Tag Archives: Inspirations

Reading Life’s Journeys … (completed)

I spent most of my time reading ~ even when I am shopping, munching pastries and sipping coffee, lazing about in my apartment, waiting for BK to finish his wind-surfing during weekends while in Singapore, in between actions …

This is a simple book that caught my eyes yesterday, found it in a half price book store at Rice Village:  Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers… by Fred Rogers 

Selective phrases resonate in me –  which I strongly believe in in living my life , and some which set me thinking ~ which I will hold them dear to live my life.  These 2 I did not separate…

Foreword by Joanne Roger

1.   …  always allowed each other to have own space … but even when we were apart, we were connected ~ pp4.

2.  …  had a heart that had room for everyone, and … fascinated by other people’s journeys ~ pp5.

3.  …  “we” and “our” – … so much a part of my ongoing journey ~ pp6.

As late Fred Rogers shared:

Who You Are Right Now

1.  … that I’m more able to accept myself as I happen to be, rather than as somebody thought I should be ~ pp 13.

2.  … the discovery of “who I am” in each of us – the “who I am” in relation to all those whom I meet ~ pp 14.

3.  … we all need to feel that we can bring the whole of ourselves to the people who care about us ~ pp 16.

4.  … if we can allow ourselves to be gentle with ourselves no matter what our feeling may be, we have the chance of discovering the very deep roots of who we are ~ pp 25.

5.  … “~ (need to refer again, can’t understand what I wrote too)” Quoting Dalai Lama ~ pp 26.

6.  … “I can do almost anything, but I’m still myself, I’m still myself, I am still myself inside…” Quoting song I’m Still Myself Inside  ~  pp 28.

7.  … people can like you exactly as you are  ~ pp 29.

8.  … nobody else can live the life you live… we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to life  ~  pp 31.

9.  … we were never made to feel that we had to be somebody that we were not, yet we were always encouraged to choose to be the best of who we were at the moment ~ pp 35.

10. …  there’s a part of all of us that longs to know that even what’s weakest about us is still redeemable and can ultimately count for something good ~ pp 36.

11.  …  And one reason we feel shy is that we’re not sure people will like us just the way we are ~ pp 37.

12  …  It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are.  Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true:  What we are determines what we do! ~  pp 44.

13.  …  people of all ages have deep feelings, and if we have the patience to wait through the silence, it’s often astounding what people will tell us  ~  pp 45.

14.  …  some of us must have forgotten how nourishing silence can be … whatever it’s called, it’s time away form outside stimulation, during which inner turbulence can settle, and we have a chance to become familiar with ourselves  ~ pp 47.

15.  …  “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” ~ The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery  ~ pp 54.

Loving and Being Loved

1.  …  anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person – and often many – who have believed in him or her.  We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others  ~  pp 65.

How true.  With my persistence held strong, I made one attempt after another … I ventured new grounds ~ all ‘coz someone believed that I am better than the self I judged, all ‘coz I heard “you can do it”… Joy

2.  …  as relationship matures, you start to see that just being there for each other is the most important thing you can do …  ~ pp 68.

3.  …  the best gifts are often wrapped in the most unspectacular way … isn’t it the “heartsurprise” that lingers in your memory and serves to nourish you from year to year?  ~  pp 69.

4.  …  there is something so comforting to realize that life goes on one way or another – even when those we love are way beyond our sight  ~  pp 71.

(con’t from my break…)

5.  …  coz deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves.  What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then  ~  pp 73.

I hold this close to my heart ~ I smiled when I saw the smile from her eyes from the small wins in class, I smiled wider when I knew how the wins made her day – I was happy and I scored a bigger win too.  It is definitely more satisfying than the solitude of winning all alone.  Joy

6.  …  every human being has value … through living each day as it is given to me, I’ve learned that.  It cannot be “taught”, but it can be “caught” from those who live their lives right along with us.  What a privilege to be able to look for the good in our neighbour!  ~  pp 76.

7.  …  we speak with more than our mouths.  We listen with more than our ears  ~  pp 79.

8.  …  feeling good about ourselves is essential in our being able to love others  ~  pp 86.

9.  …  it’s so great that people can be in a relationship with each other for the now and not a whole lot of baggage from their past and a whole lot of anxiety about the future to the present moment  ~  pp 90.

10.  …  there is a close relationship between truth and trust  ~  pp 93.

11.  …  where would any of  us be without teachers – without people who have passion for their art or their science or their craft and love it right in front of us?  What would any of us do without teachers passing on to us what they know is essential about life  ~  pp 94.

12.  …  the receiving in life to me is one of the greatest gifts that we give another person.  And it’s very hard.  Because when you give, you’re in much greater control.  But when you receive something – you’re vulnerable  ~  pp 97.

This is one area I need to continuously work on.  I love to give, and it is more natural to me …  By being a poor receiver, I made things awkward for the giver sometimes.  I have improved, I learnt to smile and say “thank you” for each compliment, each gift, each blessing… I learnt to let the giver know I truly appreciate the gift.  Joy

13.  …  all of us – were created by LOVE.  Love with a capital L.  And we spend our lives trying to recognize that we truly are lovable and capable of loving  ~  pp 100.

BK and I believe in living our lives with Love.  Love drives us crazy sometimes, or do we call it passion?  Love resonates in us like a rhythm, it moves up and down  … it gives the heart beat to every friendship we value, every action we took.  Joy 

14.  …  if you’re trusted, then people will allow you to share their inner garden – what greater gift!  ~  pp 101

Guided Drift

1.  …  there’s often a tendency for us to hurry through transitions.  We may feel that these transitons are "nowhere at all" compared to what’s gone before or what we anticipate is next to come.  But you are somewhere … you’re “between”  ~  pp 106.

2.  …  isn’t it mysterious how so many wonderful things in life come to us seemingly without our planning?  We start travelling down one street, and we find ourselves interested in something we never expected on a side street; and as we explore it, the side street becomes the main road for us  ~  pp 107.

I came to understand, from each present position I set my future, I only continue in my present position.  But if I start moving along and explore beyond, I find new inspirations, meet new people who share my journey, break the rules and savour the present moments.  Joy 

3.  …  “what do you think that means, ‘ the past is prologue’?” … I think it means, “Man, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”  ~  pp 110.

4.  …  when you can actually integrate what you’ve learned with your own personality – when you can actually use your education to be who you want to be, to choose out of that mixed bag of explorations what you want to call yourself.  That’s when your education adds an extra measure of excitement!  ~  pp 115.

5.  …  there is much more to independence than learning to master new skills.  One fo the most important parts of independence is learning to form new relationships with other people  ~  pp 120.

6.  …  there are time when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help  ~  pp 122.

7.  …  it may be that the most important mastery we achieve early on is not the mastery of a particualr skill or particular piece of knowledge, but rather the mastery of the patience and persistence that learning requires, along with the ability to expect and accept mistakes and the feelings of disappointment they may bring  ~  pp 123.

8.  …  try your best to make goodness attractive.  That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given  ~  pp 136.

9.  …  we don’t always succeed in what we try – certainly not by the world’s standards – but i think you’ll find it’s the willingness to keep trying that matters most  ~  pp 139.

10.  …  in fact, no one gets to be a graduate without the investment of other people:  people who have loved you all along the way  ~  pp 147.

I believe in living my life journey and in sharing this journey with all who trust me – I have been inspired by great individuals and in turn I seek to continuously inspire & give.  Joy


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.

Believe that It Would Be A Great Day…

I didn’t remember what time I slept, it was a deep sleep.  I must be recovering from some slept debt the week earlier.  I woke up this morning, my head on 2 cushions over an open book.  The book which I purchased over Amazon.com had arrived in a box at my doorstep the previous evening – Grand Livre de Cuisine Alain Ducasse’s Desserts and Pastries by Frederic Robert, I managed to read only the preface

I found the book title a couple of weeks ago while looking at the Sur La Table website.  It was an autographed copy and would cost US$195.  I had read that Alain Ducasse had previously worked for Mr Gaston Lenôtre during the summer months in 70s during his apprenticeship, and Frederick Robert spent “a season with the great Gaston Lenôtre in Paris, for intense study in basic and classic pastry”.  He wrote the original French version of “Grand Livre,” named Best Dessert Book in the World by The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2002.  This English version won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2007.  “He’s more about ingredients, flavors, using the best product.  He’s of the Ducasse school- product freshness, texture, flavors. And a mix of flavors inside the dessert.”  Couldn’t find it in Barnes & Nobles, I found the book on Amazon.com later.

I stared at the clock and it was 5.29, at that point I couldn’t decide if it is evening or morning.  Then I recalled arriving back at my apartment from school at 7pm the night before, so it was time to get up for school.  It was so amazing, I did not set the alarm and I actually woke up at the right time.  Usually I would need some help – a wake up call from BK, yes, a wake-up call from overseas everyday.  Usually it is from Singapore, but now it could be from Hong Kong, Korea, or Australia or US in the next 4 months.  He couldn’t call me today as my mobile phone ran out of pre-paid value the previous day.  I decided today was going to be a great day!   

As I left my apartment at 6.45am, the sky was dark and gloomy, which was unusual.  I stood at the bus stop, half the sky above me was covered in dark clouds, and the other half in the direction of school was gray.  It was windy and comfortably cool.  It was 7.02am.  I saw the familiar Mexican man dropping off at the bus stop at the cross junction, we had both waited for the bus in vain the previous day and aborted the wait at 7.15am, he walked to work a couple of stops away while I hopped into April’s car.  I will see him at the bus stop almost every morning if he manages to catch the bus connections, he needs 4 bus connections from his home near Galleria to work at Memorial area.  I have no complaints – I only need 2. 

It started pouring heavily the moment we got on bus 40.  I was really thankful.  I was also thankful I was in a passenger seat and not the driver’s seat.  A couple of stops later, I got off at Ella @ 34th Street.  Still pouring.  While waiting for the pedestrian signal to turn green in my favour, I saw my next connection 23 arriving at the bus stop.  I got on the bus on time.

“Today will be a good day!”, the man in gray beard exclaimed to me.  I see this elderly man everyday, even when I missed the bus and took the next, he would be there too.  He wears a uniform with Cornerstone logo.  The last time he spoke to me was many weeks ago, I was reading a book on Julia Child.  He knew about her too.  Curious, I asked him why he thought so.  He starting sprouting “wizard” and “witches”.  With the downpour, I could barely hear him.  “It is pouring, the witch will stay home, so today will be a good day”, I heard him this time.  Obviously noticing my ignorance, he further explained.  So he was referring to the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West.  I had no idea about the wizard or the witch.  But I believed that today will be a great day!  “Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding Dong!…” He broke into a tune.  Ha!  The impatient bus driver nearly drove off when he didn’t get up to get off at the requested stop.  What a perspective!  I cherished this positive insight from a stranger early in the morning.

I did a google search and realised that “…Dorothy confronts the Wicked Witch of the West, throws a bucket of water on her, and the Witch melts into a puddle of scum…”.  So the elderly man was right!  Today indeed  was a great day!

In the pastry lab, we would make Baba dough and Frozen Bombe today.  First recipe – with Jennifer as my partner, we did our Baba dough differently from the other 3 groups, we decided to mix the dough in the mixer, and leave the melted butter out, only to pour it over the dough in a metal container, cover and proof.  The other groups had mixed the butter into the dough before proofing.  Chef assured us both ways would work.  An hour later, we got a little worried when we saw the dough had not risen much.  Have we put in the yeast?  Yes, we did!  And he said expectantly, we shall see later.  Then when the rest of the class started to roll the dough, we still got to mix the butter into the slightly-risen dough in the mixer.  We were once again iffy… As it turned out, our dough was easily rolled into smooth ball without flour, as Chef had said about the Baba dough.  The mix from the other teams were stickier and required flour.  We learnt our first lesson – explore and believe.  Cool!

Next we started on Vanilla Ice Cream, which was to go into making Frozen Bombe.  I had scrambled my vanilla sauce before on medium heat so I was careful.  Instead of low heat I did the last time, I tried medium low instead, things went smoothly… the bubbles started to disappear, indicating the sauce was about to be ready.  It happened again, this time was better but just as bad? – no scrambled egg chunks but many tiny egg crumbs formed and they just wouldn’t go through the sieve.  Robert came over and exclaimed wow, scrambled eggs!  Chef came over with his brows frowned, and he asked me to get him some bacon from cuisine lab.  That time, I was not sure if I should be amused or to feel guilty as I was the stirrer who made the sauce.  We skipped our 10am break to redo the sauce.  Things went smoothly this time.  Another lesson learnt – stir vanilla sauce on Low heat till nape.  We were the last to use the ice cream machine, and got to learn from Chef how to clean the parts.  Nice!

~Strawberry Sorbet Prep~

~Strawberry Sorbet Prep~

We managed to catch up with the rest of the class.  While doing the  strawberry sorbet which would also go into making the bombe, I decided to level the entire small container into a HUGE basin so we could get the temperature lowered to about 10 deg C quickly.  Jennifer agreed and it  worked, though it sure looked exaggerated.  We managed to whip up the sorbet, freeze it and mold the metal container with an outer layer of vanilla ice cream and an inner layer of strawberry sorbet.  We would complete it tomorrow with the vanilla parfait and joconde biscuit.  Jennifer said to me, sometimes we thought things got messed up, but they still turned out the way we wantedIt surely did! 

The lunch was hearty today, we were really hungry.  The Thursday Chef’s session today was conducted by Mr LeNotre.  Every great musician, poets and chefs need more than great skills, … what is more important is to inspire, he shared.  It is like part of a chain, every great chef is inspired by people who are inspired by people who are inspired by people who are… the chain continues.  He recommended 2 readings – Becoming a Chef by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Chef’s Story, edited by Dorothy Hamilton and Patric Kuh.  I had read the first book and a few chapters of the second a while back before I decided to make a career switch.  I was then reading the books as a book junkie, now I decided it should make more sense.  I carried these 2 books as part of 2 luggage loads of books to Houston.  I was to re-read the books and complete the rest during my 6 month stay in Houston.

~ Hearty Lunch ~

~ Hearty Lunch ~

It was 3pm.  Sarah offered to make a detour on her way back home to drop me off at Colquitt @ S Shepherd.  It was drizzling. I was to meet up with Chef Dominique at 3.45pm at his restaurant Au Petit Paris.  Chef Dominique was a Chef-Instructor with CIAML till a year back.  I was meeting him regarding a voluntary internship in 3 week’s time.  A day earlier, Mr LeNotre had advised me when I informed him about the meeting, Be impeccable.  “If students think Chef Philippe is strict, then Chef Dominique is many times more”, said Mr LeNotre.  I was actually quite excited, my friends had pointed out the “sadist” in me – I am not sure if I agree with the word, but once again I felt a familiar nudge within me.  I had enjoyed and thrived in rigorous training sessions and hours in my teen years…  For a long time, I have been drifting, I think.  That feeling was lost for far too long.  I had consulted Chef Philippe a day earlier.  Chef Philippe would be my Chef-Instructor when I start my level 2 Pastry in 3 week’s time, about the same week I was to intern at the restaurant.  He gave me the Okay to do a 4 sessions per week internship after class so long as “you come to class by 8…”, “… don’t complain” etc.  I promised him I won’t, I asked for it, I guess.

I met Chef Dominique in the kitchen as I entered from the back door.  He led me to the dining area.  After a brief exchange of Am I okay working the hours?  How long I can work?  What makes me come from Singapore to Houston and attend this particular school? etc.  He said my main role as an intern is to garnir (sounds like, I think.  I wasn’t sure if he spoke in French or English.  If the word is French, then according to Oxford French-English dictionary, it means fill, decorate, cover, line, garnish) and take notes as most of the work will be done by him and his assitant Derrick from 9am.  I am happy to be of extra help and learn as much as possible.  He told me that after I learn sugarcraft and other advanced techniques in level 2 & 3 from Chef Philippe, I would be pretty good in artistic construction – he likened design, woodcraft, tiling etc in building his restaurant to techniques similar in pastry!!??  As it is, he and his partner bought the restaurant 2 years ago, and did everything from scratch to what I saw today except the electricity and sewage.  Wow!  I saw an exquisitely crafted wooden floor-to-ceiling wine bottle rack behind me.  Yes, it was built by them because “we couldn’t find one we like… custom-made would be too expensive”.  The arch at the front was erected by 6 men, he added Chef Philippe was there to help too.  I was both amazed and inspired – I still can’t saw a piece of wood, the closest I have done was to use a bread knife to cut meringue with praline cream and “don’t crack it” for the morning break today.  I am still hopeful.

When I stepped out of the restaurant, it started pouring.  I had forgotten to check the bus route.  A familiar bus number I found at the bus stop, I took bus 27 before which will connect me to bus 40 at 11th Street.  When I finally got off the bus, the rain stopped.  I got back, managed to refill my mobile phone value, flipped opened the book once again, and … zonked out.

It was 9pm when I woke up.  Today was kind to me, and it was Definitely a Great Day indeed!  I Believe Tomorrow will be Another Great Day for me.

So which way is The Way?

I am still awake at 3am, another 2.5 hours before I need to prepare for school.  It has happened for the third consecutive night already.  It all started on Sunday when I stayed up to study for the quiz – the quiz only had 10 questions so I wouldn’t attribute to the materials I need to study – I have this habit since school days when I studied for tests and exams, I am not sure if it is anxiety.  I zonked out by the next evening, the next evening and again this evening… 

I was walking to school after I got down from bus 23 at Crosstimber @ NFwy yesterday. WRONG WAY, a red sign appeared in my path. I have never noticed this before even though I have been walking the same route for 6 weeks already.  For the next 5 minutes as I continued walking towards the culinary institute, my mind wandered away.  This morning, when I saw the sign again, my mind wandered to where I left off yesterday.  I realized my random thoughts stopped automatically once I stepped into CIAML compound, I become  pre-occupied with lab time for the day…

~I only take the 2 way pavement!~

~I only take the 2 way pavement!~

Was that a Sign for me?  Seriously this thought flashed through my mind.  Nay, I decided I have already chosen to walk on the right path.  See, I walk on the pavement and this same path takes me to and fro the bus stop and school, I do not walk on the one way street against the flow of traffic…

Similarly in life, I have since learnt to move with the flow – the flow of what I really feel energized doing, the flow of my passion and interest, the flow of what motivate me, the flow that my life will lead in the next 50 years.  Yes, I do think about this very much since 911, economic crisis and SARS, all these that happened in the last couple of years…

I have learned lots about marketing, and about my life in the last 13 years as a marketing professional in the pharmaceutical industry.  The job took me to experience various cultures, management styles, different types of people in various environment.  I learnt about systems, SOPs, structured thinking, marketing planning and resilience during my first 9 years with my first company Merck Sharp & Dohme, then about cultures, speed, execution and results with Serono, about people management and business planning with Stiefel, about keeping and appreciating relations with the colleagues and friends I made at Edwards Lifesciences.  I believe that things happen for good reasons, and almost always they are for good reasons which we may only appreciate later.

I decided to follow my heart, and left the industry and corporate environment which has been a key part of my life and built my character in last 13 years.  I can’t say for sure, which way is it for me in the future, but in my heart, I know I am following the flow, certainly not the wrong way.

My basis in living my life – Integrity.  All else follows – Learn like how a child would, Be interested more than be interesting, Observe and practise to perfection, Savour the greatness of each experience, Understand and Apply what I learnt and I Can Choose the way I lead my life – all else follows.  Things continue to happen for good reasons.

My Apron is Still White

“You work like you feel.” ~ John Carroll, father of Chef Charles Carroll

“I have always been a stickler for uniforms.  I believe you have to look like a chef before you can be one.  You have to act like a chef, and practice being a chef, before you can be a chef.  You don’t have to know what you are doing to look good!  Image is very important… Chefs can’t wipe their hands on their apron, , use their aprons as side towel, … and expect to look clean and crisp”, wrote Chef Charles Carroll, in his book, Leadership Lessons from a Chef.  This book resonates with me as I start out as a student with Culinary Institute Alain & Marie LeNotre.  Chef Carroll is the Executive Chef at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, which is among the top country clubs in the United States.

Chef Kris Jakob, Chef of Chefs, during his ServSafe lesson with level 1 students highlighted Chef Philippe as an example of discipline and professionalism – he comes out of a chocolate class with his white apron still white.  Chef Kris assured us it will take time to get to that level if we work at it.  Earlier, Chef Kris has also mentioned during Chef’s Topic Mise En Place – the mindframe determines the result.  The preparedness includes our appearance. 

Mr LeNotre reinforced the sentiment, “Want to be a chef, dress like a chef”.


I have this fascination with discipline and carrying myself well as soon as I don my student chef uniform.  (Oh, I believe I do pretty good in other aspects of my life without donning the uniform too).  No, I do not think it is an obsession even though I use it as a reason sometimes.  It is simply my expectation of myself.  Chef Sebastien had told us after a chefs’ meeting that Mr LeNotre would want all students to wear the neckerchief with the uniform, hair nicely tucked in the chef’s hat, and pants ending just at the ankles.  We did just that last week onwards.

The class looks more alert – those of us with long hair scrunged them up into a bun and fringe nicely pulled back into the chef’s hat.  The red neckerchief which level 1 students wear adds a nice touch of colour to our white uniform.  It took a little getting use to on day 1 as it could get stuffy as we got into action in the lab, it remains a non-issue to most of us after.

My uniform and apron are pressed daily, and placed nicely folded in my bag pack. I don the uniform only in school and take about 10 min getting everything in order – with my sleeves rolled up twice (there is no standard for this, so this is my own standard to keep my sleeves off the working top), red neckerchief tucked into the collar, hair tucked neatly into chef’s hat, and apron knotted neatly to the side. 

My goal was to come out of each class looking just as I have started at the beginning of the day.  Even when we were tempering chocolate last week, I came out of it spotlessly clean.  I intend to keep at it, work on it continously, and make this my first point of perfection.  When my classmates made comments about my white apron, I felt proud about it and learnt to make no excuse for being clean.  I can only get better.

Habits start in school, Mr LeNotre said to us, and I believe in it totally.  I believe a high standard in cleanliness as a foundation will show in my end result ~ slick and great tasting pastries, to satisfy not just your palate, they will touch your heart and tickle your soul!  Awesome!