Training KDU Students To Glory

Group photo of KDU contestants and team coach Johan Sebastien Chee and Tracia Chan Qi Li posing with their well earned awards
 Tracia Chan Qi Li with her Gold Award  
The competitive arena is always a good platform for students to test their mettle and challenge themselves as future chefs, and as such, it was joyous celebration for 6 KDU students who recently competed and won medals in the ICHEF Championship, held in March.

The 6 students had the opportunity to compete against each other as well as their peers from other institutions to test their skills and techniques while racing against the time given to prepare their masterpiece. Consisting on Bachelor of Culinary Management students Sylvia Chandra, Johan Sebastian Chee, Adrian Yap Soon Huat and Thing Bi Li, as well as Diploma in Culinary Arts student Tracia Chan Qi Li, the team compted in several categories such as the iChef Six Continents Stuffed Pasta Challenge, Main Course/ Poultry, and Apprentice Main Course Seafood/ Fish.

Performing admirably, the students made the institution proud by winning several awards, withTricia Chan clinching the Gold Award in the iChef Six Continents Apprentice Main Course Seafood/Fish category, Johan Sebastian Chee winning the Bronze Award in the Main Course Meat/Poultry category, as well as Sylvia Chandra and Adrian Yap being awarded Diplomas in the iChef Six Continents Stuffed Pasta Challenge.

Winning the awards did not come easy as the preparations required for the actual competition were very intense and challenging for both the contestants as well as for the team coach and team manager. According to Chef Muhammad Edwan Shaharir, chef lecturer at KDU’s SHTCA as well as the team coach, “The intensive training sessions were meant to familiarise the competitors with the ingredients, techniques and plating/plate design.”

He added, “On top of that, real time simulations were run so that competitors could feel the pressure of time constraints during the actual competition.” This method is extremely effective to ensure that contestants are well prepared for the actual atmosphere of the competition day and will not crumble due to overwhelming stress from unexpected circumstances which could occur.

Team manager, Chef Hamirudin Nazir, mentioned, “Even though the menus were designed by the team coach and myself, our students did an excellent job in translating the recipes from a mere piece of paper into a delightful dish on the plate.”

He further added, “We are very glad that the judges gave us good comments for the winning dishes, while praising the creativity, taste and competence of the technique shown by the students.” The positive feedback from the experts meant a world to them after they went through hardships for a month of tough training regimes, often after working hours, while adjusting their schedule to attend classes under the careful supervision of the team coach, Chef Edwan and team manager, Chef Hamirudin.

Tracia Chan, who won the Gold Award, stated, “Training was fun but also tiring at the same time, as we had to really sharpen our skills and minimise mistakes in order to ensure we could work fluidly in the kitchen.”
“I decided on studying culinary arts because I want to become a food critic one day, and become an expert who really understands the reasoning behind the comments that I provide to the chefs that I evaluate,” reasoned Tracia on her inspiration in joining this industry.

Adrian Yap chimed in, saying, “It has always been my passion to cook and as far as I could remember, I fell in love with the art of cooking since I was 8 years old when I was spying on my mum in the kitchen. There was an experience that pushed me further in the culinary world, when my mum fell sick and I had to take over kitchen duties for the entire family. The smiles that I received from my parents and siblings were life-changing, so much so that it pushed me to further soldier on in this industry.”
Adrian also commented on the preparation process that he had to go through for the competition, “Chef Edwan and Chef Hamirudin guided me in every way they could and even sacrificed their quality time with family just to be present during our training sessions to provide careful supervision and guidance.” Adrian is truly grateful for all the guidance and knowledge imparted from the lecturers and chefs of KDU University College in bringing him up to this level in the culinary industry.

According to Johan Sebastian Chee, “For the competition, I prepared Pan Seared Coriander and Pink Pepper Crusted Duck Breast served with a Parsnip and Potato Puree, Roasted Fennel, Compressed Pears, Red Pepper Tuille and a Raspberry Gastrique. The reason for choosing this particular dish was because I developed it myself, utilising my past working experience to create a dish that infused all the components, flavour profiles and colour onto a plate.” Johan is very satisfied with his accomplishment in bagging a Bronze Award which he believes spur him to do better in the next competition.

Sylvia Chandra stated, “Time management is the most difficult part in the preparation stage for this competition as we needed to juggle our schedule between attending classes and trainings whenever we have the time to do it.”

She further added, “Rest time is almost non-existent as we sacrificed the free gap hours to be in the kitchen practising to perfect our techniques and learn from the mistakes that we made during the training sessions.”

The intensive training regime as well as the stringent supervision from the team coach and team manager have played a major role in escalating the standard of performance of all the contestants in preparing for the actual competition and it was all worth it as they managed to make the institution proud by bringing in excellent results.