After working in the IT industry for 30 years, 66-year-old Mr Shum San Wah decided on a late-career switch to cooking.
He now plies his new trade in several restaurants in Resorts World Singapore, and is one of the first aspiring chefs to benefit from the culinary programmes offered at Nanyang Polytechnic's new Asian Culinary Institute (ACI) in Payar Lebar.
Accredited by the Workforce Development Agency, the cooking school, officially launched on Wednesday (June 15), provides tailored courses for all those interested in getting a taste of the food and beverage (F&B) services industry.
Set up in April last year, Singapore's first culinary institute dedicated to Asian cuisine offers programmes pitched at varying levels of experience and aptitudes, from one-day workshops to learn how to make salted egg doughnuts to full specialist diplomas.
"Given our reputation as one of Asia-Pacific's gourmet capitals, it is crucial we adopt measures to attract, develop and retain talent within the industry," said guest of honour Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary for the ministries of Education and Trade and Industry.
Indeed, the new training school marks the latest effort to breathe new life into an ailing industry plagued by a shortage of local talent and a rapidly ageing workforce.
To stem its decline and build a pipeline of local chefs, ACI is collaborating with 11 F&B and hospitality organisations to provide newcomers with work attachment opportunities and existing staff with skill-upgrading courses.
In addition, it has roped in celebrity chefs such as Mr Eric Teo, president mentor at Singapore Chefs' Association, who will trade their spatulas for chalkboards to mentor 24 to 48 polytechnic and ITE fresh graduates each year.
"The on-the-job training exposes them to the language used in the kitchen so that when they start work, they will already know what is expected of them," said Mr Teo.
For former housewife Clarine Lin, the school equipped her with the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce. The part-time pastry cook at Grand Plaza City Hall joked: "I performed so well that they thought I had already been in the industry for a long time."
Also at the event on Wednesday was Japanese Ambassador Kenji Shinoda, who lauded a memorandum of understanding between ACI and Japan Food Town Development to teach Japanese cuisine at ACI.
He said to cheers: "I'm proud that Japanese cuisine is so popular here in Singapore. Let us take it to the next level."