Inspired by grandma
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.’