PHOTOGRAPHER: Liz Seabrook (www.lizseabrookphotography.com)
My journey into the food world has been an increasingly quick whirlwind adventure that developed from a very innocent love of food and eating – said food.
From a young age my Malaysian mother had me in the kitchen learning her methods of the home kitchen. Cooking for me is a way of strengthening oneself and knowingly satisfying the needs of both the hungry mind and the hungry body, which both - by the way - equally are the sole driving force of what gets me out of bed in the morning.
After a couple of intense/ consuming and slightly nutty years, I have finally got to where I am now - opening my first ever restaurant. It’s going to be a Kopitiam which in Malaysian means 'café'. From my experience, the atmosphere around food in Malaysia is very warm and sociable. There’s big bowls of curry and lots of little sharing plates: food that gets people talking. Julie’s Kopitiam will present my own Glaswegian take on such simple, honest and heart-warming Malaysian home cooking. This style has all been taught to me by my Malaysian mother who can cook up a mean banquet.
Growing into this industry for me, was similar to being a nervous, inexperienced duck to water.
Starting from the beginning was something I cannot recommend enough, from scrubbing totties to learning how to do fancy desserts I couldn’t pronounce. Laurie McMillan - who was my head chef and now owner of the fabulous Café Strange Brew - was the sole driving force of all of this. She has the patience of a saint and I definitely owe her free dinners for the rest of time!
The hospitality industry was one of the most exciting industries to grow in to, especially in Scotland.
We’re a small, charming yet feisty little country, which definitely translates into the food industry. It’s developing so quickly and in such a diverse and brilliant way, especially around our curiosity and craving for other food cultures. It’s a really exciting thing indeed.
I’m particularly glad to see more females within the industry. The old schoolers reputation is notorious for sexism in the trade and having experienced this first hand countless times, it’s a conversation we need to have. We need to learn how to navigate this traditionally male dominated industry into one that is a powerful driving force for both. That means we cannot underestimate females in the industry. No more mansplaining please, no more objectifying the ‘cute new waitress’ who’s on her first shift - I have the information on good knowledge that it’s not the biggest turn on for her! Let’s grow further away from the term “female chef". We are “chefs” collectively. Let’s not give the tiresome assumption any more currency that women are inferior in the industry. Collectively we can push the driving force of the growing industry in Scotland much stronger if we do it supportive of one another and as a team.
Our industry is a field that can be accessible to all, which is one of the more beautiful things about it.
You can learn on the job, which means that - for those that did not find the process of higher education and writing dissertations for months on end that appealing or having endless student loans affordable - you can still navigate a career by progressing through a wealth of hands-on experience that will always continue to develop. There will always be new things to learn and long may that continue. This doesn’t go without saying, there’s some gruesome hard work - your arms won’t be an abyss of blisters, burns and cuts and you’ll wince every time a drop of citrus finds its way into said war wounds. For me, the gruesomeness is a deceitful stone wall on front of what is one of the most satisfying, exciting and humble jobs around.