Everything You Need to Know About Interning on an Island
Interview with a Culinary Art Academy Switzerland student from Sweden
It is not often that you start your career on the legendary Calypso’s isle of Homer’s Odyssey. But this is not the main reason why one of our Culinary Arts Academy students decided to intern in Gozo, a hideaway island in the Mediterranean. Currently interning at a 5-star Kempinski San Lawrenz hotel in Malta, Julia Hansen came there to learn from the best. She says that working in a warm and humid climate is a challenge for even the most detail-oriented pastry chef, especially when everything to the last detail is expected to be served perfectly. Learn more about Julia’s experience living on a small island and training to become a pastry chef in this interview.
Hi Julia! Why did you decide to intern at the 5-star Kempinski hotel in Malta?
Hi! I’ve always been certain that I’d enjoy working in a hotel. Kempinski San Lawrenz hotel has three different restaurants plus a breakfast buffet and holds many events like weddings or BBQs, so I knew I would learn a lot about how to deliver high-quality performance in a professional kitchen and how to prepare for and cater to lavish events.
How did you find out about this particular establishment?
I learned about this internship opportunity through the International Recruitment Forum that my school arranges annually.
Why do you think Culinary Art Academy Switzerland places great importance on internships?
I think they put a lot of effort into helping the students find the best internships that fit their goals because internships launch our careers. So that is obviously one of the most important success metrics for any school – to prepare their students for a successful career doing what they love and enjoy most.
Events like the International Recruitment Forum encourage us to think outside the box. The many hospitality companies that the Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland invites to the networking event help us students find opportunities we might not have thought about prior.
Have you always known what you wanted to do career-wise?
All I knew at first was that I wanted to work with pastry or chocolate, but I didn’t know in what way exactly. The lecturers have a wealth of expertise in a variety of fields and give great career advice. They helped me figure out that I wanted to work with pastry and chocolate, inspired me to put time and effort into the details and dare to push that extra mile to reach new levels of mastery.
Can you walk us through the typical day of your internship at Kempinski?
The hotel provides accommodation in the facilities, so most of my time is spent with other colleagues and trainees, even during my free time. This allows us to get to know each other better and make connections that will be valuable later in our careers.
We typically start our days with the preparations in the main kitchen, then move to one of the outlets for more specific work, which includes plating the desserts and helping out the starter section.
How do you spend your free time on the island?
On our time off, we go out together and enjoy the local beaches and restaurants. One of my favourite beaches here is Mgarr ix-Xini, where we’ve gone paddle boarding and cliff jumping or Comino bay with a blue lagoon and the beautiful Comino caves. I also enjoy swimming over to the smaller island around Comino – it has the most magnificent turquoise blue water!
Is working in Malta different compared to Sweden?
The climate in Gozo island, Malta, is very different compared to Sweden in terms of heat and humidity. The weather was still quite cool when I arrived here, around 18 degrees. But during the summer, the temperatures go up to even 40 degrees some days! That impacts how you prepare for catering – you need to think differently and plan ahead because of the climate. So, for example, in some desserts, we have to increase the gelatin and think about how we store the food. A receipt that worked in Sweden may not work here without some adjustments.
And how is it similar to Sweden?
I think that the culinary professionals here aim for the same goal – they always want to feel proud of what they’re serving. Here at Gozo, much like the Swedes, the residents are very proud of their local foods, and I like that the chefs incorporate those ingredients into the menus of international hotels. So when they have international events, the guests can also experience the local culture through the food.
Can you share some of the local ingredients specific to the island that you include in your menus?
There is this cheese called Gbejna, which is produced on Gozo from either sheep or goat milk. At Kempinski San Lawrenz, we use it in one of the desserts in the restaurant L-Istorija.
What has interning at Kempinski taught you?
As a trainee in the pastry team, we are required to prepare everything from mass production to fine dining for several outlets — these varied experiences during my time as a pastry trainee made me realize my preferences. Because of it, I now know I want to do more fine dining and plated desserts than mass production. I like planning out the details and exploring new possibilities when designing a new dessert.
Going back a few years – why did you decide to move to Switzerland to study at Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland?
I applied to the Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland because it offered a diverse and versatile curriculum. When it was time for me to begin my studies, I had no doubts or reservations about my decision.
Are you happy with your choice to study at Culinary Arts Academy?
Absolutely. I am very grateful for the opportunity and all the knowledge and experiences I’ve gathered there. Everything thus far has been incredible. Our lecturers, as I said, are highly qualified professionals, we have access to the most modern equipment to work with, and everything you could possibly require is provided for us.
Happy to hear that! What are your career aspirations for the next chapter?
One of my biggest goals is to compete in both pastry and chocolate showpiece competitions. Besides competing, I’d also like to experience working in a Michelin-starred restaurant and designing desserts for their menu.
Who is your biggest inspiration in culinary right now?
The Swiss-French pastry chef Amaury Guichon is a massive inspiration to me since he creates incredible desserts and chocolate showpieces while thinking outside the box.
Before we wrap up, what would you recommend seeing in Gozo for a first-time visitor?
If you’re visiting Gozo, I recommend going to Xlendi. It has this beautiful seaside street filled with restaurants with a view over the sea and cliffs, and the sunset is fantastic. You shouldn’t go by Vanilla+ gelateria without trying their delicious ice cream and my favorite cosy little restaurant Casa Vostra in Victoria, which has outstanding pizza with pistachio pesto.
If you drop by the Kempinski hotel, definitely order the almond mousse cake at the Gazebo restaurant. It’s an almond mousse on a sesame seed cookie with blood orange ganache, orange gel, and homemade citrus ice cream on top – yum!
Thank you, Julia, for an easy breezy conversation! We wish you all the best in your upcoming pastry competitions and other career endeavours!
Are you curious about Julia’s education?