Student Stories

Nikola Gruev: This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

From day one to diploma: a student's journey through HRC Culinary Academy

20/03/2024

Join us as we explore the inspiring journey of Nikola Gruev, a recent graduate from our culinary arts program. Discover his invaluable insights, tips, and advice for the aspiring chefs of tomorrow.

How did you learn about the Academy, and why did you choose HRC for your education?

I’ll always remember the day in December 2021 when I discovered the HRC Culinary Academy. I was searching for culinary schools because I had decided to become a chef. I had never heard of this academy before, but one day, while looking around online, I found its website. When I saw it, I thought to myself, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!”

Can you describe the academic rigour and workload at HRC Academy?

The Academy is known for its emphasis on hands-on learning right from the start. You’ll have four semesters spread over two years, each offering great opportunities to learn in special ways. One amazing chance is to study in some of Europe’s best restaurants, which adds a lot to your education.

But what’s even more important is the connections you’ll make here. You’ll meet people from different backgrounds, which will help you build a network of contacts that can be really helpful for your future. This network not only gives you confidence but also opens up paths for your career to grow.

Were there any specific challenges you faced academically?

Your success at the Academy depends on your dedication. When I started, I didn’t know what to expect, but following the instructors and experienced folks made it smooth and easy. If you follow your passion and stay committed, you won’t find it difficult.

What do you consider the school’s strengths and weaknesses, based on your personal experience?

The Academy stands out because it helps students build a strong network of connections in a short time. Besides working with chefs, students also get to meet sommeliers, managers, marketing experts, and many other people, which broadens their connections a lot. Another special thing about the Academy is its unique six-month cycles that really change students’ lives. Working and studying in different places not only improves their cooking skills but also helps them grow personally.

Some people might see a downside in the Academy’s less strict screening process for students. But it’s important to know that this doesn’t mean the education quality is compromised. Doing well at the Academy depends on how dedicated and committed you are, which helps overcome any potential issues.

Did you feel that you had access to quality resources and facilities at the academy?

The Academy is proud to have its own library, which is really useful for students. You can find a wide range of books about cooking there, which can be super helpful. Also, the place is well-equipped, and the Academy regularly updates old equipment, so you’ll always have access to the latest resources for your education.

What can you say about the diversity of the campus community? Did you feel comfortable and respected as a student?

The campus nearby is a fantastic chance to meet people from different backgrounds. They have their own kitchen where you can cook and chat with others in your spare time. It’s really special to get to know students from countries like India, Greece, Africa, Ireland, and many others.

How were the instructors, and were they accessible for questions and guidance?

At the Academy, it’s up to you to take charge of your learning and develop good habits. If you need help, don’t wait for instructors to come to you – take the initiative and ask. In the third semester, there might be some new instructors because of recent changes. Also, the Academy organizes masterclasses with chefs and instructors from Bulgaria and other places, which make learning even more exciting.

Did the internship programs meet your expectations? In what way?

My first internship in Germany was exactly what I hoped for. It helped me transition smoothly into working in a professional kitchen. I learned a lot and grew more confident as time went on.

On the other hand, my second internship in Mykonos was very different. The kitchen was always busy, and there was a unique summer atmosphere. Working at Zuma Mykonos was challenging but also very rewarding. It demanded both mental and physical preparedness to handle the tasks effectively..

What type of job placement services does HRC offer after the final internship, and did they help you in your career aspirations?

The Academy is a great place to get support for your future career. They have strong ties with many top-notch restaurants across Europe. If you have a particular country in mind (though not everyone gets to choose), they’ll do their best to link you up with potential employers there. It’s smart to have a clear idea of what you want beforehand. This way, they can better focus on finding opportunities that suit you.

Were there any unexpected challenges or aspects of the academy that you think prospective students should be aware of?

For Bulgarian students like myself, navigating through the Academy is somewhat easier because we’re at home and surrounded by familiar things. However, foreign students also find it quite manageable, with no big challenges standing out.

When thinking about a second internship in the USA, it’s important to know what area you’re interested in, whether it’s pastry, bakery, meat, fish, etc. The first internship is based on your profile and how you perform during the first six months at the Academy. But for the second one, you get to pick what you want to do. Basically, the first internship “picks” you, while you get to “pick” the second one.

What was the best lesson you learned during your studies?

As you progress in your career, you pick up many lessons. I’d like to share three that are important to me: First, listen to experienced folks for valuable insights in your field. Second, have confidence in yourself and your skills; your attitude plays a big role in your success. And finally, always keep a positive outlook and stay committed in everything you do.

What was the biggest challenge?

Staying confident and determined, even when things get tough, driven by a clear goal in mind.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying to HRC Culinary Academy or about to start their culinary degree there?

I’ve told you all the important stuff, and my advice is to stay committed, trust your gut, and be open about your thoughts and feelings. Listen to people who have experience, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What are your plans for career development after graduation?

I want to gather more experience and explore the world of food further. Travelling and tasting different cuisines is a top priority, and settling in one place isn’t in my plans for now. But who knows what the future holds?

 

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