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23 April 2019 by Food&HotelAsia
Team Malaysia, comprising Loi Ming Ai, Tan Wei Loon, Otto Tay, and Coach, Patrick Siau, bagged home gold at the recent World Pastry Cup held in Lyon, France. Victory has never tasted sweeter for the first-time champions, and FHA Insider caught up with the team to get the download.
FHA Insider: Congratulations on winning both the Asian Pastry Cup (2018) held at Food&HotelAsia, as well as the World Pastry Cup this year! Tell us a little bit about your background and why you chose to become a pastry chef.
Loi Ming Ai: At the age of 20, I started learning the ropes of the industry in a local pastry shop. Three years later, I decided to further my studies at the Academy of Pastry Arts, and started participating in pastry competitions.
Upon graduation, I worked at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) to gain exposure, as well as at a restaurant in Beijing, China. After a year, I came back to Malaysia to work for the Academy of Pastry Arts as a Pastry Chef instructor and continued to polish my skills whilst teaching.
Tan Wei Loon: I began my career in a hotel. After four years of service, I joined the Academy of Pastry Arts in Malaysia as a Lecturer Chef. To be frank, I didn’t think I would become a pastry chef one day. But I eventually fell in love with the industry when I realised there are so many things to create and learn.
Otto Tay: I’ve always been passionate about being a chef – even in kindergarten. I loved eating buns instead of rice, and my mum encouraged me to pursue my passion. My career started in a small bakery shop, and I eventually moved on to Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur. From there, I advanced on to KLCC. After that, I became a Lecturer at the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia. Recently, I started work at Dobla Asia Limited Company as a Corporate Pastry Chef (Asia Pacific).
FHA Insider: Most memorable creation to date?
Loi Ming Ai: Le popillon – an ice-cream cake I made for the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2019, inspired by one of Pierre Hermé’s signature creations, the Ispahan. It took me 6 months to develop the flavour and technique to create a butterfly reflection on the surface.
Tan Wei Loon: Two creations that have made an indelible impression on me – the Kabuki design during the Asian Pastry Cup, as well as the Monkey Elvis and Nature design created during the latest Coupe du Monde.
Otto Tay: For me, it has to be the Steampunk Pinocchio created in 2014, when Malaysia won the Asian Pastry Cup for the first time. Next up is the Rock and Roll Monkey created this year during the World Pastry Cup.
FHA Insider: It’s the first time Malaysia has won the World Pastry Cup. In your opinion, what resulted in the breakthrough this time?
Patrick Siau: Teamwork and perseverance, definitely!
FHA Insider: Were there any difficulties faced along the way throughout the competition? What were some of them?
Loi Ming Ai: It was difficult to develop new techniques as information is so readily available on social media nowadays. Training was also tough as one of our teammates, Chee Siang, is based in Vietnam. We hardly had any time for discussions and rehearsals.
Tan Wei Loon: For me, the most difficult part was to create something that will wow. During the preparation period, I compared our design with the previous winner’s to make sure we’ve created something that has never been done before. We want other chefs to look at it and want to try and achieve it as well.
Otto Tay: Time management as well as mental strength. As I’m currently based in Vietnam, I had to fly back to Malaysia every Friday for trainings and back to Vietnam on Sundays – that was tough.
FHA Insider: For the first time in the history of the pastry contest, the dessert creations had to be 100% vegan. How did you feel about that?
Loi Ming Ai: Veganism is trending, and the challenge made me more aware about the diet and understand it better.
Tan Wei Loon: While it was definitely a challenge, it helped the participants to break out of their comfort zone.
Otto Tay: It was challenging. However, it was a great theme that challenged all the chefs to work with unfamiliar ingredients.
FHA Insider: Vegan sweets were one of the biggest dessert trends in 2018. In your opinion, is it simply a passing fad or here to stay?
Loi Ming Ai: I believe the trend will stay, as there are more consumers identifying as vegan year after year. Pastries should be available and created for all types of consumers.
Tan Wei Loon: I think this will be a trend for the next few years as consumers get more health-conscious. Plus, vegan sweets provide more possibilities for chefs to make use of fresh ingredients, such as fruits.
FHA Insider: What other trends do you foresee will come up or continue into 2020 and beyond?
Loi Ming Ai: Pastries with reduced sugar content.
Tan Wei Loon: I believe that freshly-baked products will take centre stage. Instead of petite gateau and entremets, I believe, in the next few years, chefs are looking for something fresh to serve every day instead of pastries covered in glaze.
Otto Tay: Some kind of “Gateaux of the day” concept will pop up. Ingredients used will be seasonal and fresh, with no need for freezing and thawing. The ingredients’ pure flavours and nutrients will be as fresh as possible.
FHA Insider: Any personal plans/dreams for the future?
Loi Ming Ai: I hope to work with different brands in different countries, and explore other cultures. This will help me develop new techniques and flavours.
Tan Wei Loon: I hope to work with brands to gain a deeper understanding of the ingredients we use. Winning the competition has helped me to achieve half of my dream – I now wish to learn more about the ingredients we use every day.
Otto Tay: My dream (winning the World Pastry Cup) has come true. Now, I hope to be involved in R&D for all kinds of ingredients. I wish to learn more and create trending flavours or pastries in the future.
FHA Insider: Any words of advice/inspiration for aspiring pastry chefs looking to join the industry or hoping to take part in similar competitions?
Loi Ming Ai: Have the right attitude. Always be humble in receiving and learning new knowledge and skills from either books or other chefs. Not only respecting fellow chefs, but also respecting your ingredients. In my opinion, you won’t be successful with a disrespectful attitude, even if you are talented.
Tan Wei Loon: I hope this achievement proves that if you have a dream, try your best to achieve it. Prior to this competition, I believe there weren’t many people out there who would think that Malaysia, a small country in Asia, could emerge champion at the Pastry World Cup. However, we’ve finally proven that even with limited resources, we can achieve big things if you trust in yourself. I hope our achievement will provide an excellent example for those who would like to take part in this competition in future.
Otto Tay: My dream was not achieved easily – I took part in World Pastry Cup in 2013 and 2015 but did not win. However, I managed to achieve what seemed impossible in 2019. Dare to dream and dare to make it come true.
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