Category Archives: Work / Attachment / Opportunities

The Intent Is Still Strong …

This is just a quick note that my blog is still active.  Or at least the intent is there. 

My last post since 6 January fronted my blog for the longest time, and each time I logged on, the intent was to update my journal, but alas both the mind and the body were weak and I either chose to continue my read or do some site surfing instead… I was tired after a day in the pastry kitchen … was it my excuse or my reason?  Ha.  Once upon a time, I was aching all over and my legs were puffy, now every task seemed easier and more focused.

I have been with a pastry kitchen for the last 3 months, and this stint shall end on 27 March, next Friday.  I chose the day because it was the last Friday of the month.  Whatz next?  Many asked.  I will be going to Osaka from 1-12 April, hopefully to return a greater inspired soul.  BK will be there for a conference, and he asked if I want to tag along.  Japan … of course.  It remains my annual pilgrimage since 2000, and I made at least 1 trip each year.. oh no, not 2008, I was in Houston for half a year.  I used my last balance of mileage rewards since my regional travelling days (2005-2008) to confirm a return ticket.  This is going to be a patisserie cum boulangerie hopping trip, more than that, I need inspiration and ideas on what’s next for me.  I remain free spirited, happily so.  Then whatz next?  I know when I am ready.  It certainly makes me feel better psychologically than if I say I don’t know.

I have lots to update about the pastry kitchen.  Chef K often asked me, “Are you ok?”  Always, Chef, I am always ok.  Chef commented I am always happy and smiling …  Indeed, after 3 months, I remain so.  Full of energy each time I don my uniform and enter the kitchen.  I share a trusted relationship with the team I worked with, and I realised the results were almost always up to me to create.  I choose to start well, I will also end off well.  There was one particular morning, Yes! only that once…  I felt tired, then I realized I was dragging my heavy feet, that very moment, I caught myself and I sprinted up the steps, and I forced a smile before I stepped into the kitchen, and the rest was history, I had a great day.  I remembered a co-worker commented, You are always so happy and energetic… I admitted I did not start that day that way but I forced it and everything else went to the back of my mind when I was in the kitchen.

Till today, many were still puzzled why I left my last job which easily paid double what a pastry chef in Singapore would get … more wondered why I bother to work without a pay and yet still so committed.  The few I shared with may not fully comprehend when I shared with them ~ I decided from that moment on I live a life with no complaints and no excuses!  I practise feeling and being so each day.  Not perfect, and still getting better.

I choose My Life.  I appreciate what I have, and I choose to be happy right now!  Indeed.

Regarding the training stint with the hotel, I appreciate that Chef K trusted me enough to accept me into the kitchen, the team trusted me enough that I worked solo in production at the work space allocated to the EQX team while they  set up the buffet and high-tea, and some trusted me enough to share with me their hopes and dreams and frustration in their current roles.  I believe I earn this trust.

I have lots to update in this journal for myself as I move forward in my life, the journey and my fulfilled experience at Hotel F.  I learnt a lot and still do, I have 2 notebooks filled with recipes and notes, as the Chef Kris and Chef Philippe always advised … take notes.  

Yesterday, Chef K returned to the kitchen after a week in Japan, he was there to judge a pastry competition.  I informed him officially that my last day with the kitchen is next Friday.  He said “I would like to employ you, but I can’t at this point…”, there is a recruitment freeze, officially or unofficially, facing the hospitality industry (rather, the market in general) due to the economic situation.  I was happy I have a choice, I said “It is ok, Chef.  I don’t want to be employed.”  This is definitely NOT a sign of arrogance from me, rather I have not decided what I would venture in next and I made a decision last June to leave employment to venture beyond the pharmaceutical field familiar to me, I am not about to give it up so soon.

Till I consolidate my pix and my notes of my volountary attachment for the last 3 months.

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Christmas Cheers from the Pastry Kitchen

I stayed up to post these pix and update my journal entries… fell asleep at my laptop halfway … now wide awake at 3.10am in the morning.  Will complete this entry and catch a few winks before I wake up for another new day in the pastry kitchen.  Look forward to each day, as always – it all begins in the mind.

This is my first time working in a real pastry kitchen, and I enjoyed the busi-ness and cheers of the Christmas season as a pastry staff in a hotel pastry kitchen ~ these pix paint a thousand words …

christmas-buffet

christmas-decor

I joined the pastry team during the time when they were in the thick of action prepping for Christmas.  There were lots to do and learn.  I minimally learnt at least a new recipe each day, and the Sous Chef ensured that, somehow.  I am thankful, indeed.  I enjoyed working with the team very much – very giving in spirit, and it was not limited to the Christmas season, for sure.

Christmas buffet started from 1 December 2008 – buffet plates were decorated with coloured sprinkles, sugared snowman, sugared Santas, sugared deers, chocolate stars, chocolate Christmas trees, snow powdered “snowland”, Christmas colours of green, red, white, even gold, … Merry Christmas tags etc – and the last day these decor were used was on 4 Jan 2009.  New year buffet menu started on 5 Jan.

Chocolates were done in the chocolate room, by a dedicated staff.  A staff will be allocated to the chocolate room on average 6 month rotation basis.  Chocolate decorations were always ready when we needed them, we just need to pick and choose from the chocolate drawers in the various cabinets in the chocolate room.   The staff will see to specific chocolate order request too.  Pralines were not done in the hotel, but ordered from a luxurious French chocolate brand.

panettone

During one of the chef’s meeting with EPC called regularly in the pastry kitchen – usually in the afternoon about 3pm when 2 shifts are present – EPC rewarded the pastry team with a Panettone specially flown in from Italy.  A full 10kg load of Panettone … wow.  EPC shared that we do not have the fresh yeast in Singapore to proof a Panettone of such volume.  Light and airy.  In the past, I might just eat the breads and cakes, without thinking that each had a name and not realizing these were available only during Christmas.  I started to be aware and pay attention, and take interest.  At another chef’s meeting, we shared a medium size version.  The small ones were retailed as Christmas items.  Took a pix with EPC, he said I could share the pix with my friends 😉

log-cake-piping

One afternoon, I was asked to help out at the Banquet/Function team with Yule log cakes.  I was happy to get the opportunity even though I was just scratching the lines on the buttercream for the logs, coz Christmas only happened once a year and these tasks were not done on daily basis.  The team was hard at work till Christmas day as no order was rejected.  Possibly due to a slow down in economy, up till a few days before Christmas, orders for the Christmas items were below plan as well as below that of prior year.  Kudos to the effort by the sales team, and the pastry team working behind the scene, the final tally of Yule log cakes sold was at least comparable to previous year. 

christmas-celebration for kitchen team

On 23 Dec afternoon, a Christmas celebration was organized by the Director of Kitchen for all kitchen staff – both hot and pastry kitchen.  Definitely a good spread cooked by the main kitchen for all.  For once, wine and champagne were allowed during working hours.  We took turns to celebrate as the pastry kitchen were still in the thick of prepping for Christmas.  Took this opportunity to have a pix taken with the pastry chef as well as the Director of Kitchen.

christmas-in the pastry kitchen

christmas-fun-time in the kitchen

I worked on Christmas day for the first time in my years of working, and voluntarily so, to experience the Christmas brunch crowd and the special brunch spread that we prepared.  I realized most staff in the hospitality industry worked during the festive as these are critical business period.  The pastry team had a Christmas celebration in the pastry kitchen on the eve or rather at the wee hours of Christmas day.  I was not present – my family had a Christmas gathering at home, and I chose my working hours to end around evenings on a daily basis so that I can spend time with BK after his work.  On Christmas day, we celebrated a staff’s birthday with an ice cream cake made by the “ice-cream man” in house – yes, like the dedicated staff for the chocolate room, the pastry team has a dedicated staff for the ice cream room, also on a six month rotation basis.  For those of us who were not present during the pastry team Christmas eve celebration, we received our exchange of gift through lucky draw.  For the gift, which each of us was to contribute a gift no less than S$13 and it must be unisex, I received a belt, which the pastry chef wore it for fun and joked that it was a wrestler’s belt.  Lots of laughter that day.

Christmas …  It was a great time to start with the pastry team indeed.  Definitely a busy time – lots to do and learn, with volume and repetitions – yet only over a limited period after which menu were changed for the new year and again, more to learn … it was a fun time too!

Ain’t I lucky?  I am indeed thankful …  Cheers.

fruit-tarts

Colourful Fruit Tartlets for One of the Private Functions

An Enriching 2 weeks to Year Close … My Attachment in Brief

It has been 18 days since I returned to Singapore, and minus a day since I last penned something on this blog.

In Singapore, it is the beginning of the last day to 2008.  Dec 31 2008.  It is 12.15am now.

It is my intention to continue updating my journal and learning on this blog even though I have uprooted from Houston.  … For the last 2 weeks, I opened my blog everyday (yes, every single day) with the intent to pen down something, then I was too sleepy to continue and zonked out soon after.  Why?  I have been working hard… ha.

I will update the events separately (hmm … the intent is there!) coz each was exciting in its own right.  But since I came back to Singapore, I have been kept on the go, I am happy to be so and intend to continue to be so.

In brief, I touched down Singapore on 13 Dec, started my “attachment” with hotel* on 15 Dec.  Yes, immediately … I considered attending CIAML for the last 5 months in Houston a mental break and a good rest.  I have rested sufficiently and was eager to enter the real kitchen.  (*For my own privacy as well as the hotel and the Executive Pastry Chef (a.k.a. EPC) who provided me the opportunities to do OJT, unless it was shared personally with the individuals in private, the hotel name and individual names will be kept confy in these entries).  My luggage was left unpacked, my box of reference books was apparently left at the post office waiting for my collection.

The hotel group has approximately 2000 rooms.  Sufficiently big to keep the pastry kitchen busy.  There are 4 sections to the central pastry kitchen – one in charge of misen place for a complex consisting of fine French dining, buffet, ala carte, another an Italian restaurant, another for function & banquet, and a section for bakery.  I am currently attached to the first, and will be rotated after a month in each.  There are a total of 50+ staff for the pastry kitchen, about half worked in each swift – but many worked more than 12 hours, I observed.

Oh …. “attachment” means I chose the EPC I would like t0 work with, researched the establishment, felt excited enough to offer my service.   Voluntary, to be exact.  Free, if it was not apparent enough.  To be more exact, I am learning for free, and I am definitely learning in an environment that keeps me positive and learning for the last 2 weeks.  I am happy to have been given this opportunities and made this choice.  EPC emphasized during staff briefing on several occasions – seize the opportunities to learn. 

The section I worked with right now is led by a pastry chef, assisted by a junior sous chef, 2 commis cooks 1, 1 commis cook 2, 1 commis cook 3, and  2 students on mandatory attachment from a local culinary institute – 1 student is a German lady armed with a Masters in Law, another a guy in his mid-30s who career switched from a technical field.  It is also not surprising by now that only the pastry chef, and the guy were about my age.  I learnt a lot from the young team.  I was surprised they were so open with the recipes, so open to share, and I entered with a strong learning mindset, no doubt.  Last week, I received a comment from the Sous Chef that I was “OK” to everything – that was to whatever I was asked to do (yes, so long as it will not harm anyone or the establishment), I am indeed.  My response was For the next 3 months, I am OK to do anything.  Then again, in the last 6 months, I was OK to do anything to facilitate my learning too.  So … if I continue this attitude as I progress, everything would be OK and I will retain my positive approach to living each moment, savour each opportunity that comes along.

I have a strong belief – I can learn a lesson from every situation.  It could be a technical skill, a recipe, the method for a big recipe … it could be a lesson drawn from a negative demonstration (Something I always remembered from Chef Kris’s advice during ServSafe – I may not in the position to make a change to the situation then but I would have learn an important lesson what not to do when I am in control in future), from the working ethics of the colleagues around me, from a miscalculation – never a mistake but always a learning … also all these serve to shape my vision.

The pastry chef asked me yesterday about my plan after 3 months with the hotel… I don’t know, Chef.  I will let you know as long as it becomes clear to me soon.  I only have a vision, and I only need to ensure my actions support the vision. 

In the last 12  working days, we already had 5 staff briefing by Exec Pastry Chef.   The  focus was mainly on Christmas and festive – the orders, versus plan budget, the occupancy etc… admist the updates, EPC shipped in a super huge (weighed 10 kg) Panatone from Italy to share with the pastry team for Christmas, he prepared learning materials on Creams, Christmas Breads & Cakes and their origins, a major fridge and freezer clean up shortly post Christmas day …  He showed a passion to teach and train, he couldn’t reinforce enough – seize the opportunities to learn.  EPC shared that when he first started out, he was allocated to do menial tasks, and wasn’t taught much by his chef then … he resolved to share as much as possible with his team, even the trainees in his charge.  Wow.

To sum up my sentiments based on my experience thus far, I am blessed to be contributing in this pastry kitchen, which I believe to be one of the biggest in town.  How the experience turns out is within our control, it is all how we perceive.  I choose to remove my tainted glasses, and see the world with a fresh lens, a renewed angle.

In the midst of my interaction with the team in the kitchen, I bear in mind a key advice which Chef Philippe wrote for me “The Chef is always right” … “The Chef is always right”.  This proves useful.  EPC also voiced the same sentiments how we view our customer – “… Do first, clarify later”.

I hope to uploads some pix before the close of the year to put last 2 weeks in perspective.  I do not work on 31 Dec 2008 … I chose not to.  Chef said I have a choice coz I am a special case – I am not on staff payroll.  I intend to spend my morning having my early morning breakfast with BK before he takes the train to work, a second McD breakfast with my mum and my 3 nieces … then start my own orientation process with the pastry suppliers in town to check out ingredients, home use equipment, home use utensils.

As the last day of the year approach for all my friends in Houston, may we all live a life well lived!  I give thanks that I met you in my life.