Ukrainians enroll in French culinary schools in search of best chef training
France is known for style, fashion, beauty — and trend-setting culinary schools that have attracted a following among Ukrainian chefs.
One of them is Kyivan Olena Chebanenko, who graduated from two French culinary schools — the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon and the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris.
“Nowadays it’s becoming very popular among Ukrainians to study in French culinary schools,” Chebanenko noted. “I personally know many Ukrainian chefs who studied in France.”
France has lots of culinary schools offering a variety of programs for those who want a career as a chef or who simply seek to improve their cooking skills.
Many schools have classes taught only in French, like L’Atelier des Chefs, which has several schools that offer simple classes like tart or bread making, which last two hours and cost between 17–76 euros.
Professional culinary schools, like the schools of the French famous chefs Alain Ducasse or Guy Martin, or Le Cordon Bleu, have classes in English.
Although getting an education at a French culinary school is expensive — the cost of a six-month course varies between 15,000–25,000 euros — the number of Ukrainians studying professional cooking in France seems to be increasing.
Chebanenko says the lack of quality educational institutions in Ukraine made her turn to France. “Our cookery education is at the level of a school canteen,” she said.
Dima Borisov, a restaurant owner in Kyiv, agrees. In Ukraine, aspiring cooks are taught theories from 20th century textbooks, or there are “schools for housewives” that only teach how to copy a recipe or a dish.
“Good French schools provide a fundamental basis,” Borisov said. French-educated chefs stand out from the rest with their discipline, motivation and knowledge of fundamentals, he said.
Nina Belik, a chef in Bessarabia restaurant, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris two years ago. The hardest part was obeying “the rigid, army discipline,” Belik said. “I can hardly imagine our culinary colleges kicking someone out for having a single crease on a tunic or for being 30 seconds late.”
Apart from basic culinary training, like working with knives, cutting meat and fish and preparing basic sauces, students of the Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse have to know lots of gastronomic secrets.
“We learned how the digestion process goes on, how and why vari- ous allergies appear. We also learned the theory of a taste, the theory of handling food, chemistry, water requirements and lists of the best French food providers,” Chebanenko said.
However, an excellent French education does not always make finding a job easier for Ukrainian chefs.
“When you graduate from a well- known culinary school and you burn with new ideas, you don’t want to work just as an ordinary cook. But these are the chefs that are primarily needed in Ukrainian restaurants,” Belik said.
Chebanenko complained about low salaries and lack of respect that chefs get from many restaurant owners in Ukraine. “In France a a is treated with respect, while in Ukraine the situation is different,” she said.
Chebanenko is looking for a job in Europe or the United States. “My dream is for the restaurant where I work as the main chef to get a Michelin star,” she said.
Nina Belik, a chef at Kyiv’s Bessarabia restaurant, is in charge of cold snacks. Belik graduated from the famous French culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in Paris two years ago. (Yulia Weber for The Village Ukraine)