For Suc­cesscc

Ten years ago, Aus­tralian ex­pat AN­NETTE LANG came up with the idea of teach­ing helpers to cook and to plan weekly menus, hav­ing trained her own helper to do so. A decade later, the pop­u­lar Ex­pat Kitchen cook­ing school is as busy as ever, now also run­ning

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Wine & Dine -

Have you al­ways loved cook­ing?

Yes, in­deed – I used to hang out in the kitchen with my mum, who’s an amaz­ing chef. She taught me the fun­da­men­tals, and this was a life les­son. One of the hard­est things for a real cook is to re­lay a recipe when he or she gets “in the zone” – it’s all just a bit of this, a bit of that and a touch of spice, and, sud­denly, you have a lovely meal. Of­ten, when peo­ple ask for the recipe, I say “Ooooh, I can’t, re­ally…!”

How did your pas­sion de­velop?

It wasn’t re­ally a pas­sion, it was more an ob­ses­sion. Back in Aus­tralia, I found my­self al­ways tak­ing on roles that in­volved food trends and cook­ery de­vel­op­ments. I love the su­per­mar­ket and check­ing out what’s new, and I re­ally en­joy vis­it­ing kitchen out­lets, ex­plor­ing new restau­rants and food courts, and go­ing on culi­nary ad­ven­tures and tours.

What in­spired you to start Ex­pat Kitchen?

It was re­ally quite by ac­ci­dent, and the whole busi­ness con­cept just fell in my lap. I had trained my own helper – who has been with us for 12 years now – to han­dle our fam­ily din­ners, menus and shop­ping, and she un­der­stood how to cre­ate bal­anced yet tasty meals.

When we fi­nally started do­ing din­ner par­ties to­gether, she was so pro­fi­cient in the kitchen that I barely had to leave the ta­ble. My guests were al­ways so im­pressed with her ser­vice, pre­sen­ta­tion and know-how that they started ask­ing me to train their helpers. That was a light bulb mo­ment – voilà! I said to my­self, “Wow, I could prob­a­bly train ev­ery­one’s helper to be ca­pa­ble in the kitchen. How hard can it be?” Hard, no; but easy it cer­tainly was not!

How has the busi­ness grown and changed over the past decade?

I still can’t be­lieve it’s been a decade! From its hum­ble be­gin­nings in my own kitchen, with just a hand­ful of stu­dents, we now op­er­ate from an ab­so­lutely di­vine, re-pur­posed old tem­ple that we ren­o­vated into a lovely kitchen. We have moved on from just helpers’ cour­ses to kids’ classes and birth­day par­ties, and classes for any­one who wants to learn to cook ev­ery­day food. Also, our cor­po­rate mas­ter classes are get­ting rave re­views and are so much fun.

What’s the big­gest chal­lenge of run­ning your own cook­ing stu­dio?

Any suc­cess­ful busi­ness is all about the lit­tle well-oiled cogs that ro­tate to­gether, and I truly have a won­der­ful staff. This takes time to es­tab­lish but once you’re there, it’s truly amaz­ing. Some­times a cog gets stuck, be it a sick child or for­get­ting to or­der stock or just not step­ping up to the plate, and I have to fill in. So, I am al­ways putting on dif­fer­ent hats; and even when I’m at home my mind is al­ways rac­ing, think­ing of what I need to do next. Bal­anc­ing work and fam­ily can be a chal­lenge, but hav­ing your own busi­ness also means that your hours can be flex­i­ble.

What do you love most about your job?

We are a fam­ily-based busi­ness, and all my staff mem­bers have kids. I re­spect that they are able to fit their work into their daily fam­ily life. Also, I love to see the suc­cess sto­ries: those who en­ter our kitchen as novices, and leave as com­plete pros.

How of­ten do you in­tro­duce new cour­ses?

We re­ally do keep our fin­ger on the pulse of the food in­dus­try. We fol­low new trends, and we listen when our cus­tomers sug­gest classes they’d like to do. Some of our lat­est and most in­ter­est­ing classes have in­cluded “Spi­raliser Sup­pers”, “Ul­ti­mate Pa­leo”, “Non-carb Snack At­tack”, “Sheet Pan Meals” and al­ler­gen-free bak­ing. Most of our classes are geared to­wards good, healthy fam­ily food that’s doable and sus­tain­able.

What do you most like to cook?

I love that I have been so heav­ily in­flu­enced by Asian cui­sine; for in­stance, we do “Healthy Thai Eats” and “Saigon Street Food” classes. At the mo­ment, I’m en­gaged in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary chal­lenge of find­ing healthy al­ter­na­tives for un­healthy foods. It’s so much fun!

What’s next for Ex­pat Kitchen?

From the start, I’ve al­ways wanted to fran­chise out to other ar­eas of the is­land, and per­haps even to other Asian coun­tries – any­where where peo­ple are keen to learn how to make good, un­pre­ten­tious fam­ily food.

Spi­raliser Sup­pers Tues­day, 30 May from 10am to 1pm $165 per per­son

With spi­ral­is­ing (turn­ing veg­eta­bles into noo­dles us­ing a spi­raliser tool) all the rage right now, this special class shows you how to make pa­leo, ve­gan and veg­e­tar­i­an­friendly recipes with the lat­est must-have kitchen gad­get. Light in calo­ries, carbs, fat and sugar, spi­ralised veg­eta­bles have the tex­ture and con­sis­tency of reg­u­lar noo­dles, trick­ing your taste-buds into think­ing you’re eat­ing the carb- laden orig­i­nal when, in fact, you’re con­sum­ing veggies.

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