Zarifa joined Le Cordon Bleu London in January 2016 on our Diplôme de Cuisine. She recently graduated and will soon be starting a Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management. Here she tells us about her experiences so far, and what she's looking forward to next.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Russia, Moscow. My father was a heart surgeon and my mother was a journalist.
When I finished school I studied management at university and then went on to complete a Masters in Marketing but I have always had a passion for cooking and a great desire to open my own restaurant. For these reasons I decided to do a second degree in restaurant management.
My first job after university was in events management and I got to organise concerts for some of the biggest artists in the world including Katy Perry, Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas. Those two years of experience really helped me to develop my organisation skills but during that time I still had a deep interest in cooking and regularly prepared 3-5 course meals for friends and family. I also attended quite a lot of cooking classes and short courses; read and collected tons of recipes, and watched a lot of YouTube cooking videos.
What are you currently studying and at what stage are you at in the course?
Right now I am close to the end of my Diplôme de Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu London and in one week I will have my final exam and my Superior Cuisine Certificate will be finished.
What was your biggest learning curve during the course?
I think that my biggest learning curve was learning how to work better in a team, mastering multitasking, and learning how to manage lots of detailed processes.
What has been your main highlight of the course so far?
My highlight of the course was definitely the World Cuisine Degustation Event as it really put my organisational skills to the test. We cooked an amazing variety of dishes and the feedback was fantastic.
My biggest learning curve was learning how to work better in a team, mastering multitasking, and learning how to manage lots of detailed processes.
You are enrolled on our Diploma in Wine, Gastronomy and Management and will be starting in October, how do you plan to combine your Diplôme de Cuisine with studying wine?
I have always had a clear understanding that it is more than helpful to acquire knowledge not only in cuisine, but also in food and wine pairing. There are not a lot of specialists that have mastered both aspects and you rarely meet a chef-sommelier. Personally, I have always thought that food tastes better with a glass of wine, and that wine can change the whole dynamic of a meal.
Are there any pieces of advice that you would like to pass on to prospective students?
When I started my Basic Cuisine Certificate I was really nervous and feared that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the rest of the group. I worried that my knife skills were not good enough and that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace. However as time passed my confidence grew massively and my skills began to get better day by day.
My biggest piece of advice would be to be confident in yourself and when difficult moments arise on the course, look at them as just great experiences that you can learn from and won’t forget. Practice more at home, and enjoy every moment because the time passes so quickly!
So what does the future hold?
I'm not a fortune teller, but I have tried to draw the perfect picture of my life after Le Cordon Bleu London. Not long before I was accepted to study here I came up with the idea to have my own cooking show so I filmed a pilot with my friends and luckily my dream came true. One of the biggest channels in Russia accepted my show and offered me a contract, commissioning five episodes. I successfully filmed them and they are on air right now!
So one of my plans is to continue with the show and at the same time return to my earlier plan of opening my own restaurant either in London or Miami. It has to be somewhere cosy with a great variety of tapas and wine so that anyone can enjoy simple but amazing food, with an accompanying glass of wine.
I would also be interested in restaurant consulting in regards to menus, aesthetics and restaurant concepts, but my main aim is to have a family one day, and make them happy by cooking healthy well balanced and delicious meals – in line with all of the practices that I have learnt during my time at Le Cordon Bleu London.