Carina Heimberg and the power of perseverance
Carina Heimberg’s story is fascinating. She went through many challenges, but her determination, and love for her work were strong enough that she never gave up. The unfavorable circumstances made her stronger. Her career started in Germany …
“I always wanted to cook and bake, so I was looking for an apprenticeship in a good pastry shop or hotel not too far from my home. My home is in an industrial area, so I didn’t have many choices… I was quite lucky to have been accepted at the Maritim Bad Wildungeb Hotel. Their apprenticeship positions were already fully covered, but the head chef believed in me, so he decided to give me a chance anyway.
He has always been very straightforward. He told me it was hard work and that I should be aware that for a woman it’s even more challenging. He told me I will often hear that I am not good enough so I will need to work even harder to prove myself. He told me about the long working hours and practically no free days … I knew more than ever that I wanted to do it.
He always supported me - even in the moments when he was very strict and severe. Sadly he left us after a year and half and my apprenticeship continued under two further chefs who showed very clearly that they don’t want a woman in their kitchen. They really made my life hard and there were moments when I was thinking about giving up and leaving, but I resisted."
"Nobody believed that I would pass my exam. Later I heard that they even bet on me failing. They didn’t know me. They never really paid any attention to what I was doing. They had no idea that during my holidays I was training, that with the money I earned I paid for further courses … The result was: I finished the year as the best in my class. I was not expecting this, I was really surprised. That was the first time that I was really proud of myself.
My next stop was Hotel Dollenberg in the South Germany. I was very much looking forward to serious cooking. But it happened again that I ended up in a team which was very hostile towards women. They made my life hard every step of the way.
My life changed when I started working with chef Martin Herrmann. He and his team really loved their jobs. I learnt so much from them! And it was there that I started developing a strong interest for pastry. I was not working with pastry, but I knew that’s what I wanted to learn next!
After a year I left the kitchen with a desire to learn the English language, to get to know the world, the food culture elsewhere and to gain new experiences. I met a lady who was arranging jobs in the UK and she sent my CV to the chef William Drabble of Seven Park Place by William Drabble, who surprised me with a phone call. That was quite a shock for me as I was not speaking English. After discovering that it will be hard to talk to me, he sent me an email with a job offer in the pastry section. I couldn’t believe it! I was crying from happiness. He made my dreams come true - I could finally work with pastry! Of course I accepted!
I came to London without speaking the language and with zero experience in pastry. I did a few courses, but I really had no working experience in the field! He had great patience with me. He taught me many things and also gave me enough space so I could learn on my own. I will never forget the nights I spent trying to figure out how to create perfect macarons. In the end I made them when I was close to giving up!"
Dessert by Carina Heimberg
The hardest thing to learn (I am still learning) was managing people. I learnt that there are different ways with different people to get the results and that everybody needs a different approach to learn.
William is a perfect role model. He never gives up, he works hard, he is always there for the team and is pushing each of us as far as we can go. He changed my way of thinking a few times and challenged me to my limits. Because of him I can say I am proud to be a chef/patissier."
What was the best lesson you received?
I learnt that hard work and perseverance are not enough if you are not working with heart. (and also the opposite - great love and passion are not enough without hard work ;) )
What do you love best about your work?
What I love best is that there are no limits. You can always improve, learn and achieve more.
What is inspiring you?
Great chefs, pastry chefs are my greatest inspiration. People who are really passionate about their work and who make everything look perfect and easy. That’s the point where I say “Wow". It gives me the feeling that I want more of it.
What is your personal favorite chocolate dessert?
Chocolate Negus - the chocolate mousse cake. It is amazingly delicious!
And which is your favourite Cacao Barry chocolate and why?
I love the Heritage Extra bitter Guayaquil 64%
It is great in taste - not too strong, it melts beautifully on the tongue and is easy to temper.
It is excellent for desserts and builds a good harmony with fruits and coffee.
Dessert by William Drabble
You have recently been to Paris for a course organised by Cacao Barry with chef Martin Diez. What did you love best about it?
I loved the fact that it was in Paris and also the course itself was really great.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Victor Griffiths.
What I personally really enjoyed is that I have opened up and got to know very friendly pastry chefs with a great knowledge.
What is the most valuable bit knowledge you gained at this course?
How to make a perfect glaze.
If you had to describe your Parisian experience with 5 words, what would they be?
Knowledge / chocolate / friendly / relaxed/ results
If you could choose any pastry chef in the world to learn from, who would it be?
I can't choose only one. I would love to learn from many of them to learn as much as possible.
Do you have any particular plans for your future career?
I would like to improve my knowledge as a chef and then move forward. Everything is a possibility.