Serving up a stellar culinary career

Kim Hock (centre), owner of Restaurant au Jardin earned one Michelin star while Lim (right) earned the Michelin Young Chef award. With them is Michelin Guide international director Gwendal Poullennec.

“COOKING is not magic. It is a trade craft. Like shoe-making, hairdressing. Like being a housebuilder.”

“Learn the basics. Then take your time to learn some more and master that craft,” said Darren Chin, 43, owner of DC Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

His outlet is one of the few dining establishments in Malaysia to recently earn a Michelin star.

Darren said right after Form Five, he spent two years at UOW Malaysia’s Selangor campus to earn his diploma in culinary arts.

He spent many years practising his craft at his family business - the iconic Dave’s Deli - which was started by Darren’s father, David Chin, in 1989.

Darren went on to Paris to study at the venerable Le Cordon Bleu school for three years before eventually opening DC Restaurant in 2014 in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

The fundamental training Darren started out with, the Diploma in Culinary Arts, is still offered by UOW Malaysia.

About 20,000 students have earned this diploma ever since it was first offered in 1987.

Today, students practise with RM6mil worth of kitchen equipment, the kind that can be found in any five-star commercial kitchen in top hotels and restaurants.

On top of learning the fundamentals of cooking, nutrition and food hygiene, students must grasp the economics of the food and beverage sector by spending a whole semester operating and managing the campus restaurants.

“It is very real. They must not make losses. Their menu must be delightful and attractive, yet profitable. Their market is the campus population, but they can market their cafe to everyone in Penang, too,” said UOW Malaysia School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts Cindy Loh.

Obviously, this is one of the most challenging semesters for the culinary arts students.

Besides Darren, other alumni of UOW Malaysia had also earned recognition when the Michelin Guide recently scoured Kuala Lumpur and Penang to include eateries there into its guide.

They include chef Kim Hock, owner of Restaurant au Jardin who earned one Michelin Star, and chef Lim Yan You, who was bestowed the Michelin Young Chef award.

Also earning one Michelin Star was Dewakan Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur that was incubated in UOW Malaysia.

For those who are wondering what a French tyre-manufacturing company has to do with gastronomy, it began in 1900 when there were fewer than 3,000 cars in France.

The founders of Michelin found it hard to sell tyres, so they published a book called the Michelin Guide.

It had driving and car maintenance tips and they included suggestions for restaurants they felt were worth going to.

A restaurant given one star in the Michelin Guide meant “a very good restaurant in its category”.

Two stars meant “excellent cooking; worth a detour”.

Three stars: “exceptional cuisine; worth a special journey”.

The idea was to get people to drive out in search of good food, causing them to change tyres more regularly.

Remember that no messaging groups or social media existed in 1900, so for the then wealthy car owners, such culinary suggestions became such a hit that the Michelin Guide grew to become a purely culinary guide.

The French took it seriously. Michelin inspectors visited restaurants anonymously and wrote detailed reports for the team to review.

Michelin – until today – hires full-time inspectors who are experts in food, culinary arts and hospitality.

They are encouraged to keep their profession a secret and they are barred from speaking to journalists and revealing their identities to restaurant operators.

For details on UOW Malaysia’s culinary arts programmes, call 03-5565 0538 (Klang Valley) or 04-238 6368 (northern region).

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