Inspiring tomorrow’s culinary masters

Daniel Lim

It’s easy to associate culinary skills with high-end fine dining. Though true in some cases, it ignores the wider application of the skills in a broad aspect. These assumptions are slowly giving way as culinary arts continues to be explored as viable career paths, especially for the nation’s youth.

Local chef Aziz Zaidi recently spoke during a culinary diplomacy programme, organised by the Embassy of the United States of America in Brunei Darussalam, at Sayyidina Ali Secondary School (SMSA). Around 120 Years 9 and 10 students from the Belait District attended the programme.

With his background of starting as a prep cook to graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York, Chef Aziz addressed key aspects of the culinary world and broke down common misconceptions as students learnt about the potential career path.

Culinary arts is more than just cooking. From food science to entrepreneurship, he said many of the skills taught in the field are highly sought after and especially relevant to the nation’s vision, adding that the culinary field represents opportunities not to be taken lightly when compared to other fields of work.

He said, “There are a multitude of principals, branches and opportunities in the field despite being easily associated with cooks and chefs.”

Chef Aziz Zaidi speaks to students after his talk at the culinary diplomacy programme. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

These branches and opportunities include anything from a food critic to a committee member of a food conglomerate or company. This underlines how culinary skills can be applied to various work positions aligned with the field.

He said, “The only way to combat this stereotype is to have more people engaging in culinary arts to help promote the field.”

To help realise this, he encourage students to explore the art. He said, “I hope to inspire students to get the ball rolling. After all, every journey begins with taking that first step.”

He said the culinary field is not as glamorous as it seems as there are challenges just like any fields of work. “There are always hurdles when it comes to learning,” he said.

He advised students to learn the importance of determination and repetition with the latter being vital to the culinary field.

Chef Aziz recalled when he first started, he was unable to tournée a potato. But through repetition, he was able to acquire the skill.

He said, “Just try and keep going; nothing’s impossible. It’s just a matter of how far you are willing to go.”

Chef Aziz also interacted with students at the event during which he noticed a good amount of them expressing interest in culinary.

He said, “It is always a good thing to see, when students ask ‘where do we get started?’ and ‘who do I have to talk to?’ Of course, we have to encourage students to do their own work and research to see which schools are best.”

In helping to inspire the next batch of cooks, he welcomes seeing new faces in the field.

He said, “I would definitely love to see a rise in culinary aspirations among the younger generation. We are getting a little head-start with people posting (their creations) on Instagram and Facebook, which is admirable. But I wish they would take it a step further by making a name for themselves.”