Continuing Education Main Headline

MasterChef’s Graham Elliot inspires IFT students

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

IFT organised on 4 July a culinary skills workshop featuring American celebrity chef Graham Elliot. The event – hosted in partnership with integrated resort operator MGM China Holdings Ltd – allowed participants to learn directly from one of the world’s most famous chefs.

Ms. Betty Fung, owner of Café Bonbon, also joined the workshop as a guest speaker. Ms. Fung – an alumna of the IFT Tourism and Hotel School – shared some of her experiences as a food and beverage entrepreneur in Macao.

More than 30 people joined the workshop. Participants included local food and beverage professionals, and students of the IFT Culinary Arts Management Bachelor Degree Programme.

It is the third time Chef Elliot has visited the Institute. He praises the energy and excitement of the students. “I love it!” says the celebrity chef, made famous worldwide thanks to television programmes such as “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior”.

“For me to come here and share my experience and my journey, to share why and how I do things, it’s great to have students that are very excited. It’s just like playing music: you want to play to an audience that appreciates it. And the students at IFT really do,” Chef Elliot adds.

A restaurant he ran in Chicago, Illinois in the United States, was awarded 2 Michelin stars. Chef Elliot has won other awards, and also writes cookbooks.

He was visiting in Macao in his role as Consulting Chef for Coast, a restaurant due to open at the upcoming MGM Cotai integrated resort.

During the IFT workshop, Chef Elliot discussed the philosophy behind his approach to cooking: preparing food should be “a beautiful, romantic craft,” and chefs should respect and treasure all parts of the ingredients used, he said. He also shared details of his career as a chef.

The famed chef prepared 2 dishes for the participants to learn from: his signature Deconstructed Caesar Salad; and a personal version of one of the best-loved dishes of Macanese cuisine, African Chicken. Both dishes will be featured at Coast.

IFT students praised

Accompanying Chef Elliot to IFT was Mr. Oliver Weber, Director of Culinary of MGM. He highlights the close partnership between the Institute and MGM China.

“Any time we have an opportunity to work with IFT, it is very positive for us, because it helps us grow the local understanding of food,” he says. “IFT puts a great focus on Western cuisine as well, which is up-and-coming but does not have as much a tradition in Macao as Cantonese cuisine does.”

Mr. Weber says Macao’s restaurant and hospitality sectors are expanding rapidly and talented chefs are in demand. He praises IFT for providing culinary students with professional training and industry internships.

Also as part of the demonstration workshop, Café Bonbon’s Ms. Fung talked about her journey toward opening a food and beverage business, and about the Macao catering scene.

She is arguably one of the most prolific attendees of student courses at IFT’s Tourism and Hotel School: she has taken at least 17 vocational courses there, according to her own calculations. Most of these were related to food and beverage topics, assisting her in her dream of opening a coffee shop. She took that step in 2016.

Ms. Fung says that joining demonstration workshops and sharing sessions with renowned chefs is vital for culinary students. She adds attending such initiatives inspired her to master her craft.

“Sharing sessions can give students confidence and inspiration. It also helps students who are at a crossroads in life to decide whether to continue with their culinary journey,” she says.

Samantha Ho, a Year 4 student in the IFT Culinary Arts Management Bachelor Degree Programme, was one of the participants in the workshop. She says it helped her better to realise the importance of understanding ingredients when cooking. She was also inspired by what she heard from the guests: “One thing the speakers mentioned – and that influenced me the most – was their suggestion for us to come up first with a [career] direction and then to advance step by step,” she says.

Fellow Culinary Arts Management student Alan Vong was also in attendance. The Year 2 student says what impressed him the most was Chef Elliot’s suggestion that cooks should not be limited to following established recipes, but should seek to inject unique ideas into each dish.

Alan points out that demonstration workshops are of great help to students, since participants can get advice and personal guidance from the guest chefs. “It is a rare chance to have the possibility to get in touch with celebrity chefs and ask them questions,” the IFT student says.

He adds: “The demonstration workshops lead us to think about what direction we should be heading toward and about our future.”