Aspiring chefs ‘wok’ the talk
by Anna Vivienne firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on July 22, 2012, Sunday
CERTIFICATES or certification of knowledge is an important job-hunting tool nowadays.
This is especially true for young people wishing to make a living with the knowledge and training they have acquired.
However, not all certificate holders look for employment per se. For some of them, it’s more a validation of expertise in their specialised fields.
Lydia Bili of Kampung Marakau Ranau, Sabah, is the recipient of a certificate from the Ascot Academy which runs a culinary arts programme in collaboration with the Kitchen Department of Sabah Oriental Hotel.
The 24-year-old, the youngest girl in a family of eight children, never thought of be coming a cook although she has been in the hospitality industry for a while.
“I started working at a resort in Mesilau after school in 2009. I spent two years there. It was good,” she recalled.
Later, she left to work for another resort in the Kundasang area.
At that time, her father met the culinary department head of the Ascot Academy and they discussed the viability of being a cook or chef.
“After that, my father told me to join the Academy. He believed I could do better than just working at the front office.
“With good cooking skills, I could open my own restaurant someday,” she recalled.
Lydia is happy with her achievement at the Academy, saying: “I’m proud to have this certificate. And I’m glad I took my father’s advice.”
Her father passed away recently and she is determined to fulfill his wish – opening her own restaurant.
“Support from my elder sisters gives me the confidence to succeed,” she shared.
Shecky Yagong, 25, of Kampung Sinorut Ranau, comes from a farming family.
His father does the occasional stint as a lorry driver while his mother tends the padi fields and other subsistence crops at their farm.
Shecky — like most young men his age — wanted to try something new and a few years ago, went to Kuala Lumpur to earn a living.
Most Sabahan workers take any jobs they can find so long as they can get by while in the nation’s capital.
Shecky was no different. With limited job options, he became a kitchen helper.
But it turned out to be a useful transition as it was in the kitchen that he began picking up the basics of cooking.
In just four weeks, he could actually cook. He thought to himself “it’s all right, I can make a living out of this.”
So he continued to learn about cooking and the more he learned, the more he liked it.
After two years, he returned to Sabah and worked at a restaurant in Kota Kinabalu.
Subsequently, he returned to the village and worked with a contractor for a while.
“I realised then I still loved to cook — so when I met an Ascot Academy senior staff who told me they had an opening, I jumped at the chance.
“I’m glad I did because with this certificate, I have more confidence in my future.
“I hope to open my own restaurant soon,” he said, adding that he may work for an outlet first to improve his cooking and acquire the necessary management knowledge.
Love for cooking
Nolan Abram Mokujin of Kampung Nosoob Baru Penampang, has always loved cooking and his job at Ascot is an extension of that passion.
“I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother. I always watched what they were doing — and I really like putting things together and see the end product unfolds,” the 20-year-old said.
When his mother or grandmother was busy, they always told him to do the cooking and he was always more than willing to oblige.
“I love doing things they appreciate,” he said.
When he joined the Ascot Academy, he did not know what to expect but what he experienced proved extremely valuable for his future endeavours.
“I learned that being a chef does not mean being confined to the kitchen. It can also be a way to travel and see the world through working in hotels or being sent for publicity campaigns.”
However, Nolan is not going anywhere anytime soon but will continue to work in Kota Kinabalu – or other places in the state.
He has a younger brother who is an OKU and Nolan doesn’t want him to be alone.
“He’s very close to me and I think as a brother, I should not abandon him,” he added.
Lansmarckther Solombi of Kampung Sinarut Baru Ranau, got hooked on cooking while working at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.
“They sold fusion food called Out of Africa but they were really more into European food than anything else,” the 31-year-old remembered.
The stint at the restaurant ignited his interest in cooking.
He said it was fascinating to see raw materials being transformed into something edible and presented so nicely too.
When he returned to Sabah, he joined the Ascot Academy.
“Even after learning so many things, I still want to learn more. I’m going to work for an employer and learn as much as I can.
“I would like to become a lecturer in this field, imparting my knowledge to young people with the same interest as I had when I first started,” he enthused.
The four young cooks are among 30 graduates of the Ascot Academy who recently received their certificates for the Level Three programme.
The presentation was made by the hotel’s acting assistant general Manager Zahara Ismail. Also present were the executive chef, Alex Sim, Ascot head of academics, Steve Benedict and student affairs manager Andria Andrew.