The Curious Cook

Muhammad Asyraf Bin Ramli

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Grandmothers are the best. They always have good snacks, and they’re always ready to dole out useful life advice. For one boy, his grandmother’s delicious curry inspired his cooking career and sparked his interest in food. Meet Asyraf, the satay boy who became a curious cook.

Even from a young age, Asyraf was surrounded by food. He started out at a friend’s satay stall after school, where he washed dishes. Slowly, he worked his way up before finally earning an opportunity to help prepare satay. Later, he continued to work part-time at a chicken rice stall as well as his aunt’s seafood stall.

Still, Asyraf didn’t always know that cooking was his calling. While pursuing a Diploma in Electronics Engineering, he soon realised he didn’t enjoy programming. Faced with an uncertain future, Asyraf thought back fondly to his days working in the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry and decided to enroll himself in At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Today, Asyraf works as a cook at The Ritz-Carlton. Together with his team of 12, he has prepared elaborate 5-star feasts for over 1,000 guests. He has also been involved in "à la carte firing"—which requires him to deliver large numbers of orders on the spot quickly, while ensuring every dish is impeccable. Talk about Hell’s Kitchen! In such situations where he feels the pressure to perform, Asyraf is grateful for his solid foundation in culinary school.

"When you study, you’re presented with a lot of facts, which makes you more informed. This makes the learning process more efficient than if you try and pick it up yourself. Of course, you can also figure it out on the job and learn it the hard way, but sometimes the knowledge you pick up in school can help to guide your decisions."

This is a startling shift from his former way of thinking. Just years before, Asyraf expected to breeze through culinary school because of his prior experience in the F&B industry. To his pleasant surprise, he realised there was a lot more he could learn—from the fundamentals of cooking to the importance of discipline in the kitchen. This led to Asyraf’s modest philosophy—that there is always something new to learn.

This eager, can-do attitude is what Asyraf thinks differentiates a good chef from a great one. "If you don’t show that you want to be there, people won’t know if you really want to learn," said Asyraf. Putting this into practice, Asyraf recently applied for a bachelor’s degree in Progressional Studies in Culinary Arts, in hopes of picking up new skills in areas of management, planning and leadership. His aim is to hone his skills continuously so he can have this own experimental kitchen or be an executive chef one day.

While Asyraf has big dreams for his culinary career, his grandmother continues to be his spark of inspiration. Until he masters his granny’s signature curry, he’ll keep asking questions and improving his craft.

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