I’m a foodie

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I’m a foodie. In fact, my wife and I are both foodies. We are passionate about eating good food and we make no qualms about researching the best sources to find establishments that serve the best food.

In my forthcoming blogs, I shall shed some light into some of my past experiences with food from my previous travels around the globe and on my thoughts on the culinary scene here in Singapore (where I currently reside). I am, by no means, anywhere near an accomplished photographer but I shall try to take the best pictures possible to highlight my thoughts in my postings.

I’m sure you are asking yourself, “How did I become a foodie?”. Well, I grew up during my teens helping out in my father’s Chinese restaurant. I did everything you could imagine in the restaurant business except cook. Nevertheless, having worked in the kitchen around chefs during those early days really shaped my view towards food in a big way. Fast forward many years later and I really took on an appreciation for fine food when I starting traveling around the globe in my business career. I eventually left that career behind to start my own food business in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One highlight of my food career was when I worked at the central kitchen of the famed French food emporium, Fauchon in Astoria, New York. I worked with the industry’s best pastry chefs and I learned the secrets of mass production of French cake and pastry making. Fauchon in NY has since closed but the passion of French cake and pastry making still burns very brightly within me. I hope to share on some of my knowledge to you readers in my future postings.

Thanks for reading!

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9 Responses to “I’m a foodie”

  1. tellaure Says:

    i’m not sure where to post these questions but this seems to be the best place … so hopefully you read comments on past blog entries.

    i’m ‘into’ baking and i’ve not enrolled in any professional/casual baking classes so most of my baking “adventures” are from recipes from books (*eyes the stack of magazines and books on my desk*). i’m trying to sort out my future career options and would just like to gather as much advice as i can from everywhere before making any choice.

    currently, i’m serving my national service (which will end in jan 09). i have a place in the local university waiting for me after that. but i’ve been thinking in ns and i’m increasingly unsure if what i want in life is some degree and a deskbound job.

    i’d like to know the value of a “professional degree” in pastry making. i mean, is it really required to survive in the industry?

    also, between the end of my conscription and the start of my university education i’d love to be an apprentice to a patissier. will my lack of any experience or classes in pastry making and the short duration (approximately 5-6 months) affect the chances of me being one?

    sorry for the excessively lonnnnnnnnggg reply and thank you once again for your advice. not sure if you know of eggbeater (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/) but your blog, like hers, is a great resource for those who are thinking of venturing into the industry and is in need of someone who can advice them. thank you so much! rock on! 😀

  2. stickofachef Says:

    Hi Tellaure,

    I’ve addressed some of your concerns in my responses to comments at https://stickofachef.wordpress.com/about/. Please read through it and if you have additional questions, I’d be happy to address them with you subsequently.

    I’ll also ask one of my regular readers (Cedric) to give his views to your questions as well since he is currently studying to become a pastry chef in Singapore and he has gone through many of the life questions and decisions you’re going through right now. He can definitely share some of his valuable advice and experience with you.

    Cheers!

  3. Cedric Says:

    Hi tellaure ,
    Just my 2 cent worth after being in this line for 10mths. Personally i feel that paper qualification is not everything but i guess it does give some ppl some insight of where ur basic is at … as if ,,, if u tell someone that u grad from Shatec/at-Sunrice … more of less they know u are at which level cos the industry in singapore is quite small and chefs shared info among them.Compare to rather you just go in with no paper of related FNB they wont know then u will have to prove more to them.

    Below is some advice i gave to a gal in her late 20s when she ask me about my course in at-Sunrice ( Dip in Pastry and Baking Arts ) : –

    ” First , if u take this course and after grad ….. u bound to have to work longer hours , depending on where u work in and what u wan in this line …. no hard work is always no gain … if u just wan a job … then no prob … u still can find a 8-4 work in FnB but if u wans a career out of it … be prepare to slog a few yrs @ least ….. i m just a few ys older then u … but then to switch @ ard our age is a bit too late … so if u had decided to take this challenge … we have to work double hard … for me my thot in taking this switch , i will give myself @ least 5 yrs to slog and to learn …. there is no shortcut in this. No pain no gain ….

    my experience so far …. u still can do 8-4 but the more u do , u look ,,,, u learn more … if u wan a 8-5 job and scare of hard work … then i think u better dun enrol cos in FnB dun think that is possible. One of my classmate drop out becos of family commitment in her 3rd term … for her it’s different , she would have stay on cos she really got the passion … but becos of some family commitment .. she was forced to gave up …. I dun wan u to embark on this course then to find u got no time for family n urself then give up halfway … it will be very wasteful …

    Think carefully ,,,,, u wan baking as a career … , a job …. or a hobby … it is very different …..
    Career – u have to work n work n long hours are a must …. there is no shortcut
    Job – u work 8-4 … and it will be the same for the next 30yrs of ur life n achive nothing
    Hobby – can go CC , BITC , for short course ”

    Seriously you have to think carefully … unless you are 100% sure this is what u wan … if not persoanlly my advice is .. go take ur Uni ( maybe u can consider some food related topics like food science etc. Then if can go work part time in soma FnB and learn bit by bit from there … then after you grad then u switch to study FnB , this is at least to ensure that if after studying in FnB and you find that that is not ur goal … you still have a degree in hand for other job. In my course , i seen alot of career switch … from poly lecturer, teacher , Uni grad and more. So you really have to think about all these before you make a decision.

    As to apprentice to a patissier …. currently me still very not sure about this in the local industry … we shared info between classmates , juniors and seniors Chefs ( no offence to any1 ) still is like not so willingly to teach trainees like us … unless depending on places you go and which chefs you under and also how you proved to you chef. Maybe you might have better luck then us.

    For me …. being in the course , i believe that are something here that i might not learn outside , which is more on the theory and basic , like what is the purpose of adding this ingredient and what is the effect of it … which i think in the industry , they will only tell u put this amount if not it wont work , and that’s it. Unless you can really proved to the chef that you are the one they are going to train if not i dun think they have sooooo much time for a 1 to 1 coaching. Of cos, all these you can read from books but then without really seeing will be a different things and also if we do @ home without know all these basic , you will not be able to know what is the exact fault.

    Seriously , still back to square one , know what you want and best tok to your family , family support is very impt .. i got few classmates , they did not have the support they have and the pressure is getting on to them. Take some time to think about the qns .. Hobby , Job or Career .

    If there is anything , you can post here and i try to answer if i can , of cos , “stickofachef” has been a great guy for advices and help 🙂 or if want , you can ask him for my email , be more then willing to “pay it forward” give the help i can to others 🙂

    Cheers 🙂

  4. tellaure Says:

    cedric & stickofachef:

    thank you for your advice. i’ll mull over it and hopefully come up with something soon. 🙂

  5. stickofachef Says:

    Hi Cedric,

    Many thanks for your help. I am sure many other readers will benefit from your experience and advice as well. I could not have said it any better!

    Tellaure,

    You’re welcome. What you’re going through is an important career decision so it’s best you take your time to mull it over before deciding your next steps.

    Good luck!

  6. NoviceCook Says:

    Greetings Chef

    I am seeking your advice. With your experience, I think you are the right person to ask.

    If you don’t mind me asking, what happen to Fauchon in New York?
    What was your next step after that?
    Currently I’m working for a French pastry company of similar standard, and there is no more establishment of that standard in the country that Im in at the moment.
    Is there any patisserie of Fauchon standard in Asia?

    Thank you Chef

  7. stickofachef Says:

    Hi NoviceCook,

    Fauchon in France went through extreme financial difficulties in 2005 and eventually downsized their global operations. The US operation was affected which culiminated into the closure of Fauchon’s retail shops. Fauchon is now only sold in third party retail shops like Food Emporium and Shokura Shoji in New York City . They were supposedly going to regroup and reopen again sometime in the near future but as of now, Fauchon hasn’t reestablished a direct presence there. After the closure of the Fauchon central kitchen in Astoria, Queens, the executive pastry chef (Florian Bellanger) and his sous chef (Ludovic Augendre) started their own pastry business called Mad Mac (http://madmacnyc.com/) making macarons and madeleines.

    After I left Fauchon, I returned to Asia and did a short stint offering French cakes pastries (made to order) as a side business. I eventually left the food industry subsequent to that.

    I’m happy to hear that you are working for a French pastry business of similar standard to Fauchon. If you’re able to divulge the information, I’d love to hear where you’re working now (as I’m sure my readers would be interested as well!) and to hear your thoughts and experiences of working in a French pastry shop.

    There certainly are patisseries of Fauchon standard in Asia. Japan has quite a few Parisian pastisseries like Pierre Herme, Laduree, Gerard Mulot, and Maison du Chocolat. Japanese pastry chefs like Sadaharu Aoki are very renowned both in Japan and France. Fauchon recently opened a retail shop and a salon de the in Beijing. Singapore has several very talented and innovative pastry chefs as well. There is tremendous talent in Asia that rivals Fauchon standards.

    Best wishes!

    Cheers,

  8. NoviceCook Says:

    Greetings Chef,

    Thank you for that information. I am currently working for Lenotre. However due to management decision, we are getting closed down. This will be the final week that we are going to exist in the country that I am in currently. Which is the reason why I am searching for a new place to pick up where I have left of.
    My experience working in a French pastry shop have retaught and given me a new way to approach pastry all together(very different compared to the time when I did my pastry diplome. Just like all French patisserie now days, all our cakes are usually consist of many different components and sub recipes in those different components. Organising your mise en place is vital when it comes to preparing this type of cakes as everything needs to be at the correct consistency and temperature when you assemble it. We have a small team so every one needs to be fluent with all the recipes and procedure as we make everything ourselves. My Chef patissier always constantly reminds me the importance of quality and cosistency(especially as our clients are paying premium prices for these products).
    Even though it is more difficult in making these style of products, the level of satisfaction matches all the effort that goes into it(well, thats what I think).
    Chef, I am sure you know much more about the ins and outs of a French pastry shop more than I do and can put it in better words.
    Chef, I have a few question for you:
    Are those patisserie approachable in terms of my next step in my career?
    How does the market response with our level of product in South East Asia?
    With your knowledge, experience and background, were you not interested to go to Europe after Fauchon?

    Thanks again for your time and sharing with me your experiences!

  9. stickofachef Says:

    Hi NoviceCook,

    Sounds like you have gained fantastic experience at Lenotre. Lenotre is certainly a very well respected French institution and as I’m sure you know, is where Pierre Herme got his start in pastry when he was 14 years old. I’m sorry to hear that Lenotre has decided to pull out of where you are at right now.

    Your pastry making approach and the advice you received from your Chef patissier is very similar to the philosophy practiced at Fauchon. This is not surprising considering that both Lenotre and Fauchon are historical pioneers within classical (and now innovative) French pastry making. As you very accurately put it, quality and consistency is of utmost importance since this is what customers are expecting when are paying premium prices for innovative high quality French pastries.

    I do personally believe that high end French patisseries in Asia are approachable and are possible steps in your next move in your career. However countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and even China may be challenges since language will be an issue (with Hong Kong being the exception). Unless you are approaching those countries as Chef patissier for a hotel, restaurant, or pastry shop, going in at lower positions would be more challenging (but not impossible). In Southeast Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Phillipines are countries with that you can approach. Those countries are at different stages of familiarity and acceptance of French pastry making with Singapore really being at the forefront in talent and acceptance within these countries.

    After Fauchon, I made a conscience decision not to go to Europe but to return to Asia. This was grounded in the belief that Asia represented more opportunities professionally than the more established and competitive markets in Europe. I eventually left the food industry because it could not fulfil my financial aspirations as compared to other industries. Although I loved and had the passion for pastry making, I realized that I could do better financially if I got into more lucrative industries (like IT) where I can work and eventually prepare for retirement at an earlier stage.

    With your Lenotre experience under your belt, you have certainly padded your credentials to give you a greater advantage in moving ahead in your career in the near future.

    I do wish you luck in your next stage of your career.

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