Name: Ken Chow Chi-kan Age: 48 Occupation: Western chef Young Post: How did you become a chef? Chow: After I finished the HKCEE, I worked as an office worker for a while. But I dreaded the thought of leading such a monotonous existence for the rest of my life. So I left and saw an opening at Swire Air Caterers for a kitchen helper. I decided to give it a try. I worked there for eight years before I was finally made a chef. YP: When you first started work as a kitchen helper, it must have been really hard work. What were your duties? C: I had to do all the menial tasks, like washing dishes and sweeping floors. I did whatever the chefs told me to. The gruelling work made me determined to stay in the industry. In my first year, I did the night shift and attended cooking lessons right after I got out from work in the morning. It was really hard. YP: You had to prepare in-flight food at Swire. What's the difference between preparing in-flight and ordinary food? C: People often say in-flight food is nasty. But such criticisms are unfair to the chefs. You take a plane to travel, not for a good meal. The concern of air caterers is not the taste of the food. What we care most about is hygiene and safety. We adopt a cooking method called the 'cook chill system', which makes sure the food still tastes good after its second heating. When preparing ordinary food in a restaurant, we spend a lot of time preparing the accompaniments, and presenting the food in a way that's aesthetically pleasing to the diners. YP: Apart from Swire Air Caterers, where else have you worked? C: I worked for Swire for more than 10 years before I left for Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1989. I was responsible for cooking for all the jockeys, horse owners and dignitaries on racing days. I left in 1993 and have worked as a senior instructor teaching cooking at the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre ever since. YP: What do you teach your students? C: Firstly, I teach them to respect food. No matter whether the food tastes good or not, it is the result of someone's hard work. We should never waste it. Apart from different cooking methods and basic food knowledge, I tell them about the latest trends in the local catering industry. I also prepare them psychologically for the hard work ahead. They should know that junior kitchen staff often bear the brunt of the conflicts in a restaurant. They get scolded by waiters, chefs and customers. I teach them to just smile and put up with it, as a bright future awaits those who are willing to make sacrifices. YP: As cooking is your profession, do you ever take your work home? C: No, my wife doesn't allow it. If I cook at home, I prepare a lot of things, and my wife gets annoyed with me for messing up the kitchen. But sometimes I teach my children to cook. My daughter likes to cook, so we made mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Resume 1978: Finished HKCEE and found work at Swire Air Caterers as a kitchen helper 1986: Promoted to the post of sous-chef 1987: Promoted to the post of production chef 1989: Became a chef for the Hong Kong Jockey Club 1993: Joined the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre as a senior instructor How to get there Programme: Higher Diploma in Hotel and Catering School: The Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Chai Wan) Duration: Three years Characteristics: The course touches on food and beverage service studies, customer service, management skills and law and ethics for the hospitality industry. Students need to complete compulsory work placements in the industry, which may involve shift and evening duties. Enquiries: www.vtc.edu.hk/prospectus/chi/index.php Programme: Certificate in Western Cuisine and Food and Beverage Operations School: Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre (Pokfulam) Duration: One year Characteristics: Students learn about western cuisine and cooking methods. The course also covers such topics as food sourcing and storage, kitchen hygiene and safety, and food quality control. Placements will be arranged for students where they will get hands-on knowledge of how to make desserts, pastries and other western dishes. Enquiries: www.vtc.edu.hk/prospectus/chi/index.php The path Graduates with accredited training in cooking may find work in the hospitality and catering industry. Those with several years of experience in the culinary field can work in a wide range of settings, including hotels, restaurants, clubs, bars, cafes, exhibition venues, directors' dining rooms and private homes. They can also run their own catering businesses or teach at training institutions.