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At The Table With: Chef Gary Lim, President, Singapore Pastry Alliance

14 November 2019 by Food&HotelAsia

 

Welcome to the world of pastry. In this editions of FHA Insider, we speak to Singapore Pastry Alliance’s president, Chef Gary Lim on what it means to be a pastry chef, and how to make it in the business. 

 

1)           Hi Chef Gary Lim, we’d love to hear about your journey to becoming a chef.

I am a Shatec Graduate, and I completed my internship with Grand Hyatt Singapore under Chef Gottfried Schuetzenberger and Chef Andy Foo before ,moving on to Four Seasons Singapore as an Assistant Pastry Chef.

I must thank Chef Andy and Chef Gottfried for being wonderful mentors and training me to take part in many Singaporean and international competitions.

In 1997, I migrated to Australia to work as Pastry Chef at ANA Hotel Gold Coast for nine years before joining Conrad Jupiter Casino as their Executive Pastry Chef.

 I returned to Singapore in 2008 and was employed by Temasek Polytechnic as their Senior Culinary Instructor to teach the Diploma in Baking and Culinary Science course. As an educator, we make a difference in the lives of our students by transferring our skills and knowledge to groom them into professional chefs – a satisfaction that money can’t buy.

Currently as President of Singapore Pastry Alliance, I would like to thank Chef Kenny, Mentor President of Singapore Pastry Alliance, who has patiently shared his passion, leadership skills and philosophy when grooming me. With his recommendation, I was certified as WASC-approved International B Judging in 2014 and represented Singapore in many international judging stints.

I chose this profession because I simply love sweets and have a strong desire to express my creativity. As a pastry chef, I can bring joy into lives of others. I also enjoyed making up new recipes and experimenting with flavour, texture, shapes and colour.

Being a chef is hard work, as it involves crazy hours, tough critics and lot of pressure during the busy season. As a pastry chef you are not only a craftsman, but also an accountant, food purchaser, manager, team leader, workplace health and safety officer, hygiene officer, auditor etc. There are many responsibilities and roles to take on. I do believe our profession depends on our mindset, attitude, perseverance and discipline to be successful.

 

2)           Could you tell us about the Pastry Alliance?

In 2006, the Singapore Pastry Alliance was founded by 17 pastry chefs and the goal of the alliance is to bring together various talents and expertise of all pastry chefs working in Singapore – both Singaporeans as well as expatriates. We believe that it is very rewarding to inspire, nurture and educate future generations of pastry chefs, and to help promote Singapore’s culinary culture worldwide. Besides conducting pastry Master Classes by our award-winning Chefs to groom young talented pastry chefs, we also participate in many international competitions, and have won many awards. A shout out to Chef Kenny, Chef Gottfried, Chef Andy Foo, Chef Pang Kok Keung, Chef Lim Kim Wah, Chef Steven Ong, Chef Yong Ming Choong, Chef Ng Chee Leong, Chef Cassian Tan, Chef Kent Ng , Chef Alex Yen, together with Chef Nicole and Ivy, Chef Chui Foong, Chef Esther Cheng, Chef Tai Chien Lin, Chef  Ben Goh, Chef Edwin Liew, Chef Tiffany Yeo, Chef Jason Tan, Chef Dylan ,Chef Jason Goh, Chef Alex Choong, Chef Jack Goh, Chef Francis, Chef Desmond, Chef Eve and many more.

Each year, we partner with many culinary institutions and charity organisations to educate senior citizens in baking, and to raise funds for needy families. This is how we give back to society.

 

3)           What are the 3 most important qualities you think a pastry chef should have?

A pastry chef is not only an artist and tradesman, but also a scientist. Learning the foundation of pastry art, building good character and attitude toward his profession is essential. Most importantly, he must understand food science. Without this knowledge, he is just another ordinary artist who cooks by feeling and emotion. He will have difficulty achieving accuracy and meeting high standards.

 

In his creation he must always try to strike a balance between sweet, sour, light and refreshing notes. Balancing flavour, taste, texture and temperature well will always give the diner a memorable dining experience.

A pastry chef must also always find solutions to problems, and not give excuses. He should never look for perfection but pay attention to details; Mother Nature is not perfect, but it is in the details that make all the difference.

As Thomas Keller said: “A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.”

 

4)           What pastry trends do you and the Pastry Alliance predict would be the “hype” for 2020?

People are getting very worried about what they eat – they are running away from food that is high in fat, sugar, carbohydrate and chemicals.

Our pastry chefs are working in this direction to create innovative products to meet the special dietary requirements of health-conscious guests by creating gluten-free, sugar-free and low GI products with good nutritional values and functional ingredients to benefit the body.

Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy food will reduce risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease, cancer, etc) and promote your overall health.

 

5)           Any words of advice for aspiring chefs participating in pastry challenges happening at FHA-HoReCa?

I encourage all pastry chefs to participate in this prestige event endorsed by WASC. FHA-HoReCa is an excellent platform for the competitors to showcase their talent, innovative ideas and techniques, and have the chance to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

All judges are certified by WASC with years of experience in the judging field around the world. With their advice and feedback, competitors will benefit and strive for better result in the future competition.

My advice is very simple: competitors need to read and understand the rules and regulation, stay within the category requirement, present it like a masterpiece and always remember we eat with our eyes first – presentation is often as important as the taste. Therefore, they must make sure it is appealing and appetising as possible.

Have an open mind, be original, and don’t forget that practice makes perfect. Regardless of the categories, always generate your ideas first, focus and practice, be fearless and learn from mistakes along the way, and always remember that hard work goes with luck. There are no shortcuts to success.

 

Find out more about pastry competitions, Asian Pastry Cup and Asian Junior Pastry Cup, all happening at FHA-HoReCa, 3 – 6 March at the Singapore Expo.