Master pastry cook Matías León loves his profession. He saw no future for himself in Chile, and so took the risk of starting afresh in Germany. Thanks to the recognition procedure, he now runs his own café in Hamburg.
Six years of training in international gastronomy and one year of professional experience in France. Despite these qualifications and training, there were no professional prospects in Chile for Matías León. “In my sector I saw that there was no future for me in Chile. It is hard to survive there by working as a pastry cook.” What was the alternative?
While staying in Hamburg, the 28-year-old got to know Germany and found love. At the end of 2012, he left Chile and took the risk of starting afresh in Germany. The initial months were tough. The biggest hurdle was the language. But Matías León stuck at it. He worked in a café and learned German up to level C1. On a language course he met his current wife, Daniela Koch. “That was so funny. We came to Germany at the same time. She arrived from Colombia and I came from Chile.” And she encouraged him to sort out his professional future.
Matías León's initial plan was to complete further training. However, the Counselling Centre for Recognition of Qualifications [Zentrale Anlaufstelle Anerkennung (ZAA)] at the social service organisation “Diakonisches Werk Hamburg” introduced him to an alternative: recognition of his professional qualifications. Following this he contacted the competent authority, the Hamburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades (HWK). “The checking of my documents showed that I almost had the master craftsman qualification. I was advised to have my vocational skills recognised. I didn't know what that was to start with.” Working together with the adviser, Matías León selected the appropriate reference occupation. Because his training was so broad, there were several options. In May 2014 he finally applied for recognition as a master pastry cook to the Chamber of Crafts and Trades. The result of this was partial recognition.
Matías León did not have two of the required elements of the master craftsman examination for full recognition. He made up for these by completing refresher training as part of the project “Refresher training in dual training occupations”. The refresher training was funded through the grant programme of the City of Hamburg. “It was difficult to begin with. There was so much to learn—for example all the German laws. And I had to do everything in a language which was new to me.” However, Matías León passed the examinations without any problems. Just a few months later he proudly held the master craftsman certificate in his hands. Following this, he very quickly found work as a master pastry cook.
Today Matías León is his own boss. Since August 2017, he has been running a café in the Hamburg district of Eilbek together with his wife, Daniela. The business consultancy service of the Hamburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades (HWK) supported them in becoming self-employed. “The recognition saved me one year of training. And I was able to set up my own business. Now that takes a lot of work. However, I am very satisfied and it's a lot of fun.” And for this reason, the two of them are already thinking about another café.
The interview with Matiás León took place in September 2018. Guidance on the procedure was provided by the Counselling Centre for Recognition of Qualifications [Zentrale Anlaufstelle Anerkennung (ZAA)] at the social service organisation “Diakonisches Werk Hamburg”. Matías León compensated for the substantial differences compared to the German master craftsman qualification by means of “refresher training in the trades and crafts sector” through the Hamburg Chamber of Crafts and Trades. Both services are provided by the Network IQ Hamburg. The recognition procedure was funded through the grant program of the City of Hamburg.
My vocational recognition was a real plus for me because my wife and I now run our own patisserie.
I am Matías León. I come from Chile.
I trained in international gastronomy.
In Germany, I am now a recognized master pastry cook.
I am Daniela Koch. I come from Columbia.
I met Matías, my husband, on a German course.
My Colombian business administration degree is recognised at the level of the German equivalent.
I take care of the business side. Welcome to Elisa, our patisserie.
We were only able to open the café because I have the master craftsman’s certificate.
And because I was able to use my knowledge of business administration.
I always wanted to learn new things.
I have an uncle here in Hamburg, so I was able to come to Germany. Then I found out it was possible to have my training recognised here. I almost had the equivalent of the master craftsman level. This meant I was able to continue training as a pastry cook. For the master craftsman status, I just had to do two examinations, and they were really difficult. I had to learn a lot and I got there in the end.
Our dream was to have our own café.
It took 18 months to get everything prepared. First of all, we had to write a business plan and then find suitable premises. Back then I was also working as a pastry cook.
In 2017 we opened the café. We are now very happy with it.
Do what we did.
Learn German. Be patient.
And work hard, and get your qualifications recognised.
There is so much support. Use it. Start your own success story and talk about it.