Chef Emil Minev is a Le Cordon Bleu London Pâtisserie Alumnus and has many years of culinary experience in fine dining. After moving to London from Bulgaria in 2001, he joined the team at 3 Michelin-starred La Tante Claire at The Berkley Hotel where he worked with Pierre Koffmann and first experienced a pastry kitchen. Following this Chef Emil has taken up senior positions in some of the world’s best restaurants such as The Ritz in London, 3 Michelin-starred El Bulli in Barcelona and the multi-award winning Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai. Chef Emil’s most recent position was as Executive Chef at the 5* Shangri-La Hotel London leading a brigade of 70 chefs.
Chef Emil joined Le Cordon Bleu London as teaching chef and Culinary Arts Director in 2016.
What is your earliest food memory?
I used to spend the summer at my grandparents’ house in the countryside. My grandad was a professional fisherman and they had a beautiful garden. In spring they would grow cherries, strawberries, peaches, apricots, watermelons and raspberries. I used to know exactly what fruit would be ready at what particular time of the year. We ate fresh fish five or six days a week with fresh tomatoes and cucumber salad. I took those things for granted back then but looking back now, that experience was quite amazing and I realise how lucky I was.
What made you want to be a chef and when did you realise?
I started at 15 years old and I have never done anything else. I know it sounds cliché but I always knew that I wanted to be a chef. At first I wanted to be a pastry chef, I used to go to the shops and see these big beautiful cakes. I always loved cooking and enjoyed food but I was young and not quite developed but over the years my skills and my love for food has grown.
What is your favourite meal?
I can’t give you one particular meal. I have been exposed to so many different cuisines from all over the world. When in Japan I don’t want any other cuisine but Japanese, when in Hong Kong I have to eat Dim Sum. I can’t go to Hong Kong and eat at an Indian restaurant, I have to go to India for that! My point is, when I am in a particular country I have to eat their local, authentic cuisine. I don’t have a favourite, I love all good food.
How has having a Diplôme de Pâtisserie from Le Cordon Bleu London helped your career?
I was already a chef before I undertook the Diplôme de Pâtisserie but there was a gap in my pastry knowledge. I wanted to take the course to help me understand everything about the craft. I never taught my pastry chefs how to do their jobs but I could support them because I had that understanding. I also met great people whilst studying here that are still great friends today.
The strong training programmes at Le Cordon Bleu London are amazing and I like to be able to surround myself with talented young chefs so I can improve and learn also
What made you want to come back to Le Cordon Bleu London to teach?
When I studied here I was at a very different stage of my life as it was 14 or 15 years ago. I think my love of cooking and my love of sharing knowledge brought me here. Seeing people develop and progress. The strong training programmes at Le Cordon Bleu London are amazing and I like to be able to surround myself with talented young chefs so I can improve and learn also. When I was contacted by the school I didn’t think twice about taking up the position, I thought it was an amazing opportunity and a great honor to think that I was once sat where the students are sitting. Being a part of a team of such incredible chefs is a once in a lifetime experience.
How do you think the experience of working in so many different countries has benefitted you as a chef?
Enormously! Living and working in different places opens up your world and your mind. You are able to understand various cultures and learn from them. It makes you stronger and develops your cooking skills and your palate. It really is incredible, you get to meet great people, sample such different cuisines and you learn a lot. It has been the most valuable experience of my life.
What was it like being the executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard?
I will never forget the day I got the phone call offering me the position. I was in the hospital as my wife was pregnant and was about to deliver. It was a very important hotel for the Shangri-La group and there was such an enormous expectation for it to do well. I would say that the position was the peak of my career as there was a long list of top chefs waiting for that opportunity. It was very challenging but the hotel was a great success and to be such a key part of the journey was an amazing experience. I made a lot of the choices in the hotel and a part of me is still there.
What kitchen utensil could you not live without?
My knives. There are lots of different gadgets available nowadays but they are the one thing that will never go out of fashion.
What would you say has been your greatest culinary accomplishment to date?
I hope it is still to come. The moment when I can say that I am a great chef and the food that I cook is wonderful I will be done. My skills have developed dramatically over the years but it all comes down to your technique and how you use the product.
If someone told you that you could no longer be a chef what would you be?
Probably a baker. I love to bake but I don’t do it very often. Sometimes I look at what our Master Baker Dominique Moudart produces and I think wow, that’s amazing. If not a baker then I am lost, maybe if you had asked me 20 years ago I would have said a footballer like David Beckham!
What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?
Be patient, modest, love what you do and put your heart in it because it makes your life more beautiful. Being a chef is tough and demanding both physically and mentally so if you don’t love it there is no point. You can learn the basics by taking a course at Le Cordon Bleu London. The knowledge that the teaching chefs have is incredible so be a sponge and absorb as much as you can and make the most out of it.