Featured Alumni: Chef Roy Lim – Conquering the Epicurean World, One Win at a Time
Working as a kitchen helper in a small bistro at the age of seventeen was more than making a quick buck for Chef Roy. It piqued his interest in culinary arts which led him to join SHATEC in 2009 and subsequently graduated with Diploma in Culinary Skills. Thereafter, he continued to make a name for himself carving a career in the F&B industry and chalking up accolades in the international culinary arena. The latest addition to his list of achievements is the prestigious championship title at the Culinary Olympics 2016. SHATEC catches up with the soft-spoken chef almost 6 years after his graduation to learn all about his journey to success since moving on from school.
When asked about his days as a student in SHATEC, Chef Roy fondly reminisced, “It was an inspiring journey. I learned a lot under Chef Saw’s mentorship. He was the one who encouraged me to represent SHATEC in the Two to Tango Apprentice Competition (Practical) at FHA Culinary Challenge 2010 and I managed to win the Best Apprentice Team Award! I still keep in touch with Chef Saw to this day even though I have graduated for some time now.”
Winning the Best Apprentice award sparked his interest in competitive cooking. In the short span of 3 years between 2013 to 2016 after his graduation, Chef Roy scored another 5 remarkable wins including:
- Culinary World Masters in Basel (2013)
- Battle of the Lion Competition – FHA Culinary Challenge (2014)
- Expogast Culinary World Cup (2014)
He honed his skills throughout the years and made his way progressively to earn himself a spot with the Singapore National Team. In October 2016, the team made history when they were crowned world champion with double golds at the IKA Culinary Olympics.
Realising the Olympic dream was no easy feat. Chef Roy recounted how they often met up late after work for discussions which could stretched till midnight, in order to perfect their dishes. Likewise, for their training, which easily lasted 8 – 9 hours taking up whole day in their schedule with little, if any, time left for family and personal commitments. At the end of each training session, they had to clear up their work stations, washed up, followed by a debrief. Chef Roy pointed out that they would work as a team and agree on a given time such as three to four hours to complete their agenda for the day so that they would not feel overworked. The members had to keep up their professionalism despite juggling both work and training simultaneously. “We have to manage our time well and avoid overlapping work with training.”
His main responsibility in the team was to plan and construct a festive five course together with the pastry team. Team effort and effective communication were paramount. “There were a lot of communications at many levels to avoid conflict in use of ingredients as we do not want similar ingredients appearing too often.” Indeed, teamwork is the key ingredient to the team’s productivity and success in achieving their common goal.
Behind every success chef, there is an important mentor who held up the beacon of hope. For Chef Roy, his mentor was none other than his culinary trainer at SHATEC, Chef Saw Han Hun. “Chef Saw had been (and still is) an inspiring figure to me. He taught me many things outside of an academic curriculum, mentoring me on ways to complete my job well and to succeed in competitions.”
After years of experience both as a team player and assistant at culinary competitions, Chef Roy sees competitive cooking more as an “extra-curricular activity” where he could develop new skills and competencies that will prepare him for the industry where consumer tastes are ever-changing. “It is not a way to gain glamorous titles,” the chef asserts, “It is a place where I learn and grow.”
Looking ahead, Chef Roy’s goals for himself include being a good team player and a better leader. He hopes to come up with new ideas to inspire his team. He looks up to his senior chefs and sees them as benchmark for himself, especially Chef Eric Chua, who was also a SHATEC alumnus like him. “They are my inspiration in terms of the way they work, how they manage their staff and kitchen operations.”
When asked on advice for the current students who aspire to follow his footsteps, Chef Roy has this to share,“Firstly, never give up and take critiques with a pinch of salt. Don’t be overly upset when someone criticises your dish, it is part of learning and they are trying to impart you with essential skills to make the dish work. Secondly, you must always like what you do especially in cooking. Lastly, you are constantly learning on the job so always be humble and remind yourself that what you have achieved is only the beginning to greater things ahead.”
Let’s take moment to peek at the personality behind the chef in a quick round of Q&A!
SHATEC (S): What is your comfort food?
Roy Lim (RL): To me, comfort food is about having a warm, hearty meal. Thus, my favourite food would always be my mother’s cooking.
S: What do you do for leisure outside of work?
RL: I love to spend my free time looking at how people cook, grow their own ingredients and prepare a meal. I also love to spend time with my family and enjoys bar hopping on a night out with my wife.
S: What is your favourite pastime?
RL: My favourite pastime is to travel around the world to see different types of food and cuisine. It is always fun to understand the culture of the food that you are eating.
S: Any particular dish which you wouldn’t cook in your kitchen?
RL: I do not have any as I have to be professional and cook any types of food that is required.
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