Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shahidan Jaafar -- From Dishwasher To Chief Chef

Shahidan Jaafar -- From Dishwasher To Chief Chef

DUBAI, May 5 (Bernama) -- From dishwasher to chief chef: This is the success story of Shahidan Jaafar, 33, who has enthralled many with his culinary skills in Malaysian cuisines in this cosmopolitan Emirate.

Chef Shah, as he is widely known among the Malaysian community here, became a cook by accident.

"It was a kind of an emergency situation. I was a dishwasher at a stall in Subang Jaya when I first came to Kuala Lumpur from Kedah after my SPM."First, the person who makes drinks ran away, I was asked to take over and subsequently, the cook ran off and I was asked to replace him," he told Bernama in an interview.

From then onwards, cooking became his passion and he strived on -- working at the Crown Prince Hotel in Penang in 1995 as a Third Commiss (equivalent to level 3 assistant cook) and was named "Best Employee" three months after being there.He had a stint in Brunei before coming to Dubai.

But before this, it was not all smooth sailing for this affable man, who is quite fluent in English, as "young blood" and "social life" in Kuala Lumpur caught up with him."

After the stall in Subang Jaya, I opened my own stall in Taman Melati, selling char kway teow. It was doing very well but I got caught up with the social life in Kuala Lumpur and also somewhat became a Mat Rempit. Money began depleting.

"That was the downfall. I began to ignore my stall and just wanted to enjoy myself. Finally, I had to shut it down although there was much demand for my kway teow. I realise after that that if one wants to enjoy, he has to be stable first," Shahidan said.

That was a valuable lesson for him and thereafter he persevered and tried his luck in the "kitchen".

The self-taught chef, who heads a group of eight cooks, not only comes out with delicious Malaysian cuisines but also Thai and Vietnamese dishes at "Noshi Noshi" the restaurant where he works.

The restaurant is located next to a coffee bean outlet along the Jumeirah road, an exclusive area in Dubai, and near the Jumeirah beach park"

The response has been excellent, even among the locals, but we do have to modify somewhat to suit the taste of the Arabs as they do not really go for spicy food. They like more sweet and sour," he said.

According to Shahidan there are about 50 Malaysian cooks spread out in Dubai but only about four outlets served "real Asian food".

At Noshi Noshi, which means "mushroom" in Japanese, mouth-watering dishes like "Curry Mee", "Char Kway Teow", "Hainanese Chicken rice", "Deep Fried Vietnamese Meat Balls", "Tom Yam" and "Singapore Laksa" are some of the 50 dishes listed on the menu.Desserts include "bubur kacang hijau", "goreng pisang" served with ice- cream and "sago gula Melaka".

And the prices? Well, they can be a bit upmarket -- Curry Mee costs 30 dirham and Char Kway Teow 25 dirham while bubur kacang hijau 10 dirham.

But these are considered exotic dishes in Dubai with its 1.4 million population of whom more than 80 per cent are foreign workers.Asked on his future plans, Shahidan said he already had several offers including to work on a ship."When I started, I just wanted to try my luck at being a chef, I did not realise there is value in being one," he added.-- BERNAMA

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