Interview with Chef Raymond Tham, Skillet @163 and Beta KL
Chef Raymond Tham recalls life overseas and reflects on his return to kitchens in Malaysia in this interview with Monica Tindall.
By Monica Tindall
It can’t be an easy task to make it successfully in the chef world. There must be a story behind making it this far. How did you get into the industry to begin?
I wanted to become a chef since the age seven. Children were playing in the field and I was playing in my grandma’s kitchen and garden. I started to be very curious when I first experienced plucking a baby cucumber out from the vine and the tasting the freshness, crispness and juiciness of the cucumber when I put it in my mouth. Since then, I always volunteered to help out my grandma in the kitchen or garden. After I graduated from high school, I enrolled into a hotel management course due to my family disagreeing with me about working in the kitchen. After graduated, I continued my Degree in Business Admin in England and was lucky enough to enrol into a pastry apprenticeship program in London. I was attached to Wentworth Surrey as an apprentice while sI tudied in Westminster Kingsway College, London.
In your path to becoming a chef, what was one of the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges in becoming a chef is needing to be strong physically and mentally, being able to take pressure and long working hours. Keeping up the standard even though you’re mentally and physically exhausted is challenging.
What are some of the biggest struggles and joys you find in working in restaurants in Malaysia?
The biggest struggle is the shortage of cooks in the kitchen. The biggest joy is being closer to family members.
Having had experience around the world, you must have some great stories to share from behind the scenes. What is one of them?
One of my best experiences was helping out with the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla’s son Mr. Thomas Parker Bowles’ (a food writer) wedding and amongst his guests were Chef Marco Pierre White and some of the royal family!
You have worked both as a chef employee and as an owner of your own kitchen. What are some of the joys and challenges of each?
When I worked for someone, I had more time during holidays and didn’t have to think about work while on holidays. When you own a business, it’s forever working even though on holiday.
The joy is managing to make all the decisions on the menu and concept myself. The challenge is needing to manage a large team or two restaurants. This can be a tough responsibility.
You’ve recently opened a new food and beverage concept that is gaining a lot of attention in Malaysia. Tell us a little about the concept.
Beta is a modern Malaysian restaurant that focuses on sourcing local ingredients and flavours. The cocktails are inspired by the local flavours too.
How do you merge your international training with your current home, Malaysia?
International training prepared me to use the techniques I learned abroad to cook local ingredients and modernise the local dishes.
If there was one piece of advice you could go back in time and give yourself as a young chef what would it be?
Learn more and breakthrough more when younger.
If you could make dinner for anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you make?
I would make a meal for my grandma. I would cook something from her recipes with my modern technique or twist to it.
Thank you Raymond.
What is your plan for your future as a chef?
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