Georgia Salamat graduated from Le Cordon Bleu London in 2020 with her Basic Cuisine Certificate. Having spent a lot of time travelling with both her family and as part of her modelling career, Georgia had the opportunity to sample cuisines from around the world, which inspired her to venture into the culinary arts.
Georgia took part in the first series of the BBC One's Best Home Cook, in January 2020. She made it to the finals of the competition, and the experience made her realise she had a calling to become a chef. She completed her training at Le Cordon Bleu and now runs The Acai Girls, a food delivery concept, with her sister. Specialising in salads, bowl food and juices, they focus on fresh, quality ingredients and natural superfoods. Georgia also played a consulting role on the creation of new Chelsea based restaurant Poké The Bear. We caught up with Georgia to chat about her culinary journey.
What drove you to study the culinary arts?
"I have always loved food and cooking has always been a large part of my life, we have always cooked together as a family. After taking part in the BBC1 show, Best Home Cook, I wanted to further my knowledge and techniques and knew I would only gain these skills by studying."
Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?
"I chose Le Cordon Bleu merely because it's the best. The school's reputation is faultless and the talent that has come out of Le Cordon Bleu is just phenomenal. To be able to study at the same school as some of these culinary geniuses is truly an honour."
How did the knowledge gained from the Basic Cuisine programme help your career?
"The course helped me grow so much not only in my techniques, but also my confidence. Le Cordon Bleu teaches you not only how to cook, but how to season properly, how to stay organised in the kitchen, how to prepare your stations, how to follow best practices, how to be most efficient - the list is endless."
What is your main focus at the moment?
"Currently I am working on the brand I have just launched on Deliveroo with my sister, Acai Girls. We are still in our infancy, only being a couple of months old, but growing every day."
Was it always your goal to open your own restaurant?
"It has always been my goal to do something in food, what that was exactly was never clear. Acai Girls came to life during lock down. From us coming up with the idea over lunch, my sister and I were in the kitchen serving food 3 weeks later. For our first service my parents came down to help and we served as a family. I can't say things ran as smoothly as we wanted, but we learned A LOT. Now we have 13 members of staff, and are taking on two new sites."
What inspired the concept behind Acai Girls?
"My sister and I have always wanted to start a business together, we are very lucky in the sense that we are best friends. Her skill set lies in the realms of marketing, and she's phenomenal at what she does, and obviously my skill set lies in the kitchen - thus we had all our bases covered. We learnt how to do everything else on the way. Lock down gave us the free time we needed to put our heads down and turn the idea into reality. The concept is inspired by a love for travelling and a love for food. We want to emulate that holiday glow you have when you travel through food, thus we load all our dishes with micronutrients to give your body what it needs to feel amazing."
Has opening your own business been everything you expected?
"We knew it would be a lot of work and that I can confirm - it absolutely was! We wanted to do everything ourselves, a lot of which was all very new territory to us, so we definitely learned a lot. We learned, grew and shaped the company every day for the better. In the first week we were having 18-hour stand days, doing 30,000 steps in a small kitchen. Now things are a lot smoother and we are a lot more organised. I will say that things don't always run smoothly, and things don't always go to plan - but that's part of the process."
What would you say the best thing is about being a chef?
"I love to be creative, but I'm by no means a painter or sculptor, I love science but I'm also by no means a chemist. Being a chef allows you to tap into that creativity in terms of food and create something spectacular. I love playing with flavours, textures and new ingredients and I’m never afraid to try new things. Sometimes things, of course, go wrong - but that's part of the fun."
You were a finalist in BBC 1’s Best Home Cook, what was it like to compete with other chefs?
"All the chefs were incredibly talented and they all taught me a lot. Being the youngest contestant on the show I was lacking in experience in comparison."
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
"Prepare yourself for a lot of hard work, long hours and potentially a few tears. But also prepare yourself for being incredibly proud of starting something that many people are afraid to. Do not let fear of failing ever stop you, as you only fail if you never try. Ask as many questions as you can and ask for help, we were really overwhelmed by the support we had and the amount of people who were willing to go out of their way to help us."
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in a few words?
"Perseverance, hard work and results."
What does your average day look like?
"Up at 6am and gym - I always love to start my morning off with good sweat. At the start of the business my sister and I were in the kitchen all day every day, but now we have a strong core staff team so now I go in for recipe creation and tasting. Realistically I am still there every day though. I tend to stay on site until closing, which is 9pm, as we have offices above the kitchen. We are now focusing on expanding the brand and growing the team, looking at taking on new sites in London and then taking the brand up north."
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
"The most challenging aspect is that you are never done. Being your own boss means that days off are a thing of the past. However, it's so exciting and we are so passionate about what we are doing and love every moment, even the ones we hate - that's the process right…?"
What inspires you every day?
"Many things inspire me, but on a day to day basis I’d say it was my sister. I’m lucky that my business partner is my sister. We constantly push each other to reach our potential and further, and take our brand to the next level."
What part of your role are you most passionate about?
"There are so many aspects of my job I'm passionate about but creating in the kitchen is one of the best. Creating recipes for your own brand means you don't have to stick to someone else's script. We serve food which we love to eat - it's healthy, it's fresh and most of all it’s delicious."
Finally, what are your plans for the future or any final words?
"We have a lot of plans - new sites, new brands and a lot of new adventures. My advice to anyone who is thinking about starting their own thing would be to DO IT! Don't be afraid, just prepare yourself for a lot of hard work, but also lots of satisfaction and achievements!"
If you're interested in making the change from home cook to professional chef, follow in Georgia's footsteps with one of our culinary programmes. You can see the full range here.