I looked at pastry and culinary school options in Croatia and Kul IN seemed like a great opportunity for advancing my skills. The program remains one of my favorite memories of all times…
Meet the Kul IN alumna Lena Šarić! After realizing that pastry arts was her calling, Lena devoted herself completely to education and advancement, and everything started at Kul IN. Having completed our Professional Pastry and Confections program, Lena spent 4 years entertaining with her desserts the guests of a restaurant that became the proud owner of a Michelin star at the time when Lena worked there. Meanwhile, her professional development included attending masterclasses by some of the best pastry chefs in the world and interning at a 3 Michelin-star restaurant Atelier in Munich. Read the interview to find out Lena's Michelin secrets, her advice to other young or aspiring pastry chefs, and learn what her fondest memory of her time at Kul IN is.
Kul IN: When did you become interested in pastry arts?
- My story is quite typical in this regard; I fell in love with pastry arts in childhood when I would help my mom and dad in the kitchen. Mom was the one who always baked cakes. I also loved watching culinary shows, Jamie Oliver was the most popular at the time. Eventually, I realized that I was interested in that world. I did not go to high school for a chef or a pastry chef, but to a hotel and tourism department, and after that I enrolled in the Faculty of Economics, but pastry got in the way (laughs). As I lived in Zagreb, I attended various workshops and masterclasses and realized that I only want to be a pastry chef. I looked for schools, found Kul IN and that’s how it all started.
Kul IN: How did your professional path go after Kul IN?
- After Kul IN, I interned at the Grand Hotel Slavija in Baška Voda, and my first and only real job is Boškinac. After the internship, I sent my resume to Boškinac, got a job and I have been here for 4 years!
Kul IN: Why did you choose Kul IN and what was your favorite lesson?
- I looked at pastry and culinary school options in Croatia and Kul IN seemed like a great opportunity for advancing my skills. The program remains one of my favorite memories of all times. I met a lot of people during the program, we all got together so well, and we still keep in touch. The most memorable was when we started working with chocolate, and I started crying because I could not figure out how to do the task. However, that experience encouraged me to keep going and mastering chocolate.
Kul IN: Which pastry chefs have influenced you the most?
- I interned at the Atelier restaurant in Munich, which has 3 Michelin stars, the executive chef was Jan Hartwig and pastry chef was Christian Humbs. He opened my eyes to a different type of pastry arts and new possibilities. Out of Croatian pastry chefs, my inspiration are Petra Jelinić, Hromalić, Bašić, Mamut. There are a lot of inspiring chefs both in Croatia and abroad.
Kul IN: Do your desserts have a story behind them?
- The story depends on the context in which you are working, e.g. in my previous place of work, the restaurant and its concept revolved around the story of Pag. The culture of Croatian island of Pag was the foundation of our story, and I created desserts with typical flavors from the island of Pag. We were always looking for local, traditional flavors from Lika-Senj and Zadar counties, for example our deconstructed apple strudel. We offered guests homemade flavors with a contemporary "wow" factor.
Kul IN: Which dessert do you like to prepare in your free time?
- Apple pie, that typical, old-fashioned apple pie. It reminds me of childhood and warm home flavors.
Kul IN: Where do you get inspiration for your pastry ideas?
- From everywhere, but mostly from books. I read a lot of cookbooks, articles on the Internet, I follow pastry chefs from all over the world. No copying or imitation, but you need to be up-to-date and know what’s new in the world of pastry.
Kul IN: Can you name a few characteristics every good pastry chef must have.
- Words that describe good pastry chefs are order, work, discipline, and perseverance.
Kul IN: Do you prefer classic techniques or modern ones?
- Well, I think it is important to combine classic and modern, and not separate the two. I like to stick to the traditional spirit of old recipes, but introduce modern techniques and merge that into one.
Kul IN: Do you still go to workshops or masterclasses, why is education important?
- I do, I was in Bucharest just last year attending a workshop on vegan desserts by Tony Rodriguez. It was my favorite masterclass so far. Education is important because while you work, you also study. You cannot stop learning because you can never know enough, so you need to invest in yourself and learn something new every day because that makes you a good pastry chef.
Kul IN: Do you have a message for Kul IN students?
- Work hard, study and everything will be worth it in the end.