Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Career change that spelt sweet success

THE creative touch is evident at the cake section of the various outlets in Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers.

Whether it is dainty pastries or elegant cakes that you want to sink your teeth into, they just look too good to be eaten!

The sweet afters have all been given a fresh, novel touch by chef Chiew Siew Chuan, the hotel’s newly appointed executive pastry chef.

Yet, with all that creativity with which he is obviously blessed, Chiew said pastries were not something he had set out to do. His early career revolved around figures, a stark contrast to things creative!

“I studied accountancy,” admitted Chiew. “But while waiting for my exam results, I decided to take a job in a bakery, which gave me my first taste of kitchen work and bread making,” said the KL-born chef.

He did not fare too well in the exam so he decided to continue where he had left off in the bakery.

Deft hands: Chiew putting the finishing touches to the pastries that look too good to eat.
Chiew started as a kitchen helper in 1987 before being promoted to junior baker a year later. He was later appointed assistant pastry chef and then pastry chef in 1994, moving through the ranks at various hotels.

Today, with 20 years of experience in the pastry kitchen, Chiew brings with him to Sheraton Subang skills that have won him many prestigious awards internationally.

They include a bronze medal at the Olumpiade Der Koche, Erfurt Germany (2004), a gold medal with distinction in Pastry & Bakery Showpiece (Culinaire Malaysia 1999), a gold medal in three-tier wedding cake category (Culinaire Malaysia 1993), and another gold medal in Pastry Showpiece (National Culinaire Competition 1990).

An impressive entry in his resume is his four-year stint as pastry chef at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan.

Just how did he get invited to work for the Jordanian royal family?

“It was probably the need for a change in environment – and perhaps a better pay cheque – that I found myself looking for jobs overseas.

“The head hunter to whom I submitted my resume called to inform me about a vacancy at the Royal Palace in Jordan which was looking for a pastry chef then.

Chocolate lover’s delight: The Mango Mousse in Chocolate Topping is just one of the innovative and novel creations by Chiew.
“Well, I decided to take the plunge, so I packed my bags and headed there with my family,” recalled Chiew.

“Throughout the four years, the constant challenge was always to come up with new recipes, which demands that one be very creative.

“There were always VIPs from around the world dropping by at the Palace and I had to prepare for huge banquets all on my own. I had no helper, no assistant, so the stress level was definitely high, especially in the first two years,” said Chiew.

But the stint, said the 38-year-old, was a satisfying, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In his current role at Sheraton Subang, Chiew is in charge of ensuring consistency of quality in presentation of dessert and bakery items, leading his team of 10, maintaining safety and hygiene in the pastry department, food costing, and menu engineering.

He also speaks on the ‘Cake of the Month’ special promotion which highlights a particular cake each month.

This month, it is Pecan Cheese-cake, available at the hotel’s CafĂ© Aroma.

“I think my strategy here will be to try to be as creative as possible. People like to see changes and try new stuff, so we will try our best to cater to that adventurous palate,” added Chiew.

Source : STAR
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