Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Taste of Victory

Nilai UC’s team efforts were rewarded at the recent Taste of Italy cooking competition when it bagged the ‘Best Teamwork’ award.

“The most stressful aspect of the competition was the waiting of the results,” says Ng Chee Yung, final year Culinary Arts student at Nilai University College (Nilai UC). Three students were handpicked by Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism’s senior lecturer, Chef Nadzri Bin Mohd Alim, to take part in the Taste of Italy cooking competition which was organized by the Italian Trade Commission in Kuala Lumpur recently.

“We at Nilai UC are committed to giving students an all-rounded education and taking part in cooking competitions is an essential part of the process. Two months prior to the competition, I conducted a selection process which in the end 3 of them were selected based on the result of the selection from 20 students short listed The selected three have all the criteria I am looking for in terms of class performance, diligence, discipline, passion and the willingness to learn. Each team member had a forte and I was confident the combination of these qualities would achieve the desired results,” said Chef Nadzri.

It most certainly did. When the results were announced Nilai UC’s team missed first place by just a solitary point but the team’s concise and efficient methods in the kitchen were rewarded as they were given the ‘Best Teamwork’ award. Nilai UC’s line-up was completed with two first year students – Cheung Chee Hon and Ong Tuen Wern.

“This is the culmination of all the hard work we put into the training for this competition. I am very proud to be part of this award-winning team and it has spurred me to work even harder for future competitions,” says Ong. Chef Nadzri put the team through their paces with six extra hours a day for two straight weeks prior to the competition date which ensured they were well drilled in their respective tasks. The team has to prepare a typically Italian menu of ravioli, risotto, roast lamb and tiramisu in the allotted four hours. The students said it was a challenge to work in an alien environment and on a type of cuisine they are only briefly acquainted with.

“However, such conditions make us better at what we do. Being able to produce results under high-pressure environments is part and parcel of a chef’s life. Our achievement in this competition also showed that we are competent enough to do well in cooking competitions and I certainly look forward to being selected to take part in many more,” said a visibly pumped Ng.

Chef Nadzri firmly believes that taking part in such competitions build students confidence and is invaluable experience. “Nilai UC’s Culinary Arts programme does focus a lot on practical sessions and the ‘Advance Kitchen Practical’ module have assisted them in many ways to win the award. I hope this will spur all the students to be more fervent in wanting to take part in future competitions,” he added.

In all, the three students highlighted the most important thing in running a successful kitchen which is teamwork. “Open communication and an efficient work ethic ensured we got the prize for ‘Best Teamwork’. All aspiring chefs will need to learn the value of teamwork but we’ve got this aspect nailed,” smiled Ong.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Food that Looks Too Good to Eat!

(As featured in The Star Metro May 20, 2008 by CS Nathan)
What makes food look good in the pages of glossy magazines and cookbooks? Many people are unaware of the work behind the scene that is required to create that visual perfection.Food styling is the art of making food look good for the camera, although the procedure may render the food inedible due to the use of styling products.

Showing the difference: Nadzri (seated) and his team – students (from left) Owen Ong, Kamau Mash from Kenya, Kent Cheung and Kelvin Yeo Too prepared a threecourse meal to demonstrate the difference in preparing food for consumption and for photographs

Students enrolled in the culinary arts programme at Nilai University College (NIUC) showed the press the difference between meals and those created for photographs at a recent demonstration at its Flamme restaurant. Food styling is soon to be incor-porated into their culinary arts syllabus. Led by senior lecturer chef Nadzri Mohd Alim, the team wowed the audience with its presentation.One cameraman even took a bite of a fake ice cream that looked more tempting than the real thing!

The real thing: The same cheesecake, made for consumption. Presentation is a key difference in food styling.

Food styling emphasises making food look good enough to eat. However, before a photographer can take the best shot, the food often dries up, shrinks or even melts (ice cream), therefore creating a need to use certain products and techniques to keep it looking perfect. Nadzri, who completed a course in food styling at the Culinary Institute of America, declined to let the audience in on the secrets of his trade, only saying: "The preparation and techniques used differ, depending on the type of shoot, whether for commercials, print advertisements or billboards.Learning how to work as a team is essential because chefs need to co-operate with a photographer, art director and prop stylist."

The chef de culinaire joined NIUC as he felt the university college provided first-class facilities."The training restaurant Flamme and its 465 sq metre training kitchen is one of the best I've had the privilege of teaching in.""No other college's training kitchen can boast a pastry room, demo kitchen, cold cuts room and butchery," he said.

This sure looks good!: A cheesecake prepared for the camera only.

"Graduates with knowledge in food-styling have good career prospects as qualified food stylists are hard to come by in this region and their expertise is in demand. Students will definitely benefit from learning new kitchen techniques in food preparation, making them more versatile and innovative in the kitchen," added Nadzri.About 100 students, comprising locals and foreigners from Africa, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, are enrolled in the culinary programme at Nilai UC.

World On A Plate

Nilai UC Students gain invaluable experience when organising a cultural food fair as part of their course work.

Nothing is as pleasing to the senses when confronted by a tantalizing array of exotic foods. And that was what greeted the Nilai International University College (Nilai UC) populace recently when final year students from its Diploma in Hotel Management programme conducted their class project. The students were being tested on their event management skills which is a module in the final year.

Their response was to organise a cultural food fair with delicacies from far-flung corners of the planet reflecting the diverse student population at Nilai UC. The event was aptly called ‘World On A Plate’. “Of course, we couldn’t feature all the countries as Nilai UC has students from 50 countries and that would have been too big a challenge for a bunch of novices,” smiles Vincent Koh, who was project leader. Though only Koh and his course mates were being academically assessed for the event, they still managed to rope in a good number of students from other faculties (below) to help make their event a success.

Put this into para -
1) Chinese Desserts (set up by the Chinese Language Society)
2) Western Pastry (set up by Culinary Arts students)
3) Portuguese Food (set up Diploma in Hotel Management students)
4) Kajang Satay (set up Diploma in Hotel Management students)
5) African Food (set up by Culinary Arts students)
6) Indonesian Food (set up by the Indonesian Society)
7) Taiwan barbecue (set up by student volunteers)
8) Chicken Chop (set up by student volunteers)
9) Beverages (set up by the Swimming Club)

The lecturer overseeing this project, Edward Felix Joseph, was very pleased with the idea. “The whole idea of the project was for the students to initiate, plan and execute an event as part of the course assessment. ‘World On A Plate’ was a particularly good idea as it involved other parties such as students from various clubs and associations as well as the Department of Student Affairs,” beamed a clearly proud Joseph.

In total, this project made up 30% of the students’ final marks. The students will be assessed at various stages – proposal, planning, execution and closure. “Such projects teach students to be independent and that they are responsible to the client, the team members and all other participants for the success of the event,” said Joseph. While ‘World On A Plate’ was wrapped up successfully, Joseph is already busy supervising two other groups of students’ projects – ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ and ‘Hollywood Glamour’.

Kitchen Confidential

Nilai UC’s Chef Nadzri Alim explains why Culinary Arts is fast becoming the popular career choice of school leavers.

Nilai University College (Nilai UC) offers a wide variety programmes from Degree in Computer Science to Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. But visitors to its 105-acre award-winning campus can be forgiven in thinking that Nilai UC specialises in Nursing and Culinary Arts. Dotting the lush green landscape are scores of crisp white nurses uniforms and ultra-starched chef jackets.

Gone are the days when a career in the kitchen was obtained through a grueling apprenticeship under a master chef whilst starting at the bottom rung as a dishwasher or cleaner. These days, school leavers can join a programme such as Nilai UC’s Diploma in Culinary Arts, which train aspiring Jamie Olivers and Gordon Ramsays in the necessary skills required for them to get a head start in the pressure cooker environment of a professional kitchen. Senior lecturer in Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, Chef Nadzri Alim explains why Culinary Arts programme is a firm favourite among school leavers.

Why should a student or school leaver choose Culinary Arts?
There are several reasons. Firstly, there is rapid growth in the tourism and hospitality industry. Almost anywhere in the world, barring war zones, there is an increase in the number of hotels and food and beverage outlets. Being a chef is also a very exciting prospect as if you can cook, you have a skill that’s appreciated anywhere in the world. Chefs today are no longer confined to the kitchen; instead they can also be hotel general managers or even food ambassadors.

What about earning capacity?
Successful chefs have a limitless salary scale. World famous chefs basically get to name their price.

Outline the programme for prospective students.
Students will be schooled in a combination of culinary practical and theory classes. The former will include western and international cuisine, pastry and bakery, advance pastry and confectionary.

Is there an option the student to further their studies once they have completed their Diploma in Culinary Arts?
Students who want to further their studies after completing the Diploma in Culinary Arts can go on to do the 3+0 Oxford Brookes University Degree in Business and Hospitality Management. (The Culinary Arts Diploma holder will also get exemption of at least a semester and enter the degree programme in the second year).
A degree will help graduates secure managerial or higher positions. Also note that Oxford Brookes University’s Hospitality School, which validates Nilai UC programmes, has been rated the top hospitality school in the United Kingdom (* the sixth best worldwide by a poll conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Travel and Tourism (UK) in September 2007)

The title of ‘Chef’ now commands quite a lot of respect. Why the sudden change in perception?
Celebrity Chefs such as the aforementioned Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Malaysia’s very own Chef Wan have helped promote chef as a glamorous profession. People have started to accept chefs as a respectable profession that a career can be built on.

How long before a student can become a chef?
A lot will depend on their fresh graduate’s willingness to learn and work. It will take around two to four years before they achieve the status of ‘chef’. It will take another three to five years of hard work to reach Executive Chef level. If you think that’s hard work, ask how long before a law graduate is made senior partner or is considered for the bench. It will take as long, if not even longer

Do you think it is important for students to have role model chefs? Why?
Every student needs a mentor to look up to and to learn as much from him/her as possible. Even I had a mentor when I started working in the hospitality industry as a very young cook/ I learned everything about Culinary Arts from my mentor. I even followed his style of cooking and management until today.

What sort of working life can a professional chef expect?
To be successful in this line of work, one must be prepared to work more than 12 hours per day. Many sacrifices will have to be made before a person can be successful. This will be the case whether you are working in a restaurant, resort hotel, cruise liner, caterer, or airlines. Salaries will be based on experience and qualifications but like I said earlier, there is no ceiling cap on a chef’s wages. Many chefs eventually end up owning and running their own F ‘n’ B outlets.

What are the characteristics that mark a person as a top-notch chef?
Most importantly, a person must have a passion for food and cooking. But to be successful, a person must also possess discipline, focus and desire to succeed. An imaginative mind will also help a person when creating new dishes.

Is the ability to speak English important in this field of study?
English is important as Nilai UC’s syllabus is completely in that language. For those who need brushing up, perhaps he or she can join Nilai UC’s Intensive English Language Programme first. Entry requirements for Diploma in Culinary Arts is three credits in SPM.

What can school leavers looking to do Culinary Arts look forward to?
Long hours in a hot kitchen but mind you it will be in one of the biggest and best equipped training kitchens in the country (5,046sq ft featuring a pastry room, bakery, butchery, cold cut room and a Asian, Western and demo kitchens). But it will be the beginning of their exciting and never ending culinary adventure.

Long road to perfection

Nilai University College (Nilai UC) recently appointed veteran academic Dr Muhamad bin Muda as head of its School of Hospitality and Tourism. He talks of his past experiences and about the career prospects for students.

Nilai University College recently appointed veteran academic Dr Muhamad bin Muda to be Dean of its School of Hospitality and Tourism. Having been in this line for well over three decades, Dr Muhamad talks about his experiences and what he hopes to achieve at Nilai UC.

It was a time of mutton chop sideburns and bell-bottoms when Dr Muhamad bin Muda took his first tentative steps towards a career in hospitality and tourism in 1970. After completing his Diploma at ITM, he was picked to further his studies in the United Kingdom under the Colombo plan scholarship.

Dr Muhamad lectured for a few years upon his return before once again going overseas to further add to his expertise. This time his studies took him to the University of Massachusetts, USA for MSc in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel in 1979. Between 1983 and 1985, Dr Muhamad was in charge of development, marketing and planning as well as operations of the Desaru Resort project as tourism manager for the South East Johor Development Authority (Kejora). After a stint as Dean of School of Catering at UiTM, he left to pursue his PhD in Tourism at University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Upon his return in 1992, Dr Muhamad was asked to run UiTM’s training hotel which was the first of its kind in the country.

In 1997, Dr Muhamad was the Provost/Director of University Teknologi Mara’s Trengganu branch. He later served as Assistant Vice Chancellor in charge of quality assurance at UiTM and was also warded professorship before his retirement from public service in 2007.

After a short break, Dr Muhamad was asked to head Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. Never one to rest on his laurels, Dr Muhamad took up the challenge. Here he discusses why school leavers should consider a career in hospitality and tourism as well as outlining some of his future plans for Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

Why would you encourage students to consider joining this industry?
For starters, tourism worldwide is booming. More people than ever before are travelling and their needs have to be catered to. Hence employment opportunities are growing ever larger. Compare the number of tourists with the 70s and 80s. The growth in Malaysia alone has been phenomenal. There are more hotels, tour guides and fine dining restaurants than ever before. Thus the demand for skilled manpower in these areas is very much on the rise.

Any particular programme you would like to highlight?
Yes, I believe the Diploma in Culinary Arts is a very useful qualification. Once you can cook, you have a skill that is valuable anywhere you go. Chefs have become very high profile in recent years and the employment prospects have broadened significantly over the years. Unlike in the past, chefs are no longer sweating it out just in the kitchens. Today, they are successful owner-restaurateurs, general managers of hotel chains and even interior designers. The scope has certainly widened.
I would also like to recommend students pursue a career in Hotel Management. This is because tourism is expanding all the time and there is tremendous opportunity at Nilai UC for Hotel Management students to pursue their studies with Oxford Brookes University (OBU), United Kingdom.
For example, STPM school leavers will require a minimum of three years to complete their OBU programme. Compare that with a SPM school leaver who has already completed his two-year Diploma in Hotel management programme at Nilai UC, the OBU degree will only take another two years.
To join OBU’s BA (Hons) in Business and Hospitality programme, a candidate must pass the English for International Opportunity (IELTS) examination with a minimum score of 6.0. But if you are a Nilai UC Diploma in Hotel Management holder, you are exempted from this requirement.

What advantages does Nilai UC have over other institutes of higher learning?
The major advantage Nilai UC has is that students can transfer their credits to Oxford Brookes University’s Hospitality and Business Degree programme which is offered locally. This represents a major saving in cost.
With Nilai UC’s Hospitality and Business Management course, students are getting a double major. Students will devote equal amounts of time on hospitality and business management. This broadens their scope of employment opportunity for our graduates. They thus have an added competitive edge when they are in the job market. And that’s not forgetting the prestige of an OBU 3+0 qualification. According to an independent survey undertaken by Taylor, Nelson & Sofres last year, OBU is ranked the sixth best Hospitality school in the world and the best in the UK.

Why did you come out of retirement to be Dean of Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism?
Firstly, I am very excited at the prospect of working together with OBU given their impeccable credentials. In all my years of experience, I can safely tell you that what OBU is offering via Nilai UC is not available elsewhere in Malaysia. It is also a continued learning curve for myself; what better way to learn than from the best in the business.
Furthermore, I knew Nilai UC had a very good reputation and has first class facilities. Nilai UC has its own 100-seater training restaurant, Flamme, which has a 5,460sq ft training kitchen. That’s probably the largest training kitchen in the country and includes a bakery, cold cut room and butchery. It is my intention to get as many students here to benefit from these great facilities under the tutelage of some very experienced lecturers.

Do you see the Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism growing bigger?
Of course, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think so. For example, the number of Culinary Arts students has doubled since its inception in 2005.

How does Nilai UC’s tuition fees compare to other schools?
Our tuition fees are very attractive as Nilai UC’s programmes are very competitively priced without sacrificing quality.

What part do you play with students’ placement?
We aide students with their applications for industrial training. In fact, Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism have one lecturer dedicated to helping our students secure internship. You can find our students and graduates working in places such as the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, Star Cruises, Westin and many more.

Are Nilai UC’s Hospitality and Tourism programmes recognised by the government?
Most definitely. All of Nilai UC’s syllabus is compliant with the standard set by Malaysian Qualifying Agency (formerly known as Lembaga Akreditasi Negara). Coupled with the first-class facilities and unique campus-style education, you will be guaranteed a learning experience that is second to none.

Cooking Up A Career

Culinary arts is the new rock n roll! Find out how you too can become a star in the kitchen with Nilai University College’s Diploma in Culinary Arts.

Guy Rubino, Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver and our very own Chef Wan. The advent of so-many celebrity TV chefs is reflective of the status of a chef in today’s food and celebrity-obsessed society. Such is the pull of shows such as Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Oliver’s Naked Chef that Astro recently launched its Asian Food Channel to accompany the popular Discovery Travel & Living. Chefs are indeed the new idols and can command astronomical salaries especially if accompanied by the right credentials such as a Michelin star or two.

Thus it is not surprising more school leavers these days are looking to don the chef’s top hat in search of a lucrative and rewarding career. One institution of higher learning that has carved out a reputation for itself in this booming industry is Nilai University College (Nilai UC). It not only has some veteran lecturers in the School of Hospitality and Tourism but also boasts of having one of the best training kitchen facilities in the country.

“We believe practical experience is absolutely vital in the field of Culinary Arts. Thus having a basic kitchen alone is not enough. The training kitchen on Nilai UC’s campus is over 5,000sq ft large and comes equipped with a pastry room, bakery, butchery as well as a cold cuts room. These are facilities you hardly find anywhere else,” says Dr Muhammad bin Musa, head of Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. Other facilities include a 100-seater training restaurant, called Flamme, for food practicals which Dr Muhamad hopes to have functioning on a daily basis. At the moment, it is utilised at least 28 times each semester for the practical sessions but Dr Muhamad believes the practical experience is crucial. Thus he is hoping to have the training restaurant to serve lunch and dinner daily from next year onwards. “This way, students in this course will learn a lot more and they will be much better prepared when they finally go out into the working world,” he says.

Nilai UC has been teaching culinary arts at its 105-acre award-winning campus since 2005. The programme is designed to bring out the chef in you by transforming your inherent passion for cooking into a professional skill. Intakes are in January, March, May, July and September and minimum requirement is three credits in SPM.

“Of course, the most important ingredient necessary for a student to succeed in this line is a real passion to cook and create something which will excite the senses,” adds Dr Muhamad.
“Be warned though, this is not an easy career as the hours are long and hard and you will probably spend most of your time in the hot, sweaty confines of a boiling kitchen. But it is a hugely rewarding career as a person who can cook well will have a skill which is appreciated anywhere you go.”

Nilai UC’s Diploma in Culinary Arts programme also benefits from having some well-known industry partners such as the JW Marriot Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel, Nikko Hotel and Allson Klana Nilai among others. This means students will be able to garner real-life experience of working in a high-pressure cooker environment of a commercial kitchen. Upon completion of this two year and four month programme, students will be attached to one of Nilai UC’s partners for stint of at least four months.

“Starting January 2009, we will also be offering a B.A. (Hons) in Business and Hospitality Management for students who are looking to get a degree to further their career in the hospitality industry. This new addition is reflective of our commitment towards giving students a wider choice of programmes to choose from Nilai UC’s School of Hospitality and Tourism,” said Dr Muhamad.

Located in the lush, green suburb of Putra Nilai, the campus is a mere 45-minute drive from Kuala Lumpur city centre. Established in 1997, Nilai UC has nearly 3,000 students hailing from 50 different countries making its campus a cosmopolitan melting pot. Besides Culinary Arts, Nilai UC offers a wide range of programmes ranging from the Degree in Computer Science to Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. For more information, please go to http://www.nilai.edu.my/ or call 06-8502338 / 03-5637 2619 / 07-333 2336 / 088-238811.