Le Cordon Bleu London’s Culinary Arts Director Emil Minev has been in his role since 2016, but his history with the school goes back much further. Already an experienced chef when he moved from Bulgaria to London to work at the three-Michelin-star La Tante Claire in 2001, Minev enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu to hone his patisserie skills.
Now, after a string of high-profile positions at distinguished restaurants ranging from the Ritz to El Bulli – most recently leading the 70-strong brigade of the Shard’s Shangri-La Hotel as Executive Chef – Emil is back in the Cordon Bleu classroom – only this time, he’s the one standing at the front…
How did you end up teaching cooking?
I have always thought that the best thing for a chef to do is to share their knowledge and experience as it is like leaving your legacy. When the opportunity arose, it did not take long for me to make up my mind and accept the offer. I thought it was an amazing opportunity and a great honour to think that I was once sat where the students are sitting.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Every job presents challenges and opportunities, I can’t really specify which part of my job is particularly hard as things just happen more naturally when we love what we do.
…and the best?
To see the progression of students throughout the programme. It gives me great satisfaction to see how they develop. Many of our students do not have any kitchen experience when they first enter the class, and nine months later they graduate as very skilful chefs who are capable of performing at a very high level. It is remarkable!
Do you have a favourite course or topic that you teach?
The programme is designed in a way that there is a strong learning progression – each element of it is important and leads to the next level. If I think of a favourite part, it has to be some of the workshops we do in Superior Cuisine, where students have to show their skills and imagination to create their own dishes, using techniques they learned throughout the course.
What do you think is the trickiest dish/technique that your teach in your classes?
We do not teach tricky dishes as such; but some of the dishes are much more complex than others. If I have to pick one, it would be the pulled sugar classes in the Superior Pâtisserie course because it’s very technical and requires a lot of concentration.
How would you describe the atmosphere in the school kitchen?
We maintain a friendly environment across the school, but at the same time it is very professional and there are strict rules and regulations. At Le Cordon Bleu London we have students from around the world, and it is important for us to ensure that they feel comfortable during their study. On the other hand, we try to recreate a real kitchen environment, and discipline in the classes is very important for the learning outcomes of the students.
What do you think makes the school stand out?
The kitchens are absolutely state of the art, but what really makes us stand out is the quality of the teaching team. At Le Cordon Bleu we strive to recruit the best professionals in the field. Some of our chefs are Michelin-starred and in the past others were awarded an MOF – Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, or ‘Best Craftsmen in France’.
Do you think some people are just bad cooks? Or can everyone be saved?
There is no such a thing as a bad cook, as long as the person has the right attitude and willingness to learn, we will do the rest.
Be honest: are there any ingredients that you use in your classes that you don’t actually like?
I know it might sound funny, but the one product I really can’t stand is grapefruit and the bitterness that comes with it.
How often do you introduce new classes, and how do you decide what to teach?
We constantly develop our existing programmes based on the teaching team and student feedback, we also follow the trends in the industry closely. In the last year itself we launched two new courses: namely Diplôme de Boulangerie (Bakery Diploma) and our Gastronomy and Nutrition Programme.
What are your three desert-island dishes?
It has to be one from each segment of our programmes:
– ‘Paris Brest’ from Basic – a classic French dessert made from choux pastry and praline cream
–Traditional cassoulet from our Regional French cooking classes at Intermediate level
–The glorious fillet of Beef Wellington from our Superior programme