Featured Alumni: Hospitality in the DNA – Alumnus Keith Yeak and Son Tristen Yeak

Keith Yeak, Director of Sales at Okura Nikko Hotel Management, started out 30 years ago as a SHATEC trainee in Front Office Operations. Little did he expect that his son, Tristen Yeak, 19, would one day follow his footsteps pursuing a career path with the hospitality industry and coming full circle to take up a place of study with his alma mater. We sat down for a quick chat with Keith to find out more about his early days as well as how he sees his son’s growth with SHATEC.

  1. You have certainly gone far since your days at SHATEC to become quite the hospitality veteran! Tell us how it all began.

I have heard about the hospitality industry during my secondary school days. Unlike today where we have ready support from teachers for career guidance, back then we could only rely on our seniors for such information. At that time, there was a hike in the arrival of Japanese tourists so our government promoted about the hospitality and tourism trade. I was still in army when I started thinking about my career path and thought that the hospitality and tourism trade would be the right fit for me.

Subsequently, I enrolled into SHATEC in the year 1987 to study Front Office Operations after my National Service. My outlook in life and attitude towards learning were different from my peers. I was sure of what I want to do and my direction in life. I also reckoned that receiving a proper training education was better than entering the industry with zero knowledge.

  1. Share with us your memories of SHATEC back then.

I enjoyed my studies because of my friends, the environment and not to forget, my trainers as well.  As the schooling days were the best times of my life, the memories of them are still fresh in my mind. In school, I met classmates from all walks of life, some whom I am still in contact with. My trainers imparted quite a fair bit of knowledge to us and I recalled a particular trainer, Ms Ann Ang, as one of the strictest trainers in class. They taught us interpersonal and front office skills that offered valuable insights for those who are not in the trade. Their lessons gave us a foretaste of what is to come when we are out in the industry.

  1. And now we have your son, Tristen, with us. How did this decision come about?

Way before Tristen expressed his interest in joining SHATEC, we observed that he likes to cook at home such as making pasta. After he graduated from secondary school, he decided to pursue an electronic engineering course, but it was not his forte. We decided to revisit his options together with him. Using my experience in SHATEC as reference, I told him that SHATEC is a good institution where he can get the right kind of training. With its deep industry connections, the knowledge and skills being taught to students will be up-to-date and relevant. I shared my views with him, but ultimately it was him who made SHATEC his choice of school.

  1. As a father how do you feel he is doing currently?

He seems to be enjoying himself as he takes great interest in learning about knife skills and even did research on Youtube for videos on cooking techniques. When I travel, he will ask me to find certain books for him. One particular book that I remember is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. It heartens me when I see him doing something that he likes and putting in effort to do it well.

  1. What advice would you share with our students?

I think that the learning process goes on beyond the classroom and once you learn something, no one can take it away from you. Likewise for me, I feel that it is just the beginning after I graduated from SHATEC. Up till today, I am still learning and building on the strong foundation which SHATEC has given me to reach where I am now. I believe that it will help you, just like my son Tristen, in lighting up your path to where you wish to tread in the future.

Keith’s son, Tristen, is currently pursuing the Diploma in Culinary Skills with SHATEC. More recently, he was featured in the monthly SHATEC Paparazzi series. Here’s a recap of Tristen’s story in: A typical day of a SHATEC culinary student.

Glad to be heading to school as I can’t wait to learn new skills and see my friends!

(second from the left): Grooming check before my practical. Hope I can pass Chef Gerald’s strict scrutiny!

Keeping my trusty knife sharp at all times.

Keep the blade straight, brace it against the knuckles. Focus not on speed but on consistency.

Keeping a safe distance from the wok and fire!

From zero to hero, that’s what I am going to be at SHATEC. Thank you all my trainers!

Inspired by Keith and Tristen’s father-and-son story and their learning journeys with SHATEC? Check out our website for related programmes and kick-start your future in hospitality!