At first glance, you would think that he is just a friendly uncle in your neighbourhood. How can you not mistake him for one especially when his warm smile is on display, right? Well, he is one and more! Known as one of Malaysia’s finest chef with almost 20 years of culinary experience, Chef Kamaruddin Adnin is one of the top dogs in his field and everyone knows it.
Growing up in a family that values business in cooking, Chef Bob admits that even with the influence of his family, his younger self dreamt of becoming a doctor, a pilot or even an engineer. Never in a million years did he imagine becoming a person who wields knives in the kitchen like a samurai wields his katana.
Chef Bob’s father played a major role in shaping him into who he is today. From running errands to following his father’s footsteps, Chef Bob mastered the art of business at such a young age. These experiences are part of how he has been able to establish so much and now is the appointed President of Professional Culinaire Association of Malaysia.
His journey in the world of cuisine all started when his father asked one important question. “What do you want to be?” It’s a moment he vividly recalls. At a young age, however, Chef Bob didn’t understand his father’s expression etched with worry; a father’s woes of not wanting to force the family’s business upon his son.
Now that he himself is a father of four, Chef Bob can relate and empathize with his dad. He now knows that becoming someone who makes a living in the kitchen is not always very glamorous. You have to overcome a set of challenges before you can even be pronounced as a certified chef.
Don’t Stop Believing
Having goals in mind will help you endure and move forward. “You need to have a brave heart. Hati dengan telinga kena tebal . It’s going to be very tough in the kitchen later on if you are physically and emotionally weak.” After finishing school, with the permission of his father, he was allowed to enrol himself and learn basics of cooking.
“I got the support from my sister who wanted to become a chef at that time so she would always be the one I run to whenever I have my doubts or questions. In order for me to do this I need to start from the beginning, that’s what my sister did and that’s what I did too. I took the challenge because I wanted to have a go in culinary.”
A year later, Chef Bob went on to further his studies and did his practical at Hilton Hotel in Petaling Jaya. His efforts to become a chef proved fruitful when the Chef there commended him for his continuous effort. As a result he got offered a job as a kitchen helper. From there, he went on to becoming a butcher.
“I could still remember what the chef there told me. He said I must learnt from scratch and they offered me to become a butcher. The Chef said he’ll tell me why.” Chef Bob chuckled seeming 20 years younger as he reminisced and went down memory lane. Young chefs striving to become successful knows that the path to success does not come easy. Almost all of them have had experience being a butcher or kitchen helper at least once in their lifetime.
Chef Bob revealed after a few months of working as a butcher his passion towards cooking deepened as he learnt the ins and outs from A-Z. He talks about the art of cutting beef calling it beautiful when you have the proper knowledge. He added that he was actually content working the butcher section but the Chef that recommended him had other bigger plans for him.
Yes, this infamous Chef fell in love with the art of butchering. Luckily the universe wanted him to explore his abilities as a young chef and he proceeded to work in the main kitchen to learn more about kitchen production.
The Next Part
After gaining experience for about one year at Hilton, Chef Bob decided that he needed new adventures and started working at Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. His exposure to the world of cooking increased as he got the chance to meet different people and be in new environments.
As a chef, nothing is more important than having the ability to adapt yourself fast. His younger self wanted the experience, the thrill, of what the cooking world had to offer; of what he had to offer to the world.
“That’s just how everything works in the culinary world. You have to learn everything at a quick pace or else you’ll get left behind! It’s never a good feeling if everyone knows what to do except for you. So you have to buckle up yourself and be a fast-learner if you want to take the world by storm.”
From then on, he discovered the world of competitions and was motivated by his friends and other chefs that taught him previously. All of them pushed him to go even further.
“Bob you just go!” urged one of his closest friends. With everyone’s encouragement, he took a leap of faith and joined not one but several competitions. This experience taught him that everything is done competitively from cooking to presentation skills. Every aspect of a competition is important as everything is evaluated.
“Through competitions I gained knowledge, self-confidence and new friends. Some gave up half way when they lose, but my principle has always been being a positive person. No matter what happens, just keep going and don’t give up. It’s because of that I am able to achieve this much in life. You can tell me anything negative and criticise me all you want but you will never deter my spirit.”
Adapting and Adapting
“If you asked me, the line of work is still the same just bit different in terms of time, location and work order.”
Mas Awana is definitely different than the previous places Chef Bob has worked before. Firstly, he used to deal with producing around 3000 pax meal per day. Compared to other catering companies like Brahims, they had to at least prepare 45,000 meals per day. Other than that, working at Mas Awana the SOP and system are considered the most important thing.
Chef Bob expressed his view that working in a team and being a leader is not an easy job. The person appointed needs to have a vision. This includes bringing Malaysia’s name on top of the world when it comes to food and culture.
“For me I never stop learning. It’s a continuous process even when you’ve reached your goals.” Chef Bob’s vision for the future is to encourage young chefs to be brave if they are passionate about the culinary field. The most important thing is to ‘share your knowledge and experience.’
In order for our chefs to bring up Malaysia’s name, they must guide the young chefs to learn and grow. Even though a person can self-learn when it comes to cooking, Chef Bob believes that having a figure to teach you what is right and wrong is crucial.
Technology may have the upper hand of storing all the knowledge in the world but it’s important for young chefs to learn it hands-on. He is a firm believer of this principle as he once was a student himself.
New vs. Old?
“I admit there’s a gap between the old and the new chefs but if both can reach their agreement then the culinary world in Malaysia would evolve even further.”
The way chefs were taught back then, way before Google existed, was different. Chef Bob’s eyes seemed to smile as he thought back to something, perhaps a past experience as a student himself. As he was taught the strict way, he couldn’t help but notice the younger generations today have a different mentality.
Younger chefs need to be taught with care and only then they would continue to grow and strive. “Nowadays, you really can’t call your students stupid or anything because they will retaliate. When it was my time, I had to endure a lot of this but everything negative said will fall on deaf ears.”
As an experienced Chef, he noted that he finally understood why he was taught that way back then. It was to teach him from experience, the balance of good and bad are what made him strive to become better. “We may not have Google back then, but we were blessed with teachers who were passionate to teach us.” Technology may precede everything now but sometimes going traditional is the way to go especially when it comes to cooking.
The Future of Malaysian Culinary
“I believe and hope that someone will continue this legacy to bring up our food like Chef Wan did. Chef Wan never fails to mention about Malaysia and his background wherever he goes.”
In order for Malaysia to be known internationally, we must appreciate our food culture and show that through our passion for cooking. Youngsters nowadays favour western food more than our local food. Why? It’s because they have been fed by the media that fast-food is wonderful that they forget our own traditional food. What Chef Bob hopes for right now is to elevate Malaysia.
Western food is too mainstream and it’s time for our food to shine. This can only be achieved by promoting more Malaysian food internationally. He also noted that working with the government is important when it comes to marketing strategy. The government should be the pioneer of promoting our heritage.
Chef Bob expressed his concerns about how students were chosen to be in culinary especially in university. He believes that only students who are passionate about cooking will become good chefs. It is noteworthy for the tertiary places of education to discern this as it involves the students’ future and career.
“I hope young chefs out there will not be discourage and continue to strive forward. You are full of potentials. Just remember anything is possible if you put your mind to it.” -Chef Bob