INTERNSHIP IN THE HEART OF TUSCANY
I am interning at the fine dining restaurant Borgo Santo Pietro in the City in Florence. Standards are set very high and there is little connection to traditional Italian cuisine. The menu is varied and includes various kinds of pasta, rice, fish and meat. The restaurant uses only organic food and the menu is dictated by the available food choices. All deliveries come from the same Borgo Santo Pietro Resort.
I’m quite focused on working with pasta because 90% of the time chef and I are the only ones working with it. Also, during this internship I have grown interested in preparing bread, with bio lievito madre type of yeast. Preparing bread in a restaurant is challenging but extremely important and interesting. Bread must be prepared a day earlier, unlike in bakeries where the product is prepared early in the morning, the same day it is intended to be sold. The preparation itself is very demanding because the bread, depending on the day, the temperature and the moisture, can turn out perfectly, but not necessarily.
EXPERIENCE WORKING IN A MICHELIN-STAR RESTAURANT
It is peculiar that I changed three different chefs in the course of two months, and in that period our team underwent some changes as well. Working in a team is not easy. Michelin-star restaurants operate on an intense level, working 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. I am not saying that you have to run aimlessly around the kitchen, everything is organized, but it’s very difficult nevertheless. And if the atmosphere is not good, it’s hard to endure and follow that tempo.
I come to work at 9 AM, and leave at midnight. Lunch is from 11 to 12, followed by a service. The afternoon break is from 4 to 6 AM. I cannot take the break because at that time I’m preparing pasta with the chef. Sometimes I manage to use that one break, usually once a week. Dinner is from 6 to 7 AM, followed by a service that sometimes lasts until midnight. All this time you have to be focused on your duties, everything has to be perfect, there is no room for mistakes because they are always noticeable. A lot of famous people dine at the restaurant because we are one of the best restaurants in Florence. I would like to mention Patrick Dempsey, who dined at the restaurant, and later wanted to meet the team in the kitchen.
Giovanni Di Giorgio. When I started interning, Giovanni was the sous chef, but I have to admit that I regarded him as my chef from the very beginning and I am very glad to have seen him become one. I respect him immensely, as a chef and as a person. Giovanni is not a regular chef, he comes to work before everyone else, and leaves after everyone else has left, he cleans as much as the rest of us, even more, he really lives for this job. Other colleagues are all Italian, which benefits me because I am learning the language. I learn fast but it is not easy. I am speaking Italian all day. That is the foundation when you start working, you should be able to communicate with others in your team.
ALMA is said to be one of the best culinary schools in the world at this moment. I have some colleagues who came to ALMA after Cordon Blue. Everything is well-organized, and there are a lot of sectors. The education at ALMA goes beyond culinary practicums, there are also pastry practicums, bread labs and more. ALMA opens the door to the world of high gastronomy.
Although I have completed my education I’m still focused on learning in general. I mainly focus on techniques and grasping how and why some foods agree and go well with other foods. Recipes do not interest me. It is important to constantly learn. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would take the same path. However, there may be other ways to gain a spot within the world of gastronomy. Schools are definitely great entry points into this world, and that was very important to me. I think I got a great return on my investment regarding education. I would recommend culinary schools to anyone who wants to give 100% of themselves because that is the only way to get a return on your investment.
QUALITIES OF AN ASPIRING CHEF
First of all, you have to love what you are doing. This love is more important than anything else, because if you want to advance in your career you have to completely sacrifice a lot and be persistent. It is challenging, but the harder it gets, the more diligently you should work. Furthermore, you need to have a great desire to learn, and do your best. You have to be concentrated 100% of the time, and mistakes are never forgotten. You have to be calm because you work in the open kitchen and everything is visible. You have to constantly take on different challenges to motivate yourself but, as I have mentioned, do everything with great love for the profession. When I compare myself now to the person I was at the beginning of my professional education, I see a big difference in knowledge and functioning in the kitchen. I used to work in the kitchen before, but this is much more intense. You grow and make progress every day. You get your foundation and knowledge at school but there is no stress, so it is not a realistic representation of what working at a restaurant will look like. You have to find yourself and learn to function in a team. There are great days, and there are days when you don’t talk to each other. You may not agree with some of your colleagues, but you have to learn to work in that environment.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
After the internship I am going to Borgo Santo Pietro De Luxe Resort where I got a job offer as a chef de partie. The resort is about 80 km from Florence. There are three of us in the team and we are all very excited and nervous because we do not know what’s waiting for us. In October, when the resort is closed, I am going to Norway to Maaemo for two months. I’m currently fascinated by Nordic cuisine, and I want to experience and familiarize myself with it as much as possible.