Yap Kean Chuan's Top Tips To Becoming An Award-Winning Pastry Chef
Get Ready To Start From The Bottom
Put in some elbow grease and earn your stripes! Attending a prestigious pastry academy doesn’t guarantee a glamorous job at a five-star hotel or a Michelin-starred restaurant. “Even Cordon Bleu graduates start in the role of commis,” said chef Yap. “If we were talking about a doctorate in engineering or a medical degree, things would be different. In this line, however, experience is more important.”
Don’t Be Disillusioned By TV Programmes
Chef’s Table included. “I think (such programmes) are tailored for aspiring ‘celebrity chefs,” said chef Yap. “In Malaysia, I can honestly tell you that 80 to 90 percent of pastry chefs are more proficient at ‘people work,’ not real pastry knowledge."
Be Hungry for Healthy Competition
“After having established yourself in the workplace, the next step forwards in your career would be to join a competition and to put your name out there,” said chef Yap, who has taken home trophies at Food and Hotel Malaysia (FHM)’s Live Sugar Showcase in 2013; Korea’s Hot Cooking for the Junior Young Chef Challenge in 2013; FHM’s Sugar Showpiece and Chocolate Display in 2015; the 2016 Asia Pastry Cup; and most recently, the 2018 Mondial des Arts Sucrés in Paris.
But Don’t Let Fame Go To Your Head
“Many youth—especially in the hotel line—are desperate to compete before they’re even ready,” lamented chef Yap. “A senior once advised me: ‘Don’t become too obsessed with competitions.’ How will you contribute to your workplace with such an attitude? I’m fortunate to have followed in the footsteps of the correct chef, as the wrong training can mean being stuck as commis for years. The right attitude is very important.”
Participate in Masterclasses
Never put a halt to your learning. Even if you think you’ve secured a solid foundation, continue seeking out new techniques and innovation. Culinary institutions such as the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia arrange for internationally renowned chefs to conduct masterclasses in town. "Tuition for teachings of such caliber can burn a hole in your wallet—overseas. At the academy, the cost is partially absorbed for the sake of its students," explained chef Yap. The Asia Pastry Forum inspires pastry enthusiasts to break the mold while gaining some insight from industry experts.
Visit the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia's website to learn more about Asia Pastry Forum, which is scheduled for November 2018.
Savvy Time Management
Being a proficient pastry artist requires savvy time management more than anything. At Mondial des Arts Sucrés in Paris, chef Yap's small team of two had four days to complete the following: one sugar showpiece; one chocolate showpiece; one mixed sugar and chocolate showpiece; twenty ice cream cakes; twenty plated desserts; thirty pieces each of two types of confectionary arts; and four entremets (layered mousse cakes)!
Catch up with these other chefs on our site: Jeff Ramsey of Babe | Darren Chin of DC Restaurant | Carrie Scully of Tiki Taka