KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time ever, a contingent of chefs clad in white coats, black pants and their signature tall hat or toque made an appearance at the 2022 National Day parade, along with members of security forces and uniformed bodies.
This may come as a surprise to spectators at Dataran Merdeka as to why more than 40 members of the Chefs Association of Malaysia also participated in the event.
Many may not have realised that these unsung heroes are among the groups that played an essential role in providing food at hospitals when wards were filled with Covid-19 patients when the pandemic first hit the country at the beginning of 2020.
As they marched past the Royal Stage, the contingent also caught the attention of the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, who stood cheerfully while waving to them.
Recalling the dark moment, the association’s president Chef Khairuddin Kamarudin said that they did not hesitate to agree to help prepare food at several hospitals that were in need of their services, as the existing food providers were unable to work due to the epidemic.
"Many were worried and asked, ‘Are you not afraid of contracting Covid-19?’. However, we were confident and took it as a challenge and responsibility to help and contribute to the community," he said
"Furthermore, many chefs in the area were not working as hotels were closed then. We don’t want to sit at home and do nothing,” added Khairuddin when speaking to Bernama.
Khairuddin said ensuring that the food is nutritious and prepared according to the different dietary needs of patients was one of the challenges during that period.
"We were always vigilant and careful in maintaining the standard operating procedures (SOP) to avoid being infected with Covud-19 because we fear our cooking operations would be affected,” he said.
He added that the parties responsible for delivering food to patients also had to undergo various strict processes such as being appropriately sanitised before entering the kitchen.
Excited and proud to participate in today’s celebration as a team of chefs, Khairuddin described the opportunity as an unexpected good fortune.
"Alhamdulillah, we have been applying to participate in this event for five years, and finally, we were given this great opportunity. Of course, it is a significant recognition for our career,” he said.
Khairuddin, who has 28 years of experience in the industry, further said that the career also demanded various sacrifices, including working up to 18 hours a day and having to forgo their time with family.
"So don’t ever look down on our job because not everyone is capable of doing it. It requires high mental and physical strength,” he said.
He added that the association members often prepared food for victims of natural disasters, such as floods in the country and the earthquake in Palu, Indonesia.
Malaysian chefs have also made the country proud by winning cooking competitions at the international level, such as WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, Luxembourg Culinary World Cup and the ASEAN Skills Competition in Thailand, thus introducing the traditional food products to the world, he said. - Bernama