New centre trains ex-offenders to cook up a storm

HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre's head trainer, Chef Ng Boon Kiong (third from left), with the five trainees who graduated yesterday. They are (from left) Mr Seow Boon Phong, Mr Lee Kok Pheng, Mr Colin Chan, Mr Dwight Soriano and Mr Marcus Loh
HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre's head trainer, Chef Ng Boon Kiong (third from left), with the five trainees who graduated yesterday. They are (from left) Mr Seow Boon Phong, Mr Lee Kok Pheng, Mr Colin Chan, Mr Dwight Soriano and Mr Marcus Loh Wen Jun.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

In a fit of rage, Mr Dwight Soriano set off a carpark explosion last year and spent the next 10 months behind bars.

When he was released from jail, he found that he had nowhere to go. He ended up living in HCSA Highpoint - a halfway house for former offenders run by HCSA Community Services - and enrolling in a culinary training course offered by the group.

He graduated from the HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre's course yesterday and will start work at his new job at Marina Mandarin Hotel next week.

Mr Soriano, 33, was one of five people who graduated from the centre yesterday. Two will join him at the hotel, while the rest will work at Astons' restaurant chain.

The centre was formally opened by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, yesterday.

Dr Yaacob said he was glad to see how the trainees were determined to start afresh.

"With their passion for cooking and their determination to master a new skill, I am confident that they will bring cheer to the people they cook for, and brighten their own lives in the process," he said.

Those who graduate from the six-week culinary course get a Higher Certificate in Food Services (Culinary Arts) from the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification. HCSA will also help them secure full-time placements in dining establishments, said the chief executive of HCSA Community Services, Ms Dominique Choy.

There are plans to extend the programme to other social service organisations.

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'New centre trains ex-offenders to cook up a storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe