Herkki Ruubel (32 years old) obtained an EQF Level 4 Certificate in Chef 2007 at Pärnumaa Vocational Education Center, Pärnu, Estonia.
Thirteen years after graduation he has achieved quite a lot. He has worked for Gordon Ramsey and Rene Redzepi and has made a career in numerous top restaurants in Estonia. At the moment he is working as head chef at Ammende Villa restaurant.
Could you briefly describe your current position?
I am the head chef at Villa Ammende restaurant. I am also in the process of writing a book and regularly contribute articles for various newspapers and magazines. Since 2019, I have been teaching at Pärnumaa Kutsehariduskeskus. I enjoy teaching culinary theory more after having spent over 15 years in professional kitchens. I believe that having excellent knowledge of culinary theory adds immense value to future chefs, and teaching this interests me greatly at this point in time.
How did you get there?
After graduation in 2007, I started my career at Laulasmaa Spa’s restaurant Wicca as an apprentice, under Head Chef Angelica Udeküll. After that I moved back to Pärnu and started to work at Villa Ammende as a cook. In 2010 I moved to London, where I had the opportunity to work at celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey owned Michelin Star restaurant, called Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s as the Demi chef de partie. I had actually applied over 15 times to work at this restaurant, but had zero answers. Finally, while I was working elsewhere in London, I decided to take a chance and knocked at the kitchen door of Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. They liked my perseverance, but hired me only as an unpaid apprentice. I had to prove my commitment and skills before they could finally offer me a paid job. Their motto was – We don’t need you, you need us for adding value to your CV! Every day I learned something different, many new pieces of knowledge. Like starting from new raw material and ending with lifelong knowledge.
In 2011 I moved to Copenhagen, where I worked at Noma the Michelin 2 Star restaurant, for an unpaid apprenticeship of four months. Noma totally changed my understanding about the food. Why? Noma ushered in the new era of the nordic food revolution – New Nordic Cuisine. Noma was the number one restaurant in the world for four years in a row and currently is number two.
I also have had the opportunity of working at Kolme Õe hotel restaurant Bordoo under Tõnis Siigur as a sous chef, Hedon Spa&Hotel restaurant as the Head Chef for over 2 years, Rannahotell restaurant Head Chef for 3 years, and Head Chef at Villa Ammende since 2019. Teaching a la carte menu, lessons to the 3rd year students at Pärnumaa Kutsehariduskeskus is also another passion that I greatly enjoy.
How did you get in touch with your former school? Why?
I reached out to the school so that I could have an opportunity to teach and work with young enthusiastic future chefs and share my knowledge and experience that I have gained over the last 15 years. I hope to help in further developing Estonian food knowledge, culture and culinary skills so that our food can be part of the global culinary stage.
Looking back, what’s the most valuable aspect of your VET School experience?
Never give up on your dreams and goals and do not be discouraged. When I was a student, many of my teachers told me that I don’t see you as a chef material.. this has instead of making me depressed … motivated me to never give up, I strongly believe that each one of us as individuals have the potential to achieve our dreams!
Would you recommend your VET school to others? Why?
Surely I would recommend it. Why? While I have never been to any of the other VET schools, I believe that Pärnumaa Kutsehariduskeskus study kitchens offer very good opportunities to its students. The kitchens are well equipped and are as good as the top professional kitchens anywhere in the world.
Do you (or would you like to) stay in touch with your former VET School? How? Why?
One of the main goals of teaching at the VET school is to encourage more students to seek a career path as a chef. While working as a chef isn’t the easiest career path it is definitely very rewarding. On a personal note I didn’t want to work as a chef until the 4th year.
What would be the next step in your professional career?
To enjoy my creative freedom, write books and share my experiences as a chef and write about life in restaurants. My 1st book is going to be published in autumn 2020. A collection of stories about life in a professional kitchen.