still in touch with most of them.

10.Can you tell us your favourite hobby outside of work?

I wakeboard, go out with my friends and mostly chill at home.

11.What is your future goal? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 5 years, I want to open my own bistro with my brother.

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