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Alumna Maria Merkulova
Success Story

Maria Merkulova

Alumna Maria Merkulova completed the Diplôme de Pâtisserie with Culinary Management Internship Pathway during her time at Le Cordon Bleu London. In this interview Maria shares what influenced her to change her career to the culinary arts and how her internship at the luxury Savoy Hotel has been of benefit.

Tell us a little about your background, where you’re from, your previous studies and work experience.
I am from Russia and moved to the UK 6 years ago. I studied physics at university, but soon realised that I did not want to pursue a scientific career. After completing my Bachelors degree, I took the plunge and applied to Le Cordon Bleu.

Why did you choose to study Pâtisserie with Culinary Management and Internship Pathway ? What were your aspirations?
As a person with minimal experience and a career change already under her belt, it was only right to take the most convenient path which would enable me to catch up on culinary education in the shortest time. The Internship Pathway was the most effective way to climb up the career ladder. With the support of our teachers who had been in the industry for more than 20 years, I had a good chance of getting my experience recognised by the right companies within the industry. The Diploma in Culinary Management was like a cherry on top as I studied complex techniques and management essentials in opening a personal business. Three months after graduating, I used this knowledge to set up a pastry production unit for a café chain in Russia.

How did you find your studies at Le Cordon Bleu London?
Le Cordon Bleu helped me get my foot in the door of the culinary industry as I acquired key pastry techniques, kitchen organisation and was also able to develop interpersonal skills such as professional behaviour, respect and confidence.

Where did you do your internship?

I worked as a Commis Chef at The Savoy Hotel. It is a large establishment with a total of 600 employees with 200 of them being kitchen staff. During my placement, I worked in three sectors: banqueting, afternoon tea and at the Melba shop.

What were your duties?
As part of the banqueting team, my role consisted of making preparations for events held at the hotel throughout the week and assisting with evening service for banquets. There were usually 30 to 300 guests served in one party. It was an exciting to plate so many desserts in a short period of time, as there would always be something that needed to be done last minute such as creating the dry ice effect or scooping ice cream to finalise the plating. For my job roles at the afternoon tea and Melba shop departments, I was involved with assembling mini pastries as well as making arrangements for the following day. It involved measuring ingredients to doing final decorations, which was very rewarding.

The school was always there to give me a hand with any uncertainties I had.

How did Le Cordon Bleu support you with your internship?
Le Cordon Bleu provided me with a feeling of security. Although I could choose the direction of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to achieve in this internship, the school was always there to give me a hand with any uncertainties I had.

What did you get out of the work placement?
At the end of my three-month internship at The Savoy Hotel I felt like I took home a lot of confidence, knowledge and great memories! The placement helped me value my work and network. I didn’t view it as work but rather an investment - something that will help me later.

Would you recommend the internship programme to a potential student?
I would definitely recommend potential students to take up this opportunity! An internship allows students to kick-start their career at a recognised establishment allowing you to try something new all with support from the Le Cordon Bleu.

What advice would you give to a student just about to begin their Internship?
My advice would be simply what Chef Colin Westal of Le Cordon Bleu once said: “Keep your head down, your ears open, close your mouth and keep pushing”. This attitude was a good guide to stay on track during my internship.

How do you relate your Diploma in Culinary Management studies with your Internship?
The experience I gained during my internship played a great role in understanding the concepts of culinary management. I could correlate the theory that we were given on our lectures with practice at the Savoy.

Have your career objectives changed? What are your goals for the future?
After completing the internship programme and receiving the Diploma in Culinary Management, my career goals have changed dramatically. I now understand the importance of being proactive, positive and organised, which was difficult to achieve at the beginning of my career as there was still a lot to learn technically. The programmes I studied motivated me to not only aim to master the technical areas, but to also set more goals. For example, understanding how businesses operate, seeing things as a larger picture, and how to build a great team.

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