Monday, December 17, 2012

The Secret Kitchen

Chef Andy Martin Gibb was tossing around a most delicious smelling risotto, simmering in a buttery chicken stock. Every time he pushed the pan across the stoves, asking the students to observe and smell, I wanted to get closer. After all, it was quite exciting to be the first to find out what’s going to be served in NYP’s new Training Restaurant, targeted to be ready by mid-2013.

Dubbed the “secret kitchen” by those in the know, Year 1 and 2 Diploma in Food & Beverage Business students have been gathering in a “secret” location at the School of Chemical & Life Sciences (SCL) to learn how to make soups, stocks, sauces, cookies, macaroons and delicious sounding dishes like cream risotto with parmesan cheese and braised rice pillaf with mushroom.

Chef Nic has very nicely offered to help the students grate the cheese
It was even more exciting to learn that these dishes are going to be served in two-course and three-course options at affordable prices. As we are always wondering where to go for lunch (north/south/fastfood canteen, or Koufu), it would be a welcome respite to have a nice restaurant to go to. Imagine having somewhere cosy to bring your parents to for lunch, or having somewhere to go to to treat yourselves for having done well in a project.

An artist impression of the new training restaurant
Oh yes, alumni are welcome to come back and check it out too! The 120-seat full service restaurant is definitely spacious enough to accommodate anyone who is interested. There are even three private rooms you can book for your exclusive use.

Smell, inhale, and take in the flavours!
During my visit, the first year students were very excited to be learning to make their first proper dish.  Prior to this, they had been learning to make basics stocks and sauces but this was the first time they were preparing a dish. Chef Andy showcased his expertise by deftly handling the ingredients and patiently explaining why each ingredient is important. He also explained how the chicken stock has to be nicely strained and clear when making risotto.

I was most impressed that he managed to weave facts and professional opinion into his pedagogy. For example, did you know a good piece of parmesan cheese costs about $70 a kilogram? Or did you know that Saffron is the most expensive spice you can buy? Chef Andy even explained that every kitchen has a different level of humidity, and therefore every piece of rice will sap in moisture differently.

Wow. I never knew all these dynamics could make or break a kitchen. It was definitely information I could use for starting up an F&B business.

I would definitely be researching on what type of facility and location would give my kitchen adequate ventilation instead of just sourcing for a good location. That is, if I wanted to open a restaurant.

It also helps that we have professional lecturers such as Chef Andy and Chef Vangeline Bautista Josol, who worked in establishments like Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands to lend their expertise. After all, this is what this course is about - the fusing of essential food business knowledge with key culinary skills.
Apart from cooking, students will also be learning the essentials of marketing, entrepreneurship, financial management and more to prepare them for management roles in the F&B industry.

Most of the students I spoke have certainly done their research before enrolling in this diploma.
“I love food and food is a good business prospect," said Year 1 student Mohamed Noorhadi. 

Another student, whose uncle is a chef, loved the idea of being thrown into the thick of things from Year 1. This gives him three whole years to learn and improve his skills. He also did his research on the various culinary schools around Singapore before deciding on NYP, and loves the business aspect of his training.

I was definitely happy to learn from Chef Andy that mushroom risotto makes a “very good vegetarian dish”. Buttery, and full of mushrooms and cheese, mmm…even for someone who loves meat like myself, it is something I would order without hesitation.

Chef Andy even showed that the professional way to serve a dish was to warm the plate in the oven first. I was impressed!
That's Lionel, one of our social media administrators, trying out the cooking!
After a while, I finally had the opportunity to taste Chef Andy’s cooking. It was definitely worth waiting for! I took two spoons and it was pure buttery and tangy bliss, with a nice “al dente” effect. It’s a pity that there was only one serving. Here is the recipe:

It is definitely something I’m going to try at home. You should too. It will be worth it.

Keen to try and taste the delicious sounding dishes at our new student-managed training restaurant? Look out for it on 15th April 2013, at Block F, Level 3!

I can’t wait!
And they can't too!

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