We’ve all heard the misogynistic saying, “women belong in the kitchen”. Yet the irony is that the F&B industry is dominated by men.
Tatler recently reached out to Chef Mandy Goh, executive chef at The St Regis Langkawi, and Chef Suzana Anwar, pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur, to talk about their journey and the challenges they encountered on the way up as professional female chefs. This is how our Zoom conversation went down.
How did you get your start as a chef?
Mandy Goh: I started as a trainee at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur before becoming its junior chef.
Suzana Anwar: I love to cook and bake, that’s why I joined this industry. My first hotel was the Crown Princess Hotel, now DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur. At 17, straight after school, I joined the hotel industry working in coffee houses and helped out on the desserts. That's when I realised I had an interest in making pastries.
What made you decide to pursue a career as a chef?
MG: I didn’t have much confidence as a student; I didn't like to study and would always cycle around with my friends. When I was 17, I would cook things like char bee hoon and chicken chop. I would wake up at 5am to cook and bring them to class to share. I would also read up and learn about cooking techniques; I carried those books everywhere!
I would say that I found my self-confidence and my soul when I’m holding a knife and wearing a chef’s uniform. It’s a totally different me when I’m in the kitchen. When I started working in the kitchen, I could see that being a chef was not just about the food that we cook. We are responsible for every aspect of the food that we serve to our guests, be it hygiene, quality or presentation. I find so much satisfaction in my work.
SA: When I was younger, I was always interested in my mom’s cooking—she really loved to cook! She also owned a little shop that served breakfast and I always helped her in the kitchen.