A few days ago, we were making ice cream with beetroot and chocolate, and we also made ice cream out of fig leaves... My horizons have expanded, and I am using ingredients you would never think to use when making a dessert.
Interning surrounded by the nature, in a picturesque Mediterranean town sounds like a dream but for Kul IN alumna Anastasiya Korol that dream became a reality when she got a call that said she would be interning at Meneghetti. Today, Anastasiya has found permanent employment at a popular restaurant on Croatian coast - Žakan and has a vision and a clear path to unlocking her full potential, creativity and ambition. In this interview, however, we have focused on her internship experience organized by Kul IN. Read the full interview and get inspired to push beyond your wildest expectations.
Kul IN: How did the internship at Meneghetti come about?
- When I came to study at Kul IN I immediately told the student office that I was interested in interning but because of COVID-19 it couldn't happen right away. Therefore, I went home to Ukraine for 2 months. Eventually, the office let me know that Meneghetti was looking for a pastry chef and that they were willing to take me in. So, after 2 months I was lucky enough to get the internship, and now I am here! I was very excited when I heard the news, it took me only 5 days to pack and come back to Croatia, and now I am so happy here, it is amazing.
Kul IN: What are your duties at Meneghetti and what does a typical day of an intern look like?
- I am staying here, since Meneghetti provides accommodation for employees who need it. The team is comprised mainly of Croatians but there are a few of us from abroad. The executive chef is Italian and lots of workers are from the neighboring countries like Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia. I work with the pastry chef Dragana and her son Kristijan, so it's the three of us in the pastry department. I usually start at noon and work until 6 PM. Then, I have a break and I come back when the dinner is served to guests. I start by checking what's missing and I go to the kitchen and bring what I'll need for the day. On the menu we have cheesecake, tiramisu, dark chocolate and a few small things like ice cream, milkshakes. I always need to track how much I have left and plan in advance, for example I calculate that I will make 20 cheesecake desserts in 3 days and I am responsible for making sure I have the ingredients needed. Regarding the dinner, I am not involved in the preparation process yet but I still opted to be there just to learn and see how everything happens because it is all a la carte, super fancy and I was interested to see what goes into it. In other words, I am not preparing a la carte desserts yet but I am serving them. What I am responsible for is the summer terrace, Oliveto. I prepare desserts in the back room and then for dinner we make some preparations and I serve it. Also, since it is the beginning of autumn, Dragana is coming up with new autumn desserts and I am here to assist her.
Kul IN: Have you created any dishes of your own?
- Not yet, now is the time for me to gain experience but hopefully the next step will be expanding my creativity, and adding my signature, personal touch to the desserts I make. When you are an intern, you should take the back seat when it comes to experimenting and just soak in the knowledge of your mentors. I am observing, watching and soaking it in. I am expanding my horizons and learning how to make guests interested with adventurous ingredients and combinations.
Kul IN: Since Dragana is considered one of the most innovative pastry chefs in Croatia, have you gained some new ideas from her, and has your outlook on pastry changed under her guidance?
- My outlook has changed because she likes to make pastries with unusual ingredients. A few days ago, we were making ice cream with beetroot and chocolate, and it was very intriguing. We also made ice cream not out of fig leaves. Dragana collects the fig leaves, dries them and makes ice cream. My horizons have expanded, and I am using ingredients you would never think to use when making a dessert.
Kul IN: Which dessert is your favorite?
Meneghetti dessert I like the most is vanilla ice cream. Sounds simple but Dragana serves it with olive oil and sea salt! This was mind blowing to me and so cool. The ingredients are simple but one would never think of putting them together. She is indeed very creative and inspires me to always look beyond what I already now.
Kul IN: How do you like Rovinj?
- I love Rovinj, I spent there the whole day yesterday since it was my day off and I enjoyed it so much, I have no words to describe it. The town is so beautiful and interesting, all the streets, the food... Istria is lovely and I would love to live here, I just need a car! My goal is to get a car next time I come here (laughs).
Kul IN: What are the differences between working here and doing pastry on the program?
- The dynamic is different. You can be relaxed during the program, you are not in a rush and you are taking your time to learn and practice for the real life environment. I really wanted to experience the real life kitchen and I am loving it so far! The atmosphere here is welcoming, everyone is friendly. My friends had shared their kitchen horror stories before I came here. They said that professional kitchens are always hectic and intense. However, my experience has been nothing short of amazing, even when we have disagreements, they are productive and serve as a tool for growth. The vibe here is amazing and it makes the experience even more pleasant. If all places are going to be as nice as this one, I am going to be a one lucky pastry chef!
Kul IN: What are your plans for the future?
- My plan is to find a full-time job and I hope it will be in Croatia because I like it here. I am not sure if it's going to happen right after the internship because the tourist season is ending but I would like to stay in Croatia. Working in other European countries would also suit me but so far I like Croatia.
Kul IN: What can the hospitality industry learn from the COVID-19 situation?
- We can all learn there is nothing certain in this life. It is good to make plans but it is also important to be prepared for the unexpected and just be ready any time.
Kul IN: Do you have some advice for aspiring pastry chefs?
- You should be ready to work hard, you shouldn't be afraid of work. Just be brave and creative, that's the point. Knowing the basics is the steppingstone of every successful career but you should go beyond the basics, create and experiment, dive in.