Ang Hock Ann – Champion of my own Destiny

Due to his mischievous nature, Ang Hock Ann dropped out from school after completing Secondary 1 and was confronted with the surmountable task of securing himself a job. Fresh out of school, he didn’t even have an inkling on what his interests were. Options were limited due to his age and lack of qualifications. He eventually forayed into the F&B industry which posed the least barriers to entry for the uneducated youth. He started to work in a western restaurant which sparked his interest in cooking and has remained in the industry for the next 25 years.

Reminiscing about his younger days, Hock Ann shared that he wasn’t motivated to pick up new skills for his work initially. He was simply contented to get by with whatever he had. It wasn’t until the 1980s where English became one of the most widely spoken languages that reality hit him hard. “I faced difficulties whenever the situation requires English. Gradually, I realised the obstacles I would face without a proper qualification,” said Hock Ann.

After serving his National Service, Hock Ann worked in a hotel where he met SHATEC students who were trained in the relevant industry knowledge. “As I interacted with them, I became aware of the importance of professional training to be able to adapt to the changes of the industry,” said Hock Ann. At that period of time, he also sought out opportunities to learn other types of besides Western and picked up skills in Sichuan, Asian and Cantonese cuisines from various jobs.

In 1997, the Asian Financial Crisis swept through Singapore and many restaurants folded. Facing a bleak economy, Hock Ann went to work in an in-house kitchen of a local hospital. His main responsibility was to prepare patients’ food, which he did so for the next 12 years. It was a work environment where English was widely used and Hock Ann began to learn English on his own in earnest.

He shared that he had a zi-char business when he was in his mid 20s. “I did not earn a lot of money from the business due to lack of experience in business and stiff competition between stalls. As a result, my business folded after a year,” he reminisced. However, he did not dwell long on the failure of his business venture and headed back to work in the industry to pick up more skills and knowledge.

At the same time, he also considered taking up courses for upgrading. “I felt that with more professional knowledge on culinary skills, it would be useful if I were to start my own business again,” said Hock Ann.

He is currently a Junior Sous Chef at Malaysian Street Food with Resorts World Sentosa where he has been working for the past 3 years when one day, his chef caught him by surprise with the offer to study a part-time culinary diploma programme.

“I am very fortunate to have a supportive employer who helped me enrol me into SHATEC under the SkillsFuture Study Award,” said Hock Ann.

Ang Hock Ann (2nd on the right) with the other students who are studying Diploma in Culinary Skills (Part-Time) programme under the SkillsFuture Study Award.

“As the lessons are conducted in English, I need to find means and ways to overcome language barriers as English is not the language I use with ease regularly. Now, I try to converse more in English and uses a mobile application to help myself along.  As a father of two young adults, I really appreciate the fact that my children are very supportive of me going back to school. They even help me vet my assignments and give me constructive comments,” shared Hock Ann happily.

6 months into the programme, Hock Ann felt that the course had broadened his knowledge and deepened his skills. “In the past, I used to depend on tips shared by others and pick up skills by observing more experienced chefs. It is different when you are able to learn with in-depth understanding on how things actually work or why they don’t. This benefited my job greatly,” said Hock Ann.

“For instance, in this day and age where fusion food is trending, there may be Asian elements in many modern Western cuisines. Hence, we can no longer follow the rigid rule of matching white meat with white wine or dark coloured meat with red wine. Through the module on Food, Wines and Spirits, I got to learn more about the properties and flavours of different wines and how they balance well with certain ingredients. This helped me make food-wine recommendations more confidently to my F&B manager.”

Hock Ann believes that hard work and continuous upgrading is the only way to keep up with the rapid transformations of the F&B scene. “It doesn’t matter if you didn’t study well or learned the wrong techniques previously. Your future is still within your grasp if you work hard to bridge the gap,” advised Hock Ann.

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