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Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 17:37

Creating a great recipe for success

By Fannie Guan

Turning point

“Joining CCTI was a turning point in my life,” said Wong. It took him another five years to complete the intermediate and advanced certificates in Chinese cuisine programs. After graduation Wong and three of his classmates opened the 120-seater Cloudland Chinese Cuisine at Tsim Sha Tsui in 2012. They hired 19 chefs.

CCTI, a member of Hong Kong Vocational Training Council and one of the Millennium projects initiated by the Hong Kong government, offers culinary training programs at all levels from elementary to master chef.

The tourism industry is a major pillar of Hong Kong’s economy.  A 2013 Hong Kong Vocational Training Council survey showed that the overall vacancy rate in the hotel industry rose from 2.5 percent in 2011 to 3.3 percent in 2013. The population of young people in Hong Kong decreased by 20,000 over the decade between 2001 and 2011. The decline is predicted to continue, putting more pressure on the already-shrinking talent pool of the local catering and hotel industry.

The Hotel Supply Situation Report published by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in the fourth quarter of 2013 showed around 5,444 new vacancies will be created in the next five years as 40 new hotels open between 2014 and 2019.

The catering and hotel industries always prefer to hire experienced employees, hence hands-on vocational training is seen as a must.  Going to a good school can give new recruits a considerable edge over their competitors.

Supervisor at 21

“The basic rules and operation guidance at the hotel I work are the same as what I learnt at the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre (HITDC) (also a member of the Hong Kong Vocational Training Council).  So when my colleagues are still learning these, I can use the time to learn and absorb new things to better equip myself,” said Thomas Wong, now the housekeeping supervisor at the Hong Kong branch of a world-leading luxury hotel chain.

Thomas Wong was only 21 when he was promoted to the post of housekeeping supervisor, much younger than other supervisors at the hotel.  He was actually younger than most of his team members.

Last winter, Thomas Wong was chosen from the 20 housekeeping supervisors to lead the company’s new hotel in Shenzhen. Be it ordering furniture or decorating rooms, he always leads by example. He says colleagues are enthusiastic taking orders from him when they see the difference he has made.  It’s a lesson he learned from teachers with rich experience in the field.

Nearly 100 percent of CCTI alumni find jobs when they graduate. A number of them are offered positions at hotels, clubs, and restaurants even before they complete the course. Yip Ming-wai is one of them.  She now works at the Excelsior Hotel Hong Kong.

Yip is one among six female students out of 200 who chose to study Chinese cuisine at CCTI in 2013. Compared with Western cuisine, Chinese cuisine requires greater strength in one’s hands, arms and wrists. This is why few female students opt for such a career.

The first two months was so exhausting Yip almost gave up.  “The empty wok itself is so heavy (2.25 kg), I could barely hold it at the very beginning, let alone toss the ingredients and lift the wok with one hand,” said Yip.

Tossing the wok is a cooking technique used primarily to make the ingredients mix well while stir-frying.  Her arms used to be sore with constant practice, but the hard work has laid the foundations of her cooking skills, and also earned her the chance to participate in the Culinary World Cup 2014 in Luxembourg.

It was the first time she had traveled in an airplane.  The excitement lingered for weeks. But she never lost sight of her goal — presenting the techniques of Chinese cuisine to the world.

At the Culinary World Cup, Yip demonstrated fine Chinese dim sum skills — making dumplings, egg waffles and stretched noodles.  Every delicate piece she created can be attributed to the extra hours she daily spent in the kitchen.

She believes practice is the best way to improve cooking skills.  It is also the only way to build confidence and the knowledge that she performs her duties as a true professional.

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