Students as young as 15 to 35-years-old from Shatec Institutes (SHATEC), At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, Temasek Culinary Academy, Republic Polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) were invited to attend the event presented by Meat & Livestock Australia.

From learning the essence of art in cuisine, grasping the business perspective of a budding entrepreneur and making sausages, the 1-day event covered a wide array of topics.

Even if you’re not an aspiring chef or planning to open a restaurant, here are 3 sessions we think might help you impress at your next dinner conversation.


Art in Cuisine

“I was trained to make carrots look like olives,” said Daniel Sia of The Disgruntled Chef. “But I believe that food should look like what they are. Carrots should not look like olives, and cucumbers should not look like dragons,” he said, earning laughs from the audience.

Together with Chef Janice Wong, owner of the 2am:dessertbar and 2am:lab, they collaborated to create a sweet and savory dish dubbed the “Garden Dessert”. Artfully putting together unlikely bedfellows watermelon, asparagus, carrots, bamboo shoots, with caramelized shallots, the pair then drizzled the ensemble with miso-caramel sauce.

It was a lesson in the importance of food presentation. Instead of relying on the ingenious disguising of food, Wong told UrbanWire that it was more important to “focus on the textures and colours. I also followed my philosophy of art on a plate, but now my new philosophy is food as art. Every chef needs a philosophy… You’ve got to find your own style and your own philosophy.” Wong was just named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2013, a new category created by The Diners Club® World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, which is also responsible for the listing of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Dispelling the common myth that dishes are either sweet or savory depending on whether we use “certain ingredients or techniques,” Sia explained that “I can use the same caramelizing technique for apple pies to shallots while retaining its original flavor.”


The Artisan’s Mastery of Fromagerie

Chef David Senia is a Michelin star chef who has worked in distinguished establishments from the Restaurant l’Oasis jn la Napoule, the Old Manila restaurant in Manila, Philippines, to the Ritz Carlton in Osaka, Japan. The bubbly 41-year-old may be dead serious about his craft, but he was kidding around so much that the 30-minute session flew by most pleasurably.

“Do you understand my French accent, by the way?” questioned Senia, “Good, because sometimes I don’t understand it myself,” he continued, to the roar of laughter from the crowd.

The current executive chef of 6-starred Capella Singapore, Senia gave full play to his down-to-earth and jolly personality, and kept the crowd captivated throughout the half-an-hour session dedicated to cheese as non-stop laughter filled the room.

Although his demonstrations of camembert cheese with vanilla, apples and deep-fried breaded goat cheese were impressive, when it came time for questions, a student asked, “How (can) I be like you, a funny chef?”

“How to be like me? Enjoy life. We are not pilots of airplanes, we are just chefs. We are not kings of the world, so just enjoy life,” answered Senia.

Being a Chef As a Profession

“Why do you want to be a chef?” Chef Edmund Toh, Assistant Vice President of Resorts World™ and President of the Singapore Chefs Association asked the students in attendance. “Are you forced to be a chef? Do you want to be a chef for the fun [of it]?”

As long as that driving force is right, and the chef is adaptable, Toh feels success will eventually come.

“To be a good chef, you can’t be too selective. You can start anywhere, from hawker centers to food streets and food carts, all the way to 3-star Michelin restaurants, so your palette has to adapt to all kinds of cuisines,” advised Toh.

After delivering a short inspirational talk on the positive attitude and personality that a chef should have, Toh proceeded with his demonstration on Thai food.

As he showed the audience how to make 3 variations of the same dish, ‘Chicken Rice Balls’ (bite-sized rice balls with steamed chicken inside), student volunteers went up on stage to gain some hands-on learning experience from the culinary expert himself.

The chef added Thai flavours to the rice balls – which were a twist on Singapore’s famous chicken rice – by making his own sauces using typical Thai ingredients such as chilli padi, lemongrass and Thai basil. The sauces were then used as dips for the rice balls.

“The chefs are basically teaching us common sense,” said Chong Ing Wei, 32, student from At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, “But it motivates us to work towards our goals and ultimately, hope to become as successful as they are in the future.”

From the left: David Senia, Janice Wong, and Daniel Sia

Drawing a successful crowd this year, organisers are already looking to next year’s Youth Chefs’ Day. Senia promised it will be “even bigger”, with more talents from around the world invited to share with the audience. So to gourmet enthusiasts who want to get their hands dirty and learn some culinary tips (or meet their celebrity chef idols), watch out for the next Youth Chefs’ Day.