Iron Chef Thailand Winner, Chef Tom Halpin, Shares Experience With Budding Future Chefs At KDU University College

Halpin sharing his experience with KDU’s culinary students. Halpin’s youthful look belies his culinary experience and knowledge.
Group photo session with the rest of participants of an evening with Halpin.  
Inspiration comes from a variety of sources in life, and this rang true for KDU University College culinary students when they had the opportunity to hear about and learn from the experiences of young prominent Chef Tom Halpin, winner of 2015 Iron Chef Thailand, at a recent sharing session organised at the Utropolis Glenmarie campus.

Halpin was in Malaysia for a collaboration with Chef Darren Teoh, executive chef of KDU’s own modern Malaysian fine dining restaurant Dewakan, on a dinner series featuring his exclusive interpretation of our Malaysian herbs and produce, held from 20 to 22 October.  

The Iron Chef shared his valuable experience throughout the years of becoming a chef including his previous and challenging experience of working as a sous chef at Denmark’s two Michelin-starred Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants. Halpin’s sharing session on his experiences was not only to inspire, but to also motivate the students to strive hard and persevere during the difficult stages of learning to master the art of culinary and the culinary industry, as a whole. He advised students to not abandon ship when the going gets tough (and the going will definitely get tougher), and treat it like another challenge that they bet on themselves as a chef.  

Halpin also shared some of his hardships during the learning process, and reiterated that culinary is a passion and choosing to become a chef is one that is an extremely challenging yet rewarding experience. “Any chef will get to a certain point in his career where the pressure amounts so high that you don’t know what to do. Go past that and the second you don’t walk away from something like that, is when everything becomes a lot easier,” he said. “It’s not an easy industry, it looks so glorified these days and it is amazing that I am able to do what I am doing now, but you have to crack through some hard times,” he further explained. His testament has made such positive impact for the students to not only get first-hand exposure but also to become mentally prepared for the road ahead.

Students were at the edge of their seats during the open Q&A session with the celebrity chef as they were eager to know a lot more about his previous experience. When asked by one of the students regarding what inspired him to delve into cooking, Tom cheekily replied, “One of my biggest push was because I have an older girlfriend and I wanted to impress her.”

On a question about his future plan, Halpin shared one of his impressive ideas of opening a restaurant in Moscow, Russia, next year. According to Halpin, the reason why he chose Russia is based on his previous experience there, which he considered as the most insane and unbelievable so far. He said, “The types of produce and ingredients available there are so incredible and I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world - vegetables and fruits from all seasons including wild strawberries, thanks to the different climates in Russia.” The students were amazed and found it very insightful to be able to hear out Halpin’s plan for his future restaurant, such as the number of menus that he would like to prepare, the kind of atmosphere that he would like to create for the guests, and the somewhat Japanese style of preparation for the future restaurant.

All in all, students found it extremely useful and beneficial to have attended such sharing session with a fellow expert in their respective area of studies. Vanessa Hall, currently in her 1st year of Diploma in Culinary Arts stated, “Halpin has so much knowledge and experience that I don’t even know where to begin to learn what he knows”, adding that this sharing session was one she really appreciated.  According to Jordan Wong Sien Jun, also a 1st year student of Diploma in Culinary Arts, he appreciated the kind of crazy experience in the kitchen that Halpin had shared, as he could associate the experience with his previous workplace and set informed expectations that he foresee in the near future. It was a remarkable evening that the students had with the Iron Chef and they had a lot of fun while taking a step closer towards their dream goals, to be the best chefs in the world.