Mohd Kamaruddin Adnin: Chief of all chefs

Mohd Kamaruddin Adnin, president of the Professional Culinaire Association, counts the many positive outcomes of hosting the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2018 for his organisation and his professional peers in Malaysia

Malaysia hosted the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2018 in July. How is that beneficial for the Professional Culinaire Association (PCA) and its members?
The event is proof of PCA’s recognition by Worldchefs (The World Association of Chefs’ Societies), which is important as we are a young association. It is also recognition by chefs in Malaysia that we are the national professional body in Malaysia.

Mohd Kamaruddin Adnin

The four-day event provided plenty of opportunities for our members to network with foreign chefs from more than 100 countries. That is important because it opens doors for us to invite overseas chefs to give talks on the latest cooking techniques as well as cooking demonstrations at PCA’s future events, and for our members to showcase our expertise and Malaysian recipes at overseas events. There are more opportunities for us to learn from one another.

Since the congress, PCA has been approached by both corporate and government agencies that wish to work with us. One such government agency is Invest Selangor. It has invited us to exhibit, give a career talk on the profession and judge in a competition on cake decoration and fruit carving at the Selangor International Business Summit 2018 in September. It is a great opportunity for our members to network with South-east Asian importers and exporters of F&B, manufacturers, distributors and traders who will be present.

Has the congress helped to grow PCA membership too?
Most definitely. Prior to the event, we had about 100 members. As we drew closer to the congress, membership started to rise. Now we have 250 members and growing.

By hosting the congress, we have successfully demonstrated to Malaysian chefs that PCA is an active association and we organise and participate in activities that give members foreign exposure. We also conduct educational programmes for our members and do charity projects that involve cooking for the homeless, orphans or victims of natural disasters.

Young chefs who are 25 years and below now make up 30 per cent of our membership. Many of them are still in colleges taking culinary courses. They have not yet entered the working world. They join the association with the intention to gain more knowledge which could further their career development and for networking opportunities with celebrity chefs. Here, we also create opportunities for them to serve the community through charitable events.

Sometimes major association meetings led to positive influences in government policies facing the profession or related industry issues. Has the congress achieved any advances in this manner?
No, but it has opened doors for us. The deputy tourism, arts and culture minister, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, who gave an opening speech and launched the congress, told our members to give proposals to the ministry on how we can work together.

There are a few things we’d like to do, to further expose foreigners to Malaysian food which is not as well-known as say, Japanese or Thai cuisine.

We would like to do cooking demonstrations on Malaysian food in foreign countries where Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation or other government agencies are exhibiting at major events.

Food wastage is a growing concern around the world and for Worldchefs. Was this addressed at the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2018?
First, you need to understand the difference between food waste and food loss. Food waste refers to food that is fit for consumption but is discarded. This is very different from food loss, which is food that is spoilt before it reaches the retail stage. At the congress, the issue of food waste was tackled head-on and delegates made a commitment to reduce food wastage.

A delegate, Christopher Ekman, who is also chef at ReTaste, a not-for-profit restaurant in Stockholm, gave an on-site demonstration using produce given by local supermarkets that were nearing their expiry dates. This included pasta made from stale bread. The key message was that less than premium products were still valuable and, with a little imagination, you can produce delicious meals with them.

How is food wastage being dealt by PCA?
We work closely with Food Aid Foundation, a non-profit government organisation that rescues surplus food from the supply chain and distributes it to those in need. We run projects together where Food Aid Foundation gives us the ingredients and our volunteer members cook and distribute dishes to the needy.

We also run educational talks for our members, including young chefs, on what they can do to reduce food wastage. We advocate cooking based on requirement, and not cooking in excess.

So what’s next for PCA now that the congress is done and dusted?
We will be concentrating on activities within Malaysia. A strong bond was forged among committee members in the lead up to the congress. We hope to enhance this.

Now that we have more members, we will be organising more activities that will foster teambuilding and create greater rapport within the association. We hope to have regular healthy activities for our members such as camping or hiking. We never had such activities in the past.

What challenges is PCA facing in operations and growth?
Our biggest challenge is finding corporate partners in the food industry to support our events. Fortunately, the recent congress had created awareness about our association and made it easier for us to approach potential partners.

Another challenge is finding volunteer members to join committees. No one in the association gets paid for their time and energy. Sacrifices have to be made, so most people don’t stay long in committees. Personally, I’m fortunate that my wife is also in the F&B industry and she has joined me at meetings. She understands what I do and why sometimes my weekends are spent away from the family.

How do you overcome the challenge of finding volunteers?
We just have to constantly try to rope them in. When I interview them, I paint a real picture and tell them they must be willing to sacrifice time, energy and money. If they volunteer, they will have three special projects to achieve within a term of two years. If they are unsuccessful, they will be replaced. For me, deadlines and results are the most important.

Let’s talk about you. How long have you been involved in PCA and how have you been driving its objectives?
I have been with the association for five years. Prior to that, I was the chairman of competitions. PCA strongly advocates the development of young chefs, and networking between chefs and food suppliers.

One frequent question from young chefs who are taking a diploma in culinary studies is, what position they can start with upon entering the work force. I tell them they have to start at the bottom as a commis chef. This is the first rung of the ladder to becoming a great chef. It is an opportunity to learn all there is to know about the trade and cooking under the supervision of a chef de partie and rotating through different sections such as sauce, vegetables, fish and butchery.

Many young chefs after their education do not know how to start their career and we help them through this process through our activities.

Would you describe yourself as a strict leader?
I am open to reason and I like to get opinions from others and brainstorm ideas. I am also very straight forward and transparent especially when it involves money and benefits. I like to observe and guide the committee where I can. I won’t be in the association for the next 20 years.

Your term as president ends in May 2019. What is next for you?
I hope to continue serving the association and sharing my knowledge, even though I may not be re-elected. I believe I have knowledge and ideas to share with young chefs who want to grow in this industry.

Do you believe in succession planning?
Definitely. I believe in developing young chefs who will take over the association and also be leaders in their job. I like to share my skills and knowledge with others. At PCA, we encourage members to take part in activities, share knowledge and ideas, and to take on leadership roles. To become a leader, you need passion, to focus on what you do, and to make decisions based on consensus.

How would you like to see PCA grow further?
I want to make it business oriented so that we don’t have to look for funds all the time. I want it to be profitable, so that we can afford a paid secretariat to reduce the burden on volunteers. That will also help the association grow membership further and increase the number of programmes we run while reducing the workload on the committees.

Have you taken steps in this direction?
A committee is now doing the paperwork which will be presented to all members at the next annual general meeting in May 2019. I also have to present this proposal to our advisory board for their opinion.

Delegates of WorldChefs Congress & Expo 2018 at KLCC Park

A delicious calling

At 42 years old, Mohd Kamaruddin Adnin is a young president for the Professional Culinaire Association (PCA).

He is no stranger to culinary industry events. He was a member of PCA’s bid team, working closely with the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau to successfully bid for the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2018.

He was also the manager of Malaysia’s national team at the Food&HotelAsia 2018 in Singapore.

Besides his work with PCA, he is executive chef and central production unit manager at MAS Awana Services. In his capacity, he takes charge of food catering for Malaysia Airlines premier lounge and airline catering for flights out of Sabah and Sarawak.

He has also contributed recipes to local cookbooks.

Since young, Mohd Kamaruddin knew he wanted to become a chef. He started his career as a kitchen helper in Hilton Petaling Jaya in 1995.

As a young bachelor, he loved to travel and worked onboard Royal Viking Sun and Seabourn cruise lines for three years.

He has also served as a chef in overseas hotels and resorts.

In 2008, he returned to his home country Malaysia and joined Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur as chef de cuisine. Four years later, he was promoted to executive sous chef of the hotel.

This article was first published in TTGassociation October 2018, a sister publication of TTGmice

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