Classroom cooking for real

Classroom cooking for real

RECIPES,A BISTRO BY SHATEC

Run by students from the Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre (Shatec)

WHAT

This bistro is in the heart town, on High Street, near Parliament House.

While the dinner crowd is a bit sparse, the restaurant bustles with office workers from the CBD area during lunch hour.

The first student-run restaurant opened in 2011. Since then, it has been serving Western fare to hundreds of diners weekly.

FOOD

The bistro serves three-course set meals as well as a-la-carte options.

I had the Crispy Cannelloni with Duck Cous Cous - cylindrical pasta that is generally served baked with a filling and drizzled with mango sauce - as an appetiser. It set the tone for a surprisingly good meal.

The next course was tomato soup, which was fresh and tasty.

Even my main course of Seafood Aglio Olio, which sounds like a simple dish, was enticing. It was covered in garlic, just how I like it. The pasta was al dente, springy to the touch.

My only gripe? The pasta could be spicier.

Kitchen staff member Leslie Tan explains that even before the students step into the restaurant, they have to clock about nine hours of practical lessons a week.

"Some of us go to the market with our trainers even though it's not part of the school curriculum," he said. "Despite it being at the trainer's and the student's own cost, some of us want the full experience knowing what it is like to market for a restaurant."

The 21-year-old budding chef added: "A chef is constantly walking around making sure us students are doing things right."

As part of their course, the students have to complete a three-month practicum. In their final year, the students are, again, tasked to complete another internship, this time for six months.

Mr Tan did both his stints at Recipes and has continued working there part time after graduation.

"Most students find a hotel to work at but I feel like I learnt so much at Recipes that I decided to just do my six-month internship there," he says.

"Now I'm just helping out because we are a little short of staff sometimes."

When the students get to handle dishes, they do so under the watchful eye of a trainer, who ensures all aspects are done right.

He says: "They check that the health standards are met, dishes are correctly plated and of course, that it tastes its best."

SERVICE

The students at the 70-seater restaurant were attentive and asked customers if the food was to their liking.

When things don't go according to plan, customers are extra understanding. Mr Tyron Chia, 21, a food and beverage supervision student, describes his worst day: The serving tray he was holding slipped from his grasp and he ended up spilling an entire glass of wine on a female customer.

He immediately rushed to get napkins for the woman and apologised profusely. Thankfully, she saw that it was an accident and did not kick up a fuss, he says.

Trainer Yikun Wong, who is in charge of students' progress says of Recipes: "This is our way of prepping the students before they do an attachment at hotels or wherever they choose to go.

"They start off serving classmates (on campus), then they come here to get a grasp of serving customers before we deem them prepared to be under real-world management."

PRICE

It cost less than $40 for the three-course meal.

Most students find a hotel to work at but I feel like I learnt so much at Recipes that I decided to just do my six-month internship there. - Kitchen staff member Leslie Tan

CHEZ WEST

run by students from

ITE College West

WHAT

ITE College West opened Chez West in 2011 on the school's Choa Chu Kang campus.

"Chez West was conceptualised as part of the launch of the Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts programme," says Mr Alvin Goh, the Deputy Director in Culinary Arts at ITE College West.

After a partnership with the Institut Paul Bocuse (IPB) in Lyon, the idea of a setting up a French restaurant was born.

The students get a two-week stint at the French school as part of their curriculum in their final year.

"We wanted to find a good international partner which we could learn from and work together towards a greater recognition in the culinary trade," adds Mr Goh.

He said the purpose of Chez West is for students to be masters of not just the kitchen, but all restaurant operations.

FOOD

It doesn't have foie gras or escargots on the menu.

I was served an appetizer called Fungi. It featured eggs, button mushrooms, shallots and peanuts.

I had Coulis, a beef dish featuring roasted vegetables and egg yolk confit as my main dish.

For dessert, I had mango mousse with blood orange jelly, passion fruit coulis and chocolate sticks.

The menu changes all the time - constantly exposing the students to new dishes.

There are about 60 students enrolled in the programme and most look forward to handling the stove.

Only eight get a chance to be in the kitchen each time they go on their stint, which varies in duration depending on the module they're doing.

Mr Haikel Hassani, 21, who is pursuing a technical diploma in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management explains: "We work in different parts of the kitchen so as to understand what it feels like to be on each side.

"I've spent a number of days just washing the dishes, but that is part of understanding all aspects of the kitchen. Without a dish washer, the kitchen won't run as well even if there are great cooks."

SERVICE

There were only nine of us in the 40-seater cafe that day, and the students wore ready smiles and were keen to serve each and every one.

Aside from creating dishes, students in ITE's Culinary Arts programme have to also spend time learning to serve customers.

Mr Haikel says: "Working on the floor, I got to learn how to deal with customers head-on.

"I prefer to be in the kitchen but working on the floor, where you have to face customers was a good experience, a different one."

He aspires to open his own fine dining restaurant specialising in Malay cuisine.

PRICE

For $25 nett, customers - mostly students and staff of the school - can enjoy a four-course meal prepared and presented by the students pursuing the Culinary Arts diploma.

Mr Haikel says: "It is affordable and some of the lecturers come here to eat.

"Chez West is a training restaurant meant to support the learning of the Diploma students in both areas of food service and kitchen practice." "It was not created to be a commercial restaurant," says Mr Goh.


This article was first published on April 13, 2015.
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