Full Name: Sharwin L. Tee
Program Completed: Culinary Arts
Graduating Year: 2004
Current Position: Personal Chef/Future TV Host
Company: Thrills/Lifestyle Network
Company website: Facebook Fan Page
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Quote: "Finding true love is like making the perfect roast. You don't know exactly how long it takes, but you'll know when it's right."
When did you decide you wanted a cooking career? Why?
I was 6 when I first laid eyes on Stephen Yan on a cooking show called, "Wok With Yan" which was shot in Vancouver. That started my interest in food. At first I only wanted to be a TV Chef, but as I grew up, my passion for food got stronger and cooking for a living appealed to me more and more.
What obstacles or challenges did you have to overcome to pursue your career?
The first would have to be moving to Vancouver to study. I had never lived in a foreign land, alone, for an extended period and it was quite an adjustment for me. There were plenty of times when I had difficulty adjusting both to life alone and working on the line.
When I started working for the Tower Club here at home, kitchen politics was a pretty tough obstacle as well. There were plenty of different personalities I had to navigate through when I was working there and plenty of disagreements had to be resolved to get our brigade working well.
I think these obstacles were very helpful in shaping who I am today, so they were good learning experiences.
How did your education at Pacific Institute Of Culinary Arts prepare you for your career?
PICA taught me many things about food and service but I think the school's indelible mark on me would be discipline and organizational skills. I learned to time things properly, keep things clean and organized and to never accept imperfections. People may think these are basics all schools teach but when one works in an actual restaurant kitchen, you realize not everyone has these skills and that PICA does a good job of teaching those skills.
What advice would you give to current or prospective students about having a successful career in culinary arts?
Practice!!! If you continuously hone your kitchen skills, you’ll always find work if you keep your skills strong. Also, never accept that you've learned it all. No matter how long you've been cooking, there will always be something new to learn.
Where did you first work after graduation?
I first worked in the Tower Club in Makati City Philippines. It was a members only club that featured a gym, two restaurants and a bar.
What did you gain from this experience?
It was great training as we served functions of hundreds of people often and I got the honor of making an appetizer for the president of our country. It taught me the value of excellence. Every dish must be consistently good because our clients were the rich and powerful and they didn't accept anything less than exactly how they wanted their food to be. Working at the buffet also taught me to become more cost conscious and innovative, since our daily buffet had us making new dishes on a tight budget.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
The thing I love the most is how important serving great food is. Oftentimes the food determines how good an evening someone has. You literally can save a couple's date, a family's party or a group's reunion by giving them great food they enjoy.
Hosting my own TV show will allow me to cook the things I love and I hope to encourage people to try cooking and enjoy cooking, rather then considering it an impossible task.
Who or what has inspired you?
Of course my first culinary hero would be Stephen Yan, the guy who got me going. Another one would be Anthony Bourdain. While many remember Tony for his foul-mouth, in your face language he used in Kitchen Confidential, his true accounts of how to survive in commercial kitchens actually reinforced everything that PICA instilled in me. His honest accounts about cooking as a career helped me mentally prepare as I entered cooking as a career.
What are some of the top skills and or attributes that make a successful Chef?
Passion or always wanting to do more. I think anytime a chef decides he/she wants to sit on his/her laurels, it’s downhill from there.
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