In­spired by grandma

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - EDUCATION GUIDE -

NI­LAI Univer­sity’s Di­ploma of Culi­nary Arts stu­dent Mark Dave Foo Hong Ji was in­spired to choose a ca­reer as a chef thanks to his grand­mother.

He shares with StarSpe­cial this in­spi­ra­tion and the rea­son for pick­ing Ni­lai Univer­sity’s School of Hos­pi­tal­ity and Tourism.

“My grand­mother works in a can­teen and is a very good cook. Hav­ing helped her in the kitchen since I was a young boy, I was in­spired to try be­com­ing a qual­i­fied chef,” says Foo, a fi­nal year stu­dent in Ni­lai Univer­sity’s Di­ploma in Culi­nary Arts pro­gramme.

His grand­mother, how­ever, was less thrilled by his de­ci­sion, ad­vis­ing him to do some­thing else. She said cook­ing is a very dif­fi­cult and tir­ing vo­ca­tion.

Foo per­sisted as he felt more com­fort­able in a pro­gramme that al­lowed him to use his hands.

“I am not much of a book­worm,” he re­veals.

“Also, hav­ing helped my grand­mother in the kitchen, I am com­fort­able in that en­vi­ron­ment and have some ground­ing in the sub­ject.”

In the be­gin­ning, Foo did not think he pos­sessed any sort of ad­van­tage over his class­mates but he soon found out other­wise.

He notes how some class­mates found the heat in the kitchen to be un­bear­able while oth­ers had no rudi­men­tary cook­ing knowl­edge.

“Some of my class­mates were on the verge of faint­ing when first ex­posed to the heat of a bustling kitchen, while I was quite used to it.

“Not to sound boast­ful, I was al­ready able to cook a num­ber of sim­ple Chi­nese dishes such as sweet and sour chicken even be­fore en­rolling in this pro­gramme,” he says.

Foo has proven his cook­ing cre­den­tials by fin­ish­ing sec­ond run­ner-up in the re­cent 8th Nes­tle Culi­nary Arts Awards 2014.

Again, his grand­mother was a source of in­spi­ra­tion. Foo planned on serv­ing ap­ple crum­ble pie in the pre­lim­i­nary rounds and he prac­tised mak­ing the dessert for his fam­ily and neigh­bours.

Ev­ery­one gave him the thumbs up ex­cept his grand­mother. Though she never made the dish be­fore, she ad­vised him on per­fect­ing his recipe.

He per­fected it and the hum­ble pie helped him sail into the fi­nal rounds where he fin­ished sec­ond run­ner-up.

“It is truly amaz­ing that she was able to tell me ex­actly what the pie needed though she has never made one her­self. She is truly my in­spi­ra­tion,” he says.

In ad­di­tion, Foo also re­serves spe­cial praise for the lec­tur­ers at Ni­lai Univer­sity’s School of Hos­pi­tal­ity and Tourism.

“They are re­ally ded­i­cated and al­ways make time for the stu­dents,” he says. “I prac­tised for three months for the com­pe­ti­tion and my lec­turer, Chef Zaid, was there ev­ery step of the way.”

Foo en­cour­ages all hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism stu­dents to take part in as many com­pe­ti­tions as pos­si­ble, say­ing it breeds con­fi­dence and builds char­ac­ter.

For his fu­ture plans, he plans to work for a num­ber of years be­fore pur­su­ing a de­gree.

“Hav­ing higher qual­i­fi­ca­tions will al­low me to be­come a lec­turer. Just like my own lec­tur­ers at Ni­lai Univer­sity, I hope to in­spire a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of chefs,” he says.

For more in­for­ma­tion, log on to www.ni­lai.edu.my or call 06-850 2388, 07-226 2336 or 03-7960 3089.

Foo: ‘Just like my own lec­tur­ers at Ni­lai Univer­sity, I hope to in­spire a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of chefs.’

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