Cooking Life

Me taking cooking classes in Cambodia

Budding home cook

One of the biggest growing up I had to do was to learn to cook for myself as my dad was away for work a lot of times. All of a sudden, independence was something of a necessity for survival as in 2 years my dad was to return back home, leaving me alone. Luckily for me, by then I had made many friends and cooking had become somewhat of a genuine interest for me.

I was very curious about it constantly experimenting and combining different flavours to see what resulted of it or why certain dishes didn’t come out the way it should have. One of my biggest setback was when i tried combining strawberry and eggs, which is 2 things I love, making an omelette. Till today I am still made fun of for that. My trial and error game became so strong that I started inviting friends over to try my food, one by one until I felt more confident. Then I had my first dinner party.

Friendsgiving dinner was an overwhelming success. My first turkey and cranberry sauce well cooked, lots of laughter and wine were had. I was addicted. I did dinner parties more often, I became more confident and embarked to try bigger and more adventurous dishes. Soon the universe called and I answered.

First Opportunity

I had an opportunity to test if cooking was actually my passion while earning grades for it. So I set off looking for an internship spot, and little did I know, I landed a dream job. I became an intern student at one of the country’s most prominent and well-known restaurants, Chez Panisse. It was forefront for sustainable, farm-to-table dining experience, where fresh locally sourced produce was the spotlight. So there I was fresh as a fish, dealing with knives, vegetables and raw meat professionally for the first time in my life. This was it, there was no turning back. Even after the knee breaking long hours standing, countless cuts on my hands and seemingly endless mass prepping of produce, I loved it. The best part of it all was that we got to taste the fruits of our labour, knowing that everything we prepped that day went into the dish and eventually to happy customers. It was a satisfying feeling.I just knew this was what I wanted to do for life.

Work Life

Working at a fine dining restaurant in Chicago.

Not before long, I found myself graduating to one of the best culinary school in the world, the Culinary Institute of America. For the next 2 years, I did my time from dish man to prep cook to line cook to sous chef, worked in almost every style of restaurant from catering, hotel, fine dining, casual, etc. I learned much from all the chefs that that i’ve worked under and the one thing I noticed from them is that they all wish that they traveled themselves and that they went overseas to check out more and learn more from other cultures. Instead, they’ve found themselves stuck job after job for the rest of their life. It was a common denominator between all of them, I knew that I didn’t want to end up like them. 

Food and Cooking Philsophy

1. Don’t be an an all knowing jerk – when you work in the industry long enough, you will meet and work with many types of personalities. One of the worst ones out there are the all knowing person. The one person that has worked in  multiple “high-end” “celebrity chef’s” restaurant and therefore, know everything there is to know about food. It’s hard to work with such people as they do everything their way, completely inflexible in their ways and are rather arrogant. Be open minded and think that you don’t know much, because each chef and restaurant has a different way of doing things. “Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” ― Anthony Bourdain.

2. The world is too big – There are thousands of cuisines and micro cuisines out there, too many for me to just choose one and settle down with it for the rest of my life. I want to learn and experience the cuisine firsthand and taste what “authentic” taste like. I think it’s sad what people think they know about Thai cuisine or Chinese food, without having experienced the real thing. Plus my obsession with flavour profiles and traditional and/or cooking techniques drives this need to discover and explore.  

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
― Anthony Bourdain

3. Best Cooks are the older generations – Through this journey of mine, many think that I would be working in restaurants in order to learn about the cuisine. Though that might be true sometimes, I much rather learn from the grandmothers or mothers that have recipes that have been generations passed down. With society today, these recipes are slowly disappearing with them as the generations below have seize to learn about them. I want them.

4. Food is Life – Too many people out there eat to live instead of live to eat. Food shouldn’t be something that you have to eat, it should be something that you want to eat. A work/life balance is something everyone strives to achieve and cooking a meal for yourself should be part of that. Learning to cook for yourself and a couple of others is an essential life skill that anyone should have. Most out there are too afraid to cook because it’s “too difficult” or “takes too much time”. From the mass amounts of TV shows or cookbooks out there, a meal can take as little as 20, 15 or even 10 mins! World, stop being so lazy and complain about diets and such. 

P.S Anthony Bourdain is my idol and mentor. He knows what’s up, the modern chef/traveler/philosopher.