Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy First Day of School

Day One at-Sunrice Global Chef Academy - it felt like I was attending Primary One all over again.  Price tags still stucked on brand new chef shoes and stickers showing T-shirt sizes separate the newbies from the more sophisticated-looking diploma students. We were issued our new chef jackets - hear this - with our names sewed on it. How cool is that. I like their philosophy of "calling forth" - yes, call us chefs and we'll start to think of ourselves as just that.

Groovy chef, yeah!
Here's one happy Primary One kid. I'm from Class 007 - kewl!

We were briefed on the vision and mission of at-Sunrice - Advancing culinary arts through integrity and meaning. We do this through learning East and West cultures, Old World and New World Cuisines, Herbs and Spices, and Work and Study rotations. Respect, Integrity and Honesty are key foundational values they hold close to heart. I can live with that. 

For 2 whole hours, we had the most senior manager available to answer any questions we may have. I asked the most! What's his advice for career switchers? Just how hot is the kitchen and how tough is the industry? What's the gender trend? What are the obstacles in opening and managing your own restaurants? What's the profit margin? What's the hierarchy in the kitchen - what's commis, Cook 1, 2, 3, junior chef, sous chef, executive chef? What is the salary range? To what extent is Asia a key player in the culinary scene? Are paper qualifications helpful or even needed at all? What's the difference between hotel kitchens and restaurant kitchens? Does entering this industry mean the end of all my weekends and public holidays? You'd think I'm an old fart journalist! He was patient, professional, insightful in his responses and spoke with a candour not-often-enough seen in the diplomatic corporate world.  

He then went on to give us a list of rules and regulations - You may have been a senior executive but this is a school and you're a student and there are rules to abide by. An unprofessional kitchen is a dangerous place to work in. After some vivid description of industrial accidents in the kitchen, we were all ears. 

My son came home from school and shot me many questions before he even put his bag down - Mom, do you have homework? Yes, read NEA website on food handling. Do you have exams? Yes, this Thursday! Did you make any new friends? Yes, so far, one engineer who wants to understand the science of cooking, one house-husband who wants to learn the art of cooking, one chicken seller with dreams of opening his own restaurant, one grandmother seeking new purpose in life, one teacher who wants to launch a second career, one Israeli, one Indian. 

One lady told me she has 6 years of kitchen experience working in a Thai and Chinese restaurant but now she needs paper qualifications. And she is 65! She can cook all kinds of chilli in the world. I said, Teach me! She's more than willing to show me her culinary skills. Everyone had one thing in common - maturity, stability, strong renewed sense of purpose in signing up for this. All above 40. Old new students. I admire their strong desire and motivation to learn and courage to leave their comfort zone by choice. They moved their own cheese. That is truly inspirational.

We also got a Student Handbook and Planner and our timetable for the next 8 weeks. Kitchen work starts tomorrow. Everyday, one of us will take turns to act as the sous chef to plan and delegate the work and manage the team. I am so looking forward to waking up tomorrow.

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