Whether it’s Britain’s Gordon Ramsay barking orders in his kitchen, dessert queen Nigella Lawson whipping up sinful sugary treats or Indian celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor breaking down the art of complex curry recipes, cooking has captured the attention of a global audience. Reality shows like MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef have confirmed an increasing desire among today’s youth to embark on a professional career in the kitchen.
However, glamour is not the only reason behind this trend. The industry is growing fast. It is estimated to increase by 17% from now until 2014 and well-paid jobs abound for chefs and other cooking personnel. Working in a kitchen is a challenging role that demands creativity, dynamism and adaptability – an exciting propostion compared to a dull office job – and students from across the world are aspiring to be the next big thing in the world of food and cooking.
To become a successful chef, one needs to go beyond a love for food. While passion is important in this industry, so is technique and knowledge. Formal training is essential to become a successful chef and hospitality and culinary schools across the world are enhancing their cuisine programmes to cater for this need.
Culinary programmes not only equip students with respectable academic qualifications, but train them in all the essential skills. From how to deal with stress and effective team work to problem solving and technical skills, formal training in this dynamic industry is more important than ever before. Add practical lessons and compulsory internships, and aspiring chefs are prepared and confident to face a busy kitchen upon completion of their degree.
In Asia, where one can find an extensive range of cuisines – often a variety of different foods and methods of cooking within the same country – students are studying the craft with a determination to reach the top. Young successful chefs in Asia demonstrate the region’s love for food and passion for cooking. These chefs are breaking traditional rules to create exciting and exotic dishes – ranging from comfort food, fusion gastronomy and their own experimental take on the local cuisine.
Asian Correspondent profiles some of Asia’s top rising chefs and their exciting world of food.
Malaysia’s youngest celebrity chef and media personality with seven popular TV shows, Anis Nabilah is a rising culinary star. Anis, 24, is best known as the host of television cooking shows such as Icip-Icip, Sesedap Rasa, Enak Tradisi and Rasa-Rasa. She is a graduate of the Food Institute of Malaysia and advocates the importance of professional training in this industry. “It was very important,” she tells Asian Correspondent. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if hadn’t received professional training. Culinary school equipped me with actual methods that are required as a chef, especially for international cuisine.”
To aspiring chefs Anis advises: “Prospective students should look for the best facilities, twinning programmes with other universities, and moreover, check the syllabi. The culinary arts have no limitations. Don’t think just because you’re good at a particular cuisine like French or Italian that you need to stick to it – allow yourself to grow. With recipes, try a mixture of local ingredients with international cuisine. Eastern people of all people should be proficient in creating fusion recipes by mix-and-matching!”
A graduate of culinary school ICCA Dubai, Murtaza is now employed as a chef at The Grand Hyatt, Dubai. Having started out on the breakfast shift, Murtaza quickly proved his culinary skills and within six months was promoted to the Manhattan Grill restaurant at this international hotel. Working in an open kitchen and being responsible for food that speaks for itself – steaks, grilled fish, seafood – Murtaza emphasises the importance of timing. “I have to be quick in work and take care of minute details,” he tells Asian Correspondent.
“Working in an open kitchen means I work in front of the guests and everything needs to be perfect from preparation to presentation and display. To be able to successfully achieve these results with the least amount of stress, formal education is very important. ICCA Dubai taught me everything from techniques to culinary terms. Although there are people in the industry who haven’t received any training but have learnt their craft over several years in the kitchen, my education gives me the confidence that I am a step ahead of others. I understand my head chef’s commands effortlessly and am able to follow instructions quicker.” To aspiring chefs Murtaza says: “In the beginning, an education in the culinary arts may seem hard but it all pays off in the end when you know the tricks of the trade.”
Employed at the Armani Hotel, Dubai, Sudeep is a patisserie chef at the lifestyle dining restaurant At.mosphere located high in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. He tells Asian Correspondent: “The type of desserts we have been serving here are both old school and contemporary. To keep the quality and standards high, we need to create things from scratch on a daily basis. The most challenging part of the job is to produce what the head chef has in his mind and make it look good on the plate.”
Sudeep is another graduate of culinary school ICCA Dubai and is a strong believer of formal training before entering the industry: “ICCA Dubai provided the best platform for me, teaching me everything right from the basics to all the details key to surviving in this industry. Tests at the institute guarantee that students have learnt all that they have been taught. All the staff are constantly available for support not just for academics, but to make certain that graduates can easily survive in the hotel industry after completion of their programme.” Sudeep’s advice to budding chefs is to not lose their focus by chasing celebrity dreams: “Passion, focus and patience are the three most important things for a chef. At the end there are never any limitations for a chef. Being a chef allows you to explore as much as you can with your own ideas and thoughts.”
Thomas and Mathias Sühring
German twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Sühring completed their German High School Diploma in 1996, when Mathias began his cook’s apprenticeship at the Maritim proArte Hotel, Berlin. At the same time, Thomas worked at the Hilton Hotel in Berlin as a cook’s apprentice. Following their apprenticeships, the twins went on to train under Michelin three starred chefs Chef Dieter Müller and Chef Heinz Winkler respectively.
From 2003 to 2005, the twins took up positions as Chef de Partie at the restaurant Aqua (Ritz Carlton Wolfsburg, Germany), learning from the guidance of Michelin three starred chef, Sven Elverfeld. Following this Thomas joined Italian Cavalieri Hilton restaurant La Pergola restaurant as Chef de Partie under three-star Michelin Chef Heinz Beck, while Mathias worked as Chef de Partie under three star Michelin chef, Jonny Boer, at De Librije in the Netherlands. Soon, the twins came together again at Bangkok’s one-of-a-kind restaurant, Mezzaluna at the Tower Club, lebua. This elite hotel is a Hollywood hub, having recently served as the sets for international blockbuster ‘The Hangover 2’. Mezzaluna, located at the highest level in the Dome, is the perfect platform for these German twin chefs to continue to innovate and provide unique culinary experiences to their customers, combining the best of their Michelin star experience to create a dining experience unlike any other. Adding another feather to their caps, the twin chefs will be creating the menu for Lufthansa airlines for their Business Class and First Class passengers. The menu will be available on board from between January and February 2012.
Read more about ICCA Dubai here