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About happenings and events at or by CIAML

“I am coming home, aren’t you happy? … hmm” – Pix added

I thought the following email to my family in the wee hours of 1 Dec 2008 should be a worthy entry documenting my days post graduation …  Gosh, now everything I wrote looked like a blog entry, might as well.

Warning:  This entry documents 22 days of my life, it may take you forever to read, live and  understand how things work, don’t bother and don’t question, it is just about … My Life.

Remark:  Some information were altered or modified for clarity since I last wrote to my family, some information (in fact, a lot) were updated, some information which was shared with my family I prefer to keep Privy & Confy on this journal entry , some information were elaborated for my memories. 

Pix will be added coz it tells a story of my journey… (will be uploaded post Orlando trip).


From: Joys <>
Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 2:28 AM
Subject: I am coming home, aren’t you happy? … hmm
To: “Choo, Beng Kuan” <…>, “Lawrence. Sim” <…>, Pei San Lim <…>, “owd…” <…>, Eileen gmail <…>


My dear husband

My dear sis and bro-in-law

My dear bro and sis-in-law



I am coming home 😉  Please let Dad and Mum know my flight details, it just got confirmed.


I graduated on 21 Nov …  but I wasn’t bumming around … my detailed itinerary is as follows: (gosh I wrote like I was updating my blog entry, later I will just cut and paste into my blog ;p)



22-23 Nov, Sat/Sun.  Spent most of 22 & 23 sleeping (a little end-of-school-term feel, a little jet-lag feel). BK and I were at a neighbour‘s home for chat and wine till 1.30am after we had a Malaysian/Singaporean dinner at Nonya Grill in Missouri City, about 45 min outside Houston.  A celebration of friendship … and my graduation!  


~ French Bread with 2 Sunny-side Up ~

~ French Bread with 2 Sunny-side Up ~

We woke up early for breakfast at our fav French Riviera Bakery Cafe – French baguette with 2 sunny sides up and a cup of coffee.  Then I napped through most of Sat and Sun morn, missing BK’s call before he boarded the flight to Singapore.  By the time I was alert on Sun, BK was close to reaching Singapore.  



Joined my last Houston Dessert Meetup session at Le Petit Paris Bakery in Spring, arranged to meet my secondary classmate Vivian there after 20 long years since we were 16.  Nice!


24-26 Nov, Mon-Wed.  Back at the culinary institute for extra sessions, since the Chefs had to forego their 1 week hols.  The sessions were meant to make up lost hours due to hurricane, my class already completed the required hours as Chef Philippe arranged for class to start 45min earlier than normal everyday for a couple of wks. 


~ 24 Nov ~ Farewell lunch with Jennie and Rafaella before Rafa left for Brazil.


~ With Jennie & Rafaella ~

~ With Jennie & Rafaella ~

~ 25 Nov ~ Farewell lunch with my classmates – 6 of us showed up.  Beers and margaritas for all, except for Elizabeth who is underage at 18. 

~ 6 of us kept to the appointment ~

~ 6 of us kept to the appointment ~




~ 26 Nov ~ A special lunch for the students cooked by the Chefs … Serviced style.  Really nice, but I preferred to have them lunch with us. 


Dinner with some Singaporean/Malaysian friends I got to know in Houston at Guoming’s apartment, the guys bought the ingredients and Guoming prep steamboat for us, they bought durians for desserts [not too late for them to find out then I do not eat durian], I made assorted cookies.

~ Having Fun at Our Thanksgiving Eve Gathering, Our Way ~

~ Having Fun at Our Thanksgiving Eve Gathering, Our Way ~



27 Nov, Thur (Thanksgiving).  Returned to my apt about 4am after playing a fun card game Bonanza – all about beans.  I found out for the past 3 nights I drove without turning on the head lamp fully unknowingly (so much for an experienced driver, ha)?? 


Woke up about 11, Bella had invited me to her home for Thanksgiving.  I was served Puerto Rican food ~ Turkey with tomato rice, mashed potatoes with corn and berry sauce cooked by her mum Sally, with pumpkin pie and pecan pie from Flyer Saucer.


~ With Alexandra and Her Mom Sally ~

~ With Alexandra and Her Mom Sally ~



Planned to meet David and Garren for dinner but knocked out before 6.  Woke up at 10pm, shortly Sarah called, she was in the Heights vicinity with her boyfriend Charles and invited me to join them for a drink.  We would not have many other opportunities to meet after.  I was introduced to Oatmeal Cookie cocktail … nice, and had a few sips of Bud Light.  Charles helped me with the rest.  He showed me some bar tricks so I won’t be fooled.  We chatted till past 3.  Told Sarah, I am lucky I knew her late in my mid-life or I will be drinking my nights away …  Slept at 5+am.


~ An "Oatmeal Cookie" and A Beer Later ~

~ An "Oatmeal Cookie" and A Beer Later ~



28 Nov (Black Friday).  Received sms from Garren at 5.50am asking if I was joining them for shopping.  Nope, I wasn’t ready to forgo sleep for cheaper deals.  I found out later in the day they had not slept that night.  About noon, I drove to Katy Mills… more coz I haven’t been there.  Wasn’t in the mood to shop, spent some time reading in Book-A-Million, bought a few books even with no deals… bought some bake wares … Better at supermarket shopping, was at HEB megastore at Gessner till 10 … I spent quite a bit [and happy] ;p


29 Nov, Sat.  Updated blog on Graduation, a week overdue.  I found it difficult to catch up with past entries.  So said, be present.  I had planned to drive to San Antonio, but I didn’t feel like it then. 


Drove to RAO’s Bakery in Spring, it was part of Houston Dessert Meetup agenda in Jan09, but I will not be here so I checked it out first.  Spent afternoon reading till about 3.  Arranged with Jennifer to visit Phoenicia for the first time ~ she was funny, like a tourist at home.  We had dinner at House of Bowls, spent half hour lost in BW 8/1-10 connection, turned back to Westheimer and took 610N/E instead.


30 Nov, Sun.  Woke up at 2+am, guessed it was too cold.  Couldn’t sleep, again surfed online resources, also listed international shipping contact details as my international shipping was not arranged yet, put up To-Do list.  10am, I was exhausted.  Slept till 1pm.


SQ flight back to Singapore was confirmed.  Confirmed with Chef in Singapore about our appointment on 13 Dec.  Printed some pix, wrote some cards … sad, distracted.  Procrastinated to study Servsafe.  Couldn’t sleep, again slept at 4.


1 Dec, Mon.  Met Chef Kris at about 11am for career plan discussion, … one fine lesson learnt from him ~ plan and be objective-driven.  My vision and objectives remained unchanged, though I need to understand the Singapore market better.  I am clear that family holds an important place in the plan.  We chatted.  Side track – I believe he can be an authority in sous vide if he wants to, I researched the topic a while back coz he spoke about it passionately a couple of times.  Chef Kris set up Servsafe for me to complete at home the next day, free & easy


Chef Philippe handed me the Letter and copies he had prepared for me.  I am thankful for every word he put on my letter, the rest is up to me to live up to and exceed expectations.  Again, never to disappoint or I never did  Forwarded my career plan to Chef, he returned with a list of places I can consider in future for extra lessons to upgrade my skills, which was listed as one of the key objectives in my career plan.  Thank you, Chef!


I completed writing my cards to the individuals ~ each with a personal note.  Each card was specially chosen for the individual, I got a card for CIAML too – a card printed with a message I want to convey to everyone.  Communicated my final thank and hugs for the individuals at the institute.  I decided that it is going to be the last time … The last time.


~ With Sandra @ House of Bowl ~

~ With Sandra @ House of Bowl ~

Had dinner with Sandra at House of Bowls – she preferred to have noodles and we had beef hor fun (rice noodles), egg plants which we both liked, and I must introduce her to the pepper scallion chicken wings which I always enjoyed.  Had Hong Kong milk tea too.




Back in the apartment, received confirmation email from Chef in Orlando that I can drop by the school for a visit and a chat on 3 Dec.  I decided to make a day trip on Southwest Airline, had to pay more for the last minute change for return leg so that I can have a free day on Thursday to do some packing for shipping.  Confirmed flight to Chicago for Sun too, had to pay double for the flight.  Just 2 days early, I would only have to pay $240, couldn’t do so earlier as I was waiting for the Orlando trip to be confirmed, as unused Southwest Airline tickets can be used for future purchase but not cancelled.  Whoosh it, decided not to let it bother me.  


2 Dec, Tues.  Met Jennie for breakfast at French Riviera Bakery.  We had a good chat, decided to meet up again during the week when we have the chance to.  Will miss her.  She is the big sister that constantly watched over me and made sure things worked for me in Houston.  She told me, I will see you next year … I went, oh you are visiting Indonesia soon?  She said No, I have no passport.  We will meet in the US ;~  Was that a request or was that a prophecy … ha.  Love the 3 mice, hopefully not 3 blind mice 😉  She told me it signified the friendship between her, Rafa and me, sweet.


My Last Lesson … I knew she did a lot of homework, lots.  I am definitely going to miss my first French teacher lots.  With her as a baseline ~ Who can I find in Singapore who will conscientiously pour over recipe book to help me understand words … Who will positively reinforce my learning with Tres bien when I pronounced a word rightly or constructed a sentence correctly … Who will watch and listen to how I pronounced words and encouragingly said I can hear it, when I wasn’t even confident of what I just uttered …  Only Sandra.  The word that got my tongue all twisted: ~ûler .. brû~ … brûler.  Got a vocab and verb book each … it will be fun to recognise and read paragraphs in bits and pieces and get the gist, even if I cannot read the sense out of every word.  Je l’aime!  Soon I am going to roam


Still waiting for inspiration to do servsafe test … ha.  Time: 11.31pm… now 2.32am… 


3 Dec, Wed.  This feels so crazy but I am going to do it. 


On my Facebook, I updated my status last midnight Joycelyn has decided to fly to Orlando, for a couple of hours and back… Yes, all in a day.  A friend commented on my FB:  Disney World?   My response:  I am not so crazy … more purposeful than that ;p  Yes, I am going to visit a shop, meet a person I was told to meet, ask whatever I got ready to ask and watch a sugar class in action.


That is how it is going to work for me to fit it all in a day:  

To & Fro Orlando

Arrive in ORLANDO INTL (MCO) at 1:35 PM, 

Depart ORLANDO INTL (MCO) at 7:30 PM.


Chef Charles Carroll wrote, “…I often hear many things from many students but the difference with you is you’re a “doer”  You do what you say you’re going to do...”.  I just realized it myself, doing what I said I am going to do ~ my commitment.  Or more that it is him – like all individuals I look up to – I trust his recommendation and words, and I have no excuses not to pursue great advice.


4 Dec, Thur.  I have better to start packing and know what goes into shipping, what goes into my luggage, what goes into someone else’s home, what goes into the trash.  Indeed, I have mainly books, bake stuff.  My gosh, my fridge is still loaded.  Possibly have to steal some time to meet Vivian too before I leave.


5 Dec, Fri.  Will be visiting Linda & George and little Aaron at Pearland, and of course passionate Scottie for the last time before I leave.   Amongst the exchange of emails, Linda wrote “… and who wants to come walk Scottie?  …”;  Garren enthusiastically went, “… I volunteer Joys to go walk Scottie, since Scottie likes her. Kekeke”;   Then George added, “And in return for the walk, Scottie will give Joy a Big Wet Slurping Kiss….lol.”  Scottie is a 2 year old? schnauzer – a cutie, a smartie and a real charmer.  I never really like dogs, coz they can get too passionate and overwhelming, but he is a sweet, real sweet.  He actually can read my expression when I pouted my lips and he leaned forward to kiss me?  BK loves dogs, but Scottie only likes ladies, ha.


6 Dec, Sat.  My last weekend in Houston. Going to “chiong” (Chinese dialect, loosely translated as party but doesn’t sound right, so maybe hangout) at my fav bakery cafe and read.  Possibly go Museum District and drive round Texas Medical District.  I don’t know, so far, I have never been to where I plan to go except bakery cafes.


That evening, I will have my last dinner date with a great couple I got to know in Houston.  Looking forward to it.


7 Dec, Sun.  Flight to Chicago.  Was supposed to stop over in Chicago en-route home but couldn’t confirm UA flight Chicago-Narita-Singapore.  Completing a 2 Day Choc-Wine Pairing Workshop on 8-9 Dec. I am flying back to Houston instead to take a direct flight back to Singapore.


To Chicago

Sun/Dec 07   Depart HOUSTON HOBBY (HOU) at 12:15 PM 

8-9 Dec, Mon-Tues.  Choc-Wine Pairing Workshop at Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy.   Chef Kris said to check out Alinea if there is one place I want to go – experience and understand the business philosophy.


10 Dec, Wed. 

Fro Chicago

 Arrive in HOUSTON HOBBY (HOU) at 11:45 AM


If all my stuff are in order, then I can have a relaxing day … err.


11 Dec, Thur.  Goodbye Houston! 


To my dearest friends, I will miss ya all! 

To my loved ones in Singapore, I’ll be home in next 24h. 


To Singapore

SQ Flight at 16:50h. 


13 Dec, Sat.  05:30h arrive in Singapore.  Appointment with Chef later in the morning.  Family hours.


~  Home Sweet Home ~



———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 12:26 AM
Subject: Redemption Booking Confirmation
To: xxx

Dear Ms xxx Joysxxx,

You have made a redemption booking with Singapore Airlines for the following trip:
Booking Reference Number: xxx

KrisFlyer Number: xxx

Passenger Name(s): MS JOYS xxx
E-Ticket Number: xxx

You are confirmed on the following flight(s):-
Flight No. : SQ61
Aircraft   : B777-300ER
From       : Houston(IAH – Intercontinental)
To         : Moscow(DME – Domodedovo Intl)
Date       : 11 December 2008
Departure  : 16:50

Flight No. : SQ61
From       : Moscow(DME – Domodedovo Intl)
To         : Singapore(SIN – Changi Intl)
Date       : 12 December 2008
Departure  : 14:25



748 Hours Later ~ I Graduated. My Tributes…

This post is super long, I started and still not completed, but I am posting it or it continues to sit unpublished.  Then I will enjoy my weekend first …


About 20 weeks and 748 hours later … On 21 November 2008 I graduated with a Gold Award Diploma in Sous Chef de Patisserie. (It was also my Mum’s 62th Birthday over in Singapore on 22 November, Singapore being 14 hours ahead of US Central Time, Daylight Saving.)  Six of us were also awarded with The Steven K. Schultz Awards in recognition for Perfect Attendance.

Perfect Attendance.  As far as it is within my control, I will continue to maintain the base expectation of being early and being present.  As far as attendance goes, I had perfect attendance during my schooling years … it must have been my Mum, no missing of classes and there was no question about it, I was brought up to understand it should be so.  I drifted quite a bit during university years but I am glad it was just a short 3 years.

Attitude.  I enjoy the art of learning, the art of enjoying the present moments, and the works of nurture and inspirations.  I remained steadfast in my goal to learn and grow as an individual as well as to inspire growth in people around me.  I believe strongly in staying focused on positive perspectives, for things happened for great reasons in life.  As far as I am concerned, I hold strongly my respect for authority and my peers.  I got better over the years – I learnt to question,  I learnt to accept some decisions, I learnt to let go of my own opinions when they were not crucial or another suggestion made better sense, I learnt to give in when it meant making the other person happier without compromising the end results … I continue to be curious and enjoy learning from the individuals around me. 

Savour.  I am blessed to be here in Houston, even though I was leaving apart from my husband and my family for the past 20 weeks.  It is a gift I treasure a lot.  BK made it possible – he agreed to let me come, and encouraged me to pursue my dream.  It is almost unreal.  Truth be said – I enjoyed and valued my environment, the people I have come to know, and the lessons I learnt beyond the recipes.  Very few things or people bothered me, I accepted what happened, I learnt to take in, chew on it and some I let go, the great ones I held them close to my heart.

Friendship.  I made good friends in Houston – At the culinary institute, some Singaporeans I got to know in Houston, and from Houston Dessert Meetup Group.  To all I have come to know in Houston, I am thankful I got to know you in this part of the world and for some, I believe we will remain friends regardless of where we move on to.  I also accept that some are passer-bys in my life, nevertheless, they contributed to my life journey and played a role while I am here in Houston, and formed my memories.  I am also happy to meet Vivian and Lilian (thanks for hooking us up!) in Houston, have not met both for nearly 2 decades in Singapore.  For all my friends, as the saying goes 有缘千里来相会, 无缘见面也不知… if we are predestined to meet, we would travel great distance to meet and know each other, otherwise even when we meet face to face we would also not be acquainted.  How meaningful!


Graduation signifies the beginning of a new journey for me.  It is only a beginning.  I will continue with the same attitude I brought to Houston.  Dream.  Believe.  Love.  Inspire.


My Graduation Day ~ 21 November 2008,  Central Time

grad-display-with-gold-band_rim1My pix was taken at my graduation display table in the pastry lab, where I worked for the past 9 weeks (lost a week to Ike) – a corner in the back of the pastry lab.

The table display had my wedding cake, pastillage, sugar art, choc icing mousse cake, and choc box.



with-chef_rimMy Chef.  This is is my Level 2 & 3 Chef ~ Chef Philippe.  This is the first time his pix appeared on my journal entry.  And this was why

22 Nov 2008, PM

I just had a chat with my dad via skype earlier, he congratulated me on my graduation.  I told him I am going to finally post a picture of Chef Philippe on my journal entry, and he can get Pei San – my sis-in-law, to print out for him to see how my Chef looks like.  I told him Chef just gave his permission to publish his pix on my blog on my graduation day, my Dad laughed.  Weeks earlier when I just moved into level 2 Baking & Pastry Arts class, during my weekly skypeout update with Dad,  I told him I was “warned” by Chef Philippe not to post his picture on my blog or “you will get points deducted from your grades” … Then it was the evening of the Gala, 5 Sept 2008, I was to complete level 1 the following week and move to Chef Philippe’s Level 2 class.  For every week after that, Dad always asked how I was doing in Chef Philippe’s class and how was Chef that week.  Ha

Seriously, I didn’t think Chef Philippe was serious, but I did not post any.  😉

I enjoyed and learnt a lot from Chef Philippe’s class … I enjoy specific, exact, precise, detailed (do they all mean the same? hee …) methods of instruction… Chef was also watchful and observant to how we performed, and quick to be at our sides to rescue us, even though he expressed it differently in words.  In his class, I learnt to understand the hows and appreciate why I did them the way they were.  … I became more confident in choc and enjoyed choc (specifically mentioned choc coz my feel for it significantly changed and it got cleaner each time) … yes, all the cooking that required specific temperatures (eg vanilla sauce, choc icing), I managed so much better.  Like he said, we have a choice.  I chose to enjoy his sessions and appreciate him as an individual as well as my Chef. 

Every morning for the past weeks, Chef and Sandra drove me to the culinary institute, and back to my apartment on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.  We live across the White Oak Bayou across each other ~ so they are my neighbours…  Pai seh (Chinese dialect, loosely translated ~ shy) … but I am really grateful for their thoughtfulness!

Through Chef Philippe, I got introduced to my first French teacher and gotta know another friend in Houston.  Merci beaucoup, Chef!


Also My Chef.  Chef Sebastien is my Level 1 Chef.  Never had a pix taken with him during my level 1 final as the finals ended abruptly on Day 2 instead of the usual 3 days, due to Ike.  There was no proper closure then.

Chef Sebastien integrated me (I speak for myself…) well into the introduction course at the culinary institute and got me to love and enjoy what I do and learn, and I got to make mistakes and learn from them… along the way, I laughed a lot and remained blur blur.

I remembered Chef Sebastien didn’t like sweet stuff and he is a Pastry Chef, I didn’t like sweet stuff too so I got some reassurance.  Nearing the end of my Level 1, he asked how many of the recipes I liked for the hundreds we had completed, … 4?  OK, now maybe more as my taste buds are changing  … he was “appalled” I only liked the taste of 4 recipes after all he had taught.  Ha.  I really enjoyed the taste of 4, but I could appreciate and memorize the tastes of the others.

Chef Sebastien gave me the reassurance and the calmness I needed that all is well, and would be well.  No words needed.

with-mr-lenotrePresident cum Owner.  I was researching online on culinary programs, read about LeNotre, then about Mr Alain LeNotre and his school in Houston, decided to enrol into CIAML, and was introduced to him during the school tour on my day 2 in Houston.  BK commented he spoke with a lot of passion, assertiveness and sincerity when we met.  

A week into the course, we had an orientation session with Mr LeNotre.  His advice was very practical and direct – he said matter of factly the Chefs in school are good and experienced Chefs, we should learn from them and find out about them and their motivations as much as possible and to do it now…, coz he accepted that they will not stay with the school forever.

About 5 weeks into my course, I blasted my blog address to my friends back home in Singapore and some parts of the world, Jean-Luc found out and soon I got called to Mr LeNotre’s office.  He rounded up our conversation with “Joy, my door is always open“.  I appreciate that he spoke with me, advised me and treated me like I am – a mature student.  I enjoyed his straight forward advice, and he was generous in sharing them.  Through his recommendation, I completed Leadership Lessons from A Chef.  Finding Time to Be Great by Chef Charles Carroll by week 5 of my course, and got started on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a title I knew more than 10 years ago but never got down to reading it … I started and this time I can appreciate what was written).  He had said Joy, you should read this, and I did.    

You should roll down your sleeves … Didn’t your chef ask you to roll down your sleeves? … He showed genuine concern when he noticed I had burnt marks and bruises on my arms … or maybe he was disgustedHa, I couldn’t help it sometimes I was really blur. 

Joy, you are too proper … during a chat we had on being upfront with my personal goals when working for establishments back home.  I remained so, indeed.  Still very proper.

with-chef-krisChef of Chefs.  I got to hear from Chef Kris in my Level 1 a lot, and I heard and appreciated every advice he gave.

Chef’s Topic on Misen Place, 7 July.  3 days into my course.  On preparedness of the mind, on preparedness to start the day.  To be on time means to be early.

Chef’s Club, 23 July.  2 weeks into my course, the first I volunteered.  I still remembered the purple cabbage in reduced red wine sauce, the forced meat and the garlic incident.  We had fun prepping, learning, and … taking lots of notes

Lessons on ServSafe, 4 & 6 August.  4 weeks into my course.  I dreaded sitting still, but my ears were up each time Chef shared his experience, and loads of them.  Even in the most awful working environment, I can learn good lessons of what nots and what I should do when I am in controlMore notes taking.  But his sharing also put me off eating certain food :~

In Pastry Lab Level 1, 27 & 28 August.  After feeling a little disoriented for day 1 due to cups and spoons, I enjoyed Chef Kris’s sessions and his cool and practical ways he confronted each situation.  He taught us to think recipes branching from a basic recipe, to be adaptable, to move it move it …

To the Chefs’ Office, 16 October.  A couple of days earlier, Chef asked if I have been updating my blog entry … it appeared it had been some time since I interacted with Chef Kris, but I realised it was due to Ike as school was disrupted for 2 weeks, and it was 2 weeks since lessons started proper.  Chef soon read my blog updates and I was called to see him regarding my career plan.  I still have not read the 3 books he advised me to.  I graduated but I will be seeing him on Monday for a discussion and complete my ServSafe certification.  I am committed to doing it, because he bothered to.


with-bkMy Buddy, My Hubby.  During my graduation day, I joked that I  finally gotta stand as tall as him.  Smile.  

BK has been constantly there for me … when I first came to Houston and totally disoriented – he made sure I got better in my directions; Then nearly everyday after, we updated each other how our day went virtually;  He was here so that we could celebrate his birthday and spend time together; Then my Graduation week, again he was here even though we were both pre-occupied, he was busy with work and I with Finals… and on my Graduation day, he was there for me every moment I needed him.  He made it so matter of fact, so unconditional…  I am really blessed, really really

He told me just a couple of days ago after he left Houston – he was speaking with someone about me being in Houston and he in Singapore – he wanted me to enjoy what I do, he knew for sure I am focus and I would be heading home to Singapore once I am done… for me, there is no doubt about it.   Like Sarah said about Charles, the same for BK, I would not give him up for the world.  Period.  Ha.


More about my pals later, I should stop somewhere and enjoy today.

Graduation Speech from A Graduating Student

Would you accept making a speech from a graduating student to the graduating students?”  Bob asked me last Tues afternoon (18 Nov 2008).  I was a little apprehensive … I will speak if I have to, but I prefer to be behind the scene or chatting among my circle of friends.  I would, I said.  The topic was left up to me, and that was the most difficult part. 

What shall I say?  What should I say that could be relevant and meaningful to my peers and the audience? What should I say that will remain significant to myself as a graduating student?…  Clueless. 


Tuesday.  I didn’t think about it that night as I need to plan for my mousse cake final the following day. 

Wednesday.  BK and I went out for dinner at House of Bowls and it was a longer dinner than expected as we bumped into Garren and David who were there with another friend Daniel, they joined us at our table and we chatted.  

That night, I couldn’t do much as BK and I had a heart to heart talk … that talk did us great as it always takes some misunderstanding – misunderstanding of perspectives, and resolution to hold us closer, which was why he is my greatest buddy.  I needed to get it out and resolve things before we sleep and sleep sweet, and I was glad we did.

Thursday.  I remained in the Culinary Institute resource centre, flipping through the file of ACF Culinary Review issues, partly to complete my read before I leave, partly to seek inspiration.  I enjoyed the articles, particularly Insider feature on the featured chef and his motivation, about the competition team and their spirit, and novel read on Flavour eg. Cupcake Couture, Unique Boutiques, and others on Wine-food pairing, travelling chef etc.  At the same time, I found out that BK has gone to Galveston with my apartment keys.  So it was a good time to sit down and seek inspiration for my speech.  Before I left the culinary institute, I had scribbled 2 pages of notes and ideas for my speech.

Read your blog, you will know what to include in your speech, BK suggested.  Indeed, my journal entry captured my thinking, the teaching, my learning, the inspiring moments in last 20 weeks…  He reminded me at the right time.

That evening, we decided to have a Mexican dinner at Teotihuacan, the restaurant cafe was packed, yet the service staff remained friendly and efficient.  A tasty grill we had, a Mexican beer for BK and a virgin margaritas for me, and we finished our meal with Tres Leches.  This was the 4th version of Tres Leches I tried, kicked started by Chef Kris introducing us to the Mexican dessert – I had found the cake too sweet, but each time I found it on the menu, I ordered to taste, and I got to like it better and better each time – not sure if my taste bud changed or the TresLeches served got better.  A lady came up to us with tequila shots for sampling, I enthusiastically accepted and soon knocked out when I got back to the apartment.

Friday – Graduation Day.  3am.   I was woken up … don’t you need to prepare your speech?  Yeah, … I finally woke up at 5 to put the thoughts into some words.  I was to scribble another 2 pages of thoughts from my blog entry for my speech.

Before my final lesson started for the day, I completed my scripts in scribbles.  During the break, I was to copied my scribbles onto clean sheets in organised thoughts.

Truth be told, as I thought about my graduation speech, I felt the reluctance more than thinking about my speech … there was this constant reminder the graduation speech signaled my final day at the culinary institute.  As I reviewed my speech in my little corner at the culinary institute, I felt sad again … and I feared my emotion will show in front of the crowd.  I was not prepared to face the crowd with my emotions … I spent time psyching myself to focus on completion and just speak my heart.   

The Keynote Speech?

I didn’t realise I was the keynote speaker till that very moment when I was being introduced by Mr LeNotre.  I was nervous, I breathed in and out hard and controlled.  I focused on completion.  The closer friends were wondering if I would start tearing as I speak, I was worried too – once I tear it would be non-stop and I tend to laugh too and it would be hilarious … I didn’t intend my graduation speech my most embarrassing moment!  The reaction from the audience calmed my nerve, in front of me in the front row where the graduating students were seated was Krystine – the baby in my class and Jill, their presence and particularly Krystine’s laughter reassured me … and each time I felt a tinge of emotion, I just looked at her … (thanks Krystine, you may not know you helped me but you did, ‘cos your laughter calmed me and made me smile).  I remained in control to completion.  Whew~!  ~

The Gist of My Graduating Speech:

1.  A Love Affair ~ About a love affair to live lives without excuses …  a love affair with the science and art of baking & pastry arts, the chefs I learnt from and the friends I learnt with … a love affair savouring each moment in Houston.  Love what we do and do what we love…

2.  Valuable Lessons and Inspiring Moments Beyond Learning Just Recipes – People who inspired me… Chef Sebastien ~ Never Be Late;  Chef Kris ~ Misen Place and Preparedness which Determine the End Results;  Mr LeNotre ~ 10 Good Advice to Be a Good Chef & his generous “Joy, my door is always open“;  Chef Philippe ~ About Choice … Think about what we want to do, how we want to live and choose the way we want to do it…  Simple words great inspirations …

3.  Good Advice & Contacts from 2 External Chefs I got associated with at the culinary institute: Chef Charles Carroll – inspiring quotes from his book Leadership Lessons from A Chef.  Finding Time to Be Great.  … And his recommendation of a chef whose business model I should check out; Chef Enming Hsu – she recommended me a chef I should seek out to be my mentor chef.  I am so thankful!

4.  3 Take-Home Messages:  Be In Charge, Be Ourselves (Be true, Be in love), and Be A Champion in spirit and mindset!  A constant reminder to myself…

5.  Gratitudes ~ Mr & Mrs LeNotre – for their generosity during my time at the culinary institute and for Mr LeNotre’s advice for my career and future;  My Chefs – Chef Philippe and Chef Sebastien for inspiring and challenging me to be better each day, & for their trust and faith in me;  My Classmates and Many whom I called Friends – for introducing me to American junk food (hee…), and the warmth of a friendly & trusting learning environment; The Staff – many of whom I knew by first name, they made me feel so at ease at the institute … Importantly, my loving husband who is my greatest buddy and a cheerleader in my life, and who made things possible for me.

At the end of my graduation speech, Mr LeNotre presented me with a beautifully written letter …  I got to read it only in my apartment, I am really really blessed indeed.


Graduation Day went past in a blur.  Mentally I knew it is not the last day – I still got to attend 3 extra sessions in Chef Philippe’s class, even though we have made up the hours lost to Ike by starting at 7.30am through the past weeks.  I am blessed BK was present for me, and he made it so matter of fact and easy.  I am happy I got to thank the individuals who were instrumental in assimilating me into living a meaningful life in Houston.

Graduated. 21 Nov 2008.

3, 2, 1 …

It was 11pm and BK just got back from a company dinner in Spring.  I just realised I woke up to open the door for him, I don’t remember.  I must have slept since 7pm – while thinking of my mousse cake for tomorrow.  Ha.

Now … a couple of minutes more and it will be a new day.  Suddenly it dawned on me I have 3 more days at the culinary institute before I graduate with a Diploma of Sous Chef de Patisserie.  Just 3 more days

In class today, …

… We had an easy day as Chef Philippe let us play with sugar.  We had just completed The Chocolate Box a day earlier, a day ahead of schedule.  The Sugar Art final will be on Thursday – I am amazed at the number of forms sugar take … clear, bubble, rock, coloured, shaped, pulled, blown etc.  It can be fun but it takes mind, heart and a pair of qualified hands.  Final showpiece

… “So are we having a get-together meal together?” I asked Sarah.  We had been talking about this since our level 1 final, to meet as a class.  Then Ike came and the plan never materialized.  This time, it is time for good-byes.  I don’t know if we came to a conclusion before the end of the class today – but we are going to toast our graduation with margaritas for sure.  Somewhere in Shepherd?  Or still not concluded?  We try to fix a time around everyone – Jill will be going back to Colorado on Sat and will try to make it; Sarah did not want anything before 1pm; I prefer anything after 2pm as BK’s flight back to Singapore is at 4; Ashley’s family restaurant last order for the afternoon is at 3pm; Krystine prefers anytime in the afternoon that will allow her to meet up with us, and go back home to dress up for party that evening …  I am not sure if we concluded a place and time, but it will be on this Saturday.  Farewell …

… Chef Philippe gave us a “surprise” item for Final for tomorrow.  He reminded us it will be 150 points our of 700 points for our Finals.  Remembered he mentioned that we will have a mousse cake for final about 2-3 weeks back – it was 31 October after our chocolate final.  So some of us expected a mousse cake, while some were still clueless.  A chocolate caramel mousse cake with chocolate icing …  After 2 trips over chocolate icing, I must have learnt the necessary lessons to do it right this final time, it gotta be so and I must have no doubt about it.  Lesson #1 learnt:  For small amount, empty the chocolate icing directly from the bowl over the mousse cake, don’t even bother with the laddle.  Lesson #2 learnt:  Warm icing to about 50oC for a thinner and more liquid consistency for easy pour and flow over the mousse cake.  Chef gave us the recipes titled Z’ Final Cake … reminding me that it will the last cake we will do in his class.  We were to know how to go about making the recipes and decide the decorations for the cake.  Final cake …

Yesterday, …

… Exit interview was conducted at 2.30pm for graduating students.  There are 28 of us in the graduating group, not sure if it included the group who have their graduation ceremony postponed to now due to Ike 10 weeks ago.  There were 3 forms to fill – feedback and comments, update contact details and our next steps, placement assistance.  Elyse tried the size of the graduating torque on all of us.  Graduation

Today, …

…  Class finished just before lunch.  I had time to go to the resource centre for some reading.  Will miss the good reads and the number of magazines I can devour at the culinary institute.  Final savour

…  Bob came into the resource centre to look for me.  He asked if I would make a 5-10min speech from a  graduating student to the graduating students.  It is my honor, thank you … .  I have to plan as “words… don’t come easy to me, how can I find a way to …” in front of a huge audience.  What shall I say?  I am clueless now, but I know it will come from my heart.  I will think about it tomorrow after my mousse cake final.  Graduating speech …   

At this moment, … it is about 1am now.   

It hit me once again that life in last couple of weeks and months here in Houston has been a great blessing, a luxury, and a good break to reconcile my thoughts and my mid-life, and I certainly treasure my buddy in BK more.  It is so unreal, and I am indeed blessed to have the opportunity to experience and savour each and every moments.  I am thankful for the people I met and get to know in Houston – many wonderful people I would otherwise never get to know.  For some, I believe we will continue our friendship regardless of where we are for a long time.

It is good that Mousse Cake Final and Sugar Art Final take place over the next 2 days.  That will keep my mind occupied till graduation day.  How do you feel?  Are you excited to go home?  etc  I was constantly asked for last weeks … the first few times I was asked, tears well up easily, now I am more controlled though I can’t say I am more prepared…  BK gave me a reality check last week – his response to me was “I am happy you enjoyed yourself and your experience…”  Indirectly I guess he is telling me to savour each moment and move forward.

我真的很舍不得。。。 可是我会珍惜,我会回味 。。。我在Houston所经历的一切, 我所认识的每一个朋友。尤其我的导师们,我衷心向您致谢!

My Wedding Cake Final

I started this entry on the day I finished my wedding cake final on Tuesday, but was too flat tired to write.  Now I am continuing the entry, hopefully I finished this so that it is not further backlogged.

11 November 2008

Feeling really happy … and flatly exhausted.  Mentally it was a blur now, the brain just needed to a re-supply of oxygen.

We presented our wedding cake final today.  From dreaming about it during the hurricane, to first draft, to the week before final to actual – things just evolved from ideal to realisation to realistic expectation and connection, but somehow I was happy things turned out … with its own flavour.  I had first dreamt a wedding cake with Calla Lily and Lilies of the Valley bouquet – a simple white, green, yellow combination, the use of Lilies for a significant meaning due to its Chinese name 百合 (百 literally means hundreds, to mean lots, bountiful … 合 literally means reunion, togetherness…);  Nearer the date I thought of Orchids – even though the national flower for Singapore is Vanda Miss Joaquim, a type of hybrid orchid, my feeling for orchid was not strong enough to create a decent looking piece to my expectation;  Back to my own wedding – I decided to create a Bridal Bouquet with Rose as a focal flower…  The actual creation was different from my bridal bouquet, but exuded an oriental flavour which was not planned or intended.  Things somehow evolved.





The Books

I started researching way back in September, till it was disrupted by Ike as internet was down.  I narrowed down to 2 key authors – Nicholas Lodge for all areas covering sugar craft on cakes , Alan Dunn on sugar flowers and his books on flowers were inspiring and awsome – I got his books on Sugar Roses, Sugar Orchids and Sugar Exotic Flowers, and got another book by Toba Garrett who is a Master Pastry-Chef Instructor in Cake Decorating with ICE.  The ones with the most realistic and inspiring flowers and techniques definitely goes to Alan Dunn’s books.  Nicholas Lodge and Toba Garrett covers a wider aspect in cake decoration.

The Tools and Miscellaneous

Jennie was a great help.  She brought her whole tool box and cake decorating books for me without me asking, because she “already got them, and you can use them” … That was very generous, I really appreciate her thoughtfulness.  Really, she was not expected to lend me her stuff and I didn’t even know she has the tools or the books.  My sincerest heartfelt appreciation to Jennie.  I spent some time dissecting her toolbox and books understanding what were available and their uses.

I decided to try petal dusts.  Yes, I love to have plum colour as a theme but never found that colour.  That was how my colour evolved.  Weeks ago, I saw copper among wilton colours and wonder it could go into piping, it finally did and I like the copper tone on the cake.  When I thought of something, I just had to get it and try it, I rented a car on Friday and enjoyed my wedding cake retail therapy at Make a Cake and Michael’s over the weekend.  I found the former to be more complete in equipment and colours.  It was my first attempt on Houston freeways and realised my sense of direction was not too bad afterall, no choice too, I guess.

Gearing Up

Chef said we could make flowers at home if we want to.  I was to spend a weekend reading Alan Dunn’s books before I even embarked on making the flowers late Sunday night.  I learnt from listening, observing  and reading (I needed the theory to execute, as I did in learning bowling, skiing and media campaign etc.  I am a high C on DISC personality – a need to understand why.)  Some observations became an obsession, I guess ~~~  that leaves of roses are compound leaves which comes in 3s, 5s or 7s with the bigger leaf on the outer edge and get smaller further down the branch ~~~  that a bridal bouquet has 1 focal flower, in my case, a single large rose, accompanied by few medium size roses, and more baby roses, with decreasing sizes as the flowers cascaded down the cake ~~~  that the calyces of the roses were in 5s and the hairs on the edges of the calyces are of a specific number (It even has an old country saying that goes, “two with two and two without, one with one and one without”, gosh).   I would love to include magnolia or rose hips or rosette succulent as a secondary flower accompaniment but again all 3 I chose required plum colour – I just had this knick for the plum colour tone – exotic, cool elegance. 


My rose colour.  I like pale, but not white … like cheerful colours but not red …  how the colour came about, I just added copper in small quantity and it became orange tone!  For the medium and small roses, I cut stencils from the template from Alan Dunn’s book, for the focal rose, I rolled the gum paste using the spoon like how Chef taught us.   On Monday itself in class, I decided on an evergreen succulent plant called strings of pearls from South-East Africa, but alas I left my green tape in my apartment, and decided to go ahead with brown tape for brown stems instead.  Thus the colour yet again evolved, and things happened for a good reason – the brown complemented the copper tone nicely.  End result was that my evergreen string of pearls started to take on the look of pussy willow – a cotton-like flowering plant we commonly have during Chinese New Year in spring.  Slowly, I felt that my wedding cake took on an oriental look.

Piecing Them Together

On Tuesday, I knew I would have time to piece them together and complete by 3pm.  In my heart and my mind, I told myself, there was only one way – it just gotta work!  And things fell in place nicely.  At one point, while trying out the arrangement on my practice cake styrofoam, the balance was disrupted when I removed my focal rose, my key bunch of cascading roses with the styrofoam tipped over and got caught by my apron … Sarah and Jill came over to my side to ensure none of my flowers crashed to the ground, I gave both of them a big hug after.  My heart beat did not go faster, I believed my heart literally dropped … and I felt my heart beating fast only when I left to the break room to take a gulp of water.  Thank God!  

I was about done, and I was exhausted and dehydrated … and hyper.  It was all mind over body.  Chef gave us time to complete and continue the following day.  No, it had to be completed that very day, not the next – it is all in my mind.  And it was surely completed  by 2.

Our Class Final Wedding Cakes:

~ To Each His & Her Own ~

~ To Each His & Her Own ~

Alas, all the cakes were completed and arranged alongside our pastillage show pieces in the lunch room.  It was so amazing – each cake reflected a different ideal, personality and possibly age.  Nice! 


At the Beginning

Last Thursday, a day after Pastillage final (will enter into the journal later), we mixed our fondant and gum paste dough for use on Friday.  Then Friday, we rolled down the fondant to cover 3 cakes and a cake board.  For most of the class, it took a morning, for me it took me from past 8 till noon.

The fondant story.  Lightly greased the styrofoam cake rounds with shortening.  Knead the overnight rested fondant well and drape over.  Chef again made it sound so easy, but it couldn’t be so difficult either, coz nearly everyone was almost done with dressing 3 styrofoam rounds to form a 3 tier cake plus the cake board.  And me?  Still fiddling with first one, the lowest tier.  The fondant was so hard I could hardly pressed it roll it down.  I tried 3 times over with 2/3 of my fondant … ie draped over styrofoam, … no good – mainly due to cracks on dough …the dough was too hard – undo and start over.  The texture no longer felt right … Trash it and get from the container, Chef Philippe said to me …  Gosh, I felt like I was cheating using rolled fondant from the container … anyway I got the bottom tier done with it.  For next 2 tiers and cake board, I used the fondant I made, this time, I knew I could use the microwave to soften the fondant and really get it soft once and for all.  So it was completed, yes, half a day on rolling fondant.  And my shoulders were to ache for the whole weekend.


Things fell into place … nicely.  I was amazed what we can do from these weeks of learning from Chef.  I am not too sure though if I will ever do wedding cakes … seems too distant … except for the 3 I promised my friends when they get hitched.