2 years later, she wins culinary title

2 years later, she wins culinary title

Translator gives up job to fulfil dream of becoming a chef

She harboured dreams of being a chef, but was discouraged by some of her relatives while growing up in Meerut, India.

In late 2013, she left her cushy translator job in Singapore to enrol in culinary school, Shatec.

It paid off handsomely. On Nov 9, a year after graduating, Ms Nayab Siddiqui, 29, was crowned champion at the International Tapas Competition for Young Chefs in Valladolid, Spain.

She clinched the title won by Shatec graduate Teo Jun Xiang last year.

Tapas are bite-sized Spanish appetisers, typically served with drinks.

Ms Nayab said: "They announced the winning tapas on the screen, and there it was, my tapas' name. I was so happy."

She named her winning tapas the Miniature Torto - a concoction of minced lamb meat, french beans and various spices crowning a cornmeal fritter.

Ms Nayab wanted to be a chef since she was 13.

But some relatives told her it wasn't a career for girls.

She said: "The environment was too tough, with long working hours. I was young so it got into my head a little."

She moved to Singapore in 2011 to be a French translator at tech firm Wipro.

Ms Nayab said: "I was in front of a computer all day, but I always had this (dream) in mind. This is what my heart desires."

She left her job, which paid her an estimated $5,000 a month, to enrol in Shatec's Diploma in Culinary Skills in 2014.

"To be a cook, you need experience. My time at Shatec provided me a solid foundation," said Ms Nayab.

After her graduation, she applied for the annual Spanish Gastronomy and Tapas Training Programme in Valladolid, organised by ICEX Spain Trade and Investment.

The 12 selected participants flew to Spain in June to learn the cuisine and culture and intern at various restaurants before competing in the International Tapas Competition for Young Chefs.

Ms Nayab, who is married to a software engineer, added: "It wasn't difficult to leave everything behind for five months, and my family was very supportive."

On her win, Shatec's culinary trainer Gerald Cheok, 36, said: "I was surprised but at the same time not surprised, because I know her calibre and amount of detail she puts into her work."

Ms Nayab, who is applying for a demi chef's position, hopes to encourage other girls to pursue their dream of being chefs.

She said: "It's not as glamorous as you think, but it's not abusive like in some reality shows. It pushes you, but never beyond your physical capacity."

This article was first published on December 09, 2016.
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