Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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LIM SIEW TIANG "AUNTY KATHERINE"

COOK 1 - OMELETTE STATION

ORCHARD HOTEL SINGAPORE

How long have you been in the industry? I’ve been in this industry for 11 years.

What inspired you to join the industry? I wanted to work for a well-known hotel because of the opportunities to meet people from all over the world. I feel lucky to be able to cook and share our food with our guests. No matter how busy and tiring the work is, it makes me feel very happy to cook for them.

I was also curious as to how a hotel operates. I want to learn how different departments function and work together as one team. If I decide that I don’t want to be a Cook anymore, I can always work in the Front Office or Housekeeping department. The hotel is big, so I believe that there are opportunities in every corner.

Tell us more about your career journey. I used to be a housewife. My husband worked as a Chef at a hotel for 30 years. When he retired, I thought maybe it was my turn to work in a hotel. I’ve always been passionate about cooking and food, especially pastries. I think it runs in the family because my youngest son is a Chef too.

I first worked at Goodwood Park Hotel for six years. I made Western and Asian pastries, and I specialised in durian pastry, which the hotel is known for. I then moved to the hotel’s cafe to work part-time and made omelette. I chose to work part-time because my son was still quite young during that time and I wanted to be able to spend more time with him. I am glad my employer allowed me the flexibility.

When I moved to Orchard Hotel in 2014, I decided to work at the omelette station. During my first year here, I worked on a part-time basis as well, before the Head Chef asked me if I would like to switch to work full-time. I gratefully accepted because from the bottom of my heart, I really enjoy what I do. I felt appreciated for my work and dedication. And even after I moved to a full-time role, my boss is very understanding about my family responsibilities.

Congratulations on winning the Food, Drinks & Allied Workers Union and Singapore Hotel Association’s Employee of the Year award. How does it feel to be recognised for your work? Thank you, I am very happy. I am very thankful to my manager for nominating me. At first, I had no idea how special the award was. When I arrived at the awards ceremony, it was beyond anything I ever imagined. There were so many people from the hotel industry, all congratulating me. Even my old colleagues and ex-GM were there to see me. I was so happy to see everyone there.

For me, this award is more than enough. I look forward to seeing my younger colleagues win this award. I think it will give them more confidence and pride in the work they do.

Tell us more about your role and day-to-day duties. In the morning, I am in charge of the omelette station. Breakfast is from 7am to 10am, and it gets extremely busy. It brings me so much joy to see people lining up for my omelette. I also make sure to ask for help from the kitchen staff if it gets too busy.

After breakfast is over, I help to tidy up the kitchen or prepare the vegetables for the next day. If we are serving BBQ satay, laksa or rojak for the lunch buffet, I will prepare the dishes and man those stalls.

Another thing that I do is mentor new or young colleagues. I show them around the kitchen and introduce them to the kitchen crew. I enjoy seeing my younger colleagues performing well in their roles. If they ever need help, I’m always there for them.

Which dish is your speciality? The dish that I’m most proud of is my omelette. I only use fresh, organic ingredients. When I fry an omelette, I shake my entire body. Guests find that amusing. A guest once told me that I dance when I cook. I thought, “Maybe I’m born like this. If I don’t dance, I can’t make an omelette.” Making an omelette gives me the best sense of joy and achievement. I feel like my hands are made for it. I feel lucky to have a job doing something I’m very passionate about.

What is your most memorable experience so far? Oh, there are so many. We get so many guests from many places staying in our hotel. But the one experience that stood out is this one particular guest. She orders an omelette from me for breakfast every morning. One day, when I was on the way home without my uniform, she approached me out of nowhere. She recognised me as the Omelette Lady! I’m a bit old, and I can’t remember all the people I’ve met, but I recognised her. We swapped phone numbers and we still keep in touch.

Before they leave the hotel, many guests come all the way to my station just to say goodbye. One of them once said that he will always remember Singapore and hopes to come back to this hotel. Hearing that made me very proud of my work.

How do you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his or her stay? The happiness of the guests is very important to me. They usually visit Singapore for a few days. During this short period, I want to make their stay enjoyable so they can return home happy. I want our guests to have good memories of this hotel.

I like making friends with the guests. While I’m cooking, I’d ask them about their stay and what they think of Singapore. I am always keen to know what they think about our country. It makes me very happy to hear them say good things.

I also try to remember the guest’s preferences when I make an omelette. If I find out that a guest likes his or her omelette with five eggs or a side of smoked salmon, I make sure to prepare it just the way they like it. I know how important breakfast is, so remembering the small details is a simple yet special gesture that many guests appreciate.

Do you have any words of advice for someone who wants to join the industry? When work gets tough, don’t ever give up on your goals. Work has its challenges, but nothing beats the joy you get from seeing a guest happily eating the food you made.