Monday, 27 August 2012


These past few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. Full of comings and goings and sorting out life and all its little curve balls.

It has been okay I suppose, truthfully, as it could always be worse off when compared to other people in other parts of the world. At least I have enough to eat, blessed with health, loving family and understanding friends.

Still, there is this ill-ease nagging in the deepest recesses of my mind. Like something isn’t right, and I should be trying out new things and doing things for myself. It has been a long while since I last did something purely and totally for myself, reward if I may, and selfishly devoid of having to consider what anyone else might think or feel.

Burn out seems to be most plausible explanation right now, though I am unable to pin-point the exact cause. A burn out would suggest my profession or something the like, but I am quite certain that I still love doing Food & Beverage Service. I enjoy the feeling of having made someone’s day through the fleeting interactions one has while attending to guests.

This new assignment at work seems to have taken me down a road that I don’t particularly care for, yet I still attempt to give my best. It has been challenging and fun during some gold moments. Didn’t think I could actually miss what I did in my former department (mostly the immediately feedback loop from customers) so much. I used to grudgingly complain about the SSDD (Same Shit Different Day) type of work, but now I can’t believe I actually miss it terribly.

Perhaps, it is exactly work that is driving me down. As they say, work is never done. Should I consider taking a break (sabbatical! would it apply to me?).

Could it be I am just tired of having to deal with familial duties? Is it actually that bad even? Surely having to deal with my ageing mother shouldn’t be considered a chore (gasp!), as after all, I am not the first son in the world and certainly there would be others with worse off situations than myself. I worry for her health sometimes. And she herself worries about her health.

I note as the day goes by that I am exactly like my mum. We let things dwell on our mind and heart. I sometimes catch myself behaving like a worrywart. Endlessly pondering what ifs and how comes.

Am I being overly dramatic? Or just overstating, being good ole Razee?

In a recent rant, I exclaimed that I needed a vacation from my vacation. It came about due to, ahem, over-exposure to family and relatives. The issue here of course is, would taking a time out, a good and proper Me-time, away from work, family and friends actually be the rejuvenating experience people say it is? The thing is I have actually never taken this kind of absence before, and I am not sure I will enjoy it. My travails in the past have always been tied to work related postings.

How now brown cow? See ya later Alligator?


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Out & About: Fish & Co. Paradigm Mall

Not so sure about the Seafood in a Pan tagline.
Stopped over at Fish & Co Paradigm Mall for a power lunch with colleague and boy did I feel like I had to write up my experience here. I am not a newbie to this place having dined in their sister outlet in 1Utama.

This particular day's service SUCKED BALLS. First off, we had to linger at the 'Please Wait To Be Seated' post at the entrance for more than 5 minutes, as no one in the restaurant seemed to notice people waiting. Then the we were brought to our table and presented the menu which resulted in further 10 minutes of waiting.

The guy who sat us at our table conveniently ignored us and went on to entertain 2 groups of guests that came after us. My colleague had to flag a female staff who also conveniently saw right through us (and left us unattended, again). Only a few moments later another waiter, a guy this time, dropped by and took our orders. He may have seen the look of displeasure on our faces and rushed over to help from his 'bussing/barker' station.

Soon our beverages arrived but the female staff from earlier wrongly served our orders. I got my colleagues' drink while she got mine. I not so subtly switched drinks in the hopes that she would realize her error but no, she then proceeded to plonk our meals in the wrong order again. My colleague who noticed my pinched expression reminded me to keep cool and just enjoy the meal.

I took her advise and proceeded to dig in. Thankfully the meal itself was good, not superb, but good enough to temporarily make up for the earlier service related inadequacies.

Mushroom Salad. Earthy 'shrooms and crisp lettuce in light vinaigrette.
This one was over tossed which resulted in the lettuce slightly wilting.
Mussels in Lemon Cream.
A tad heavy on the cream, but the fragrance of the lemon helps.
The slices of Baguette supplied with the dish is great for mopping up the sauce. Yums!

Lightly toasted baguette slices

Seafood Chowder, which was thick and creamy.
Ms. AM demolishing her sizeable Fish & Chip dish.

So, Fish & Co. , this is what you should make your staff do for all restaurant guests.

1) Position a Host/Hostess at the front of your restaurant and make sure he or she promptly respond to customers who wish to dine.

2) Quickly seat your guests at the recommended pre-set table. If they desire another table, quickly react and oblige.

3) Present the Menu and highlight the specials of the day. If there is a lady in the group, offer the lady the menu first. Introduce yourself (or another waiter if you are NOT the waiter assigned to the table) and inform them that you are giving the table some time to browse the menu and that you will come back to take down the order in X minutes (5 minutes is normally sufficient).

4) Come back with a happy greeting and check if your guests are ready to place their meal requests. Carefully take the orders and record in your order slip/captain order. Explain the meal orders as necessary, as some of your customers may be first time customers.

5) Repeat the whole order, based on each guest's meal request, beginning with their starters onwards on to the beverage and dessert (if any). You do this order repeat (clockwise or counterclockwise) to ensure you have not left out anything. It also allows your guests to make changes, if they so desire. If you note that someone has not ordered something to have, now would be a good time to suggest something.

6) Before leaving the table, share with them the estimated time as to when their first order will arrive. This psychologically primes your guests to having to wait.

7) Start serving the beverages. Announce your intention to do so. Ensure the correct order is given to the correct guest. The Ladies-first rule applies here as well.

8) Remind guests that their meals will be just a short while longer. This will reduce the anticipation and gently reminds the guests that someone is lovingly preparing the orders. It also arrests any anxiety the guest may have.

9) Start serving the meals. Announce your intention to do so. Start with the Ladies first, and serve everyone the correct meal items. Supply all the accoutrements and table cruets for sauces and others as needed.

10) Let them dine in peace. Watch your table from a distance, or from time to time, to ensure their needs are met. Clear and crumb the table as needed. Continue serving more meal items where applicable. Make sure no order is forgotten. Find out if everything is great with their meal. If someone queries, attend to it immediately (by replacing bad quality item, offering a substitute or explaining your restaurant's version of the dish- yes, sometimes everyone thinks they are Chefs!).

11) Suggest another beverage when guest glass is 3/4 empty. This allows for an increase in the guest check (dining bill). Even when refills are free, it is bad showmanship if you do not offer it freely (Nando's, that would be you!).Help with other service needs - fresh serviettes, new cutleries, etc...

12) Approaching end of meal, swing by another time and suggest a dessert or a hot drink. Even a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream can be an enjoyable closure to a meal. It also further inflates the guest check. Serve the ordered dessert if requested. Offer extra cutleries if only one dessert is ordered. A shared dessert tastes doubly as good!

13) Leave guests to end their meal. Ready to tabulate their guest check, scanning for mistakes or mis-orders. Check with the guest if they would prefer to have a single bill or split into individuals (yes, this sounds stupid, but trust me, many will appreciate the gesture). Comply accordingly and present the bill.

14) Complete payment process - cash or credit. Return cash balance and/or credit card promptly to the correct guest. Graciously thank your guests, and if possible, alert them of upcoming promotions and/or happenings - new menu item, 2 for 1 deal, etc.. This plants the idea in your guest to come back.

15) Wish them farewell.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Out & About: Garden Recipe Paradigm Mall.

Found myself back to work today (apparently why I didn't apply for leave totally escapes me). After an extremely slow morning, a colleague invited me to join her for lunch at a shopping mall nearby.

Loathe to continue with hacking away at our individual mountains of work, we all decided to abscond and have ourselves a leisurely lunch at Paradigm Mall. The mall is one of the newest in Klang Valley and is designed to feel bright and airy, perfect to calm our Raya-fied nerves and bellies.

We chanced upon Garden Recipe restaurant, promoting healthy eating and organic ingredients. Browsing the menu we were all tempted by the Malaysian menu on offer, featuring among others, stalwarts such as fried noodles, nasi lemak, bee hoon noodle soup.
Lavender? in Malaysia?

As we browsed the menu further we came to realise that Garden Recipe offers meals with a very distinctive take on the classic Malaysian recipes. Some ingredient has been carefully substituted with healthier alternatives; Brown rice, black soy, fresh tofu, milk and more.

We decided to give the place a try as my eyes were immediately drawn towards a unique item. - Lei Cha.
I ordered this interesting rice based Hakka dish (which roughly translated/described would suggest Pounded Tea). What it is is actually perfectly cooked rice, served with an assortment of vegetarian side dishes- raw, simply cooked or pickled, with some nuts and fried crisps for textural contrast.

I have seen this dish featured on the Asian themed food shows on Astro before and had always desired to try it but never really found a place that offered it.I loved the fact that the dish was presented this way, using similarly hued bowls, echoing the colour of the individual ingredients that make the Lei Cha.

Lei Cha soup mix, brown rice, blanched green onions,
sliced french beans, dough fritters, roasted peanuts,
stewed Chinese kale, blanched cabbage chiffonade
and chopped sweet pickled radish.

Lucky as I am today, my lunch mate Sam was very savvy about the dish and she regaled me about the history of the this restorative meal.

I then set about composing my bowl. Tentatively, I arranged the various goodies around the grains of  perfectly cooked brown rice before pouring on the Lei Cha soup mix, like so.

Lei Cha being readied for mixing. Pour on the Lei Cha soup and give it all a good stirring.
The Lei Cha soup itself was very unique in that it carried with it the mild astringency of pounded fresh real tea leaves (in this case, food processored!) intermingled with the sweet fragrance of Selasih (Vietnamese Mint), tang of Mint and I think probably a smidgen of Sesame seed as I detected a hint of nuttiness as well.

Secret of the Lei Cha

This lightly seasoned soup when mixed with the other ingredients, amalgamates all the fresh flavours. Additionally, every scoop of rice also offered different textures, firmness of the brown rice, chewiness of the dough crisps, crunch of the vegetables and the slightly resistant bite of the pickled radish.

Every mouthful was utterly delightful. I never knew a Vegan dish as good as this existed in the wild. My lunch mates all had noodles (guess they all wanted a light meal?).

Ms. RT with her Chicken Curry Noodle (while striking a pose!)
Ms. Sam with the sumptuous Fried Salmon Head Noodle (using brown rice beehoon).
Mr. K with his Grilled Salmon Steak Noodle (also featuring brown rice beehoon).
Spoke to the Manager after the meal and was informed that Garden Recipe has been accredited Halal by a private company in Malaysia (HDC?) but the same certification is now being counter-accredited by JAKIM. I guess one would have to properly investigate this, but I was informed by the Malay (Muslim) staff who attended to our orders that they certainly offer Halal foods as all their meats (Chicken et al, is acquired from Halal certified suppliers).

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Eid 2012!

This year's Raya has been a relatively low key affair for mum and me. Usually our Raya is filled with cleaning cooking and entertaining, but this year I decided that I didn't want my mum to labour in the kitchen slogging in preparation of having guest over. Furthermore, my siblings could not be with us as they were both headed to their In-Law's.

Thus, we opted to check in to a hotel instead, and hit our relatives' homes on Raya.

And it has been been a whirlwind of Raya food.

Yes! Assortment of Rendangs, Masak Merahs, Sayur Lodeh, Ketupat, Lemang
and other festive artery clogging goodies!
God, I ate so much I could just die from all the rich and fatty gloriousness!

Photographer photographing!
Mak Melah arrived bringing more food. Which was quickly demolished as well!
Post meal lounging (note that I am still at the Dining table!).
Then, we went to Kg. Pandan to visit my mum's elder sister. While there, I ate some more. What else right? They make awesome, very spicy Rendang and Gulai Sejadah (which is a thick variant of the Southern style asam pedas). 
2 types of Rendang (1 Chicken and 1 Beef), Chicken Gulai Sejadah, Sayur Lodeh (this was exceptionally good!).
I ate so much they had to replenish twice!

Fall-off-the-bones Chicken Gulai Sejadah. AWESOME!!
After all that eating we both decided that we needed to take a nice long drive so as to allow our now distended bellies get to work digesting the sacrificial offerings we had earlier.

And for dinner, mum and I both opted for simple, fast food! Hahaha!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Things will not change until....

So here I am again.

Looking back it has been over 5 months since my last entry. I realized that I have not been able to really give myself to writing anything at all.

I have been really unhappy at work for these past few months and I finally am able to accept the fact that things will not change until I take action towards making changes.


Late last year, I received a letter from HR informing me of my transfer to a new department tasked with planning, creating and delivering products and services tied to the impending new Airbus 380 fleet. It came as quite a surprise really. Out of the blue while I was enjoying a short holiday with Mom in Muar, I got the e-mail through my Smart phone (a cautionary tale to NOT link work emails to a personal device!).

Excited about the potential and challenges in this new department, I accepted it. I knew that it would mean a financial impact to me as I would lose a significant amount of allowances being no longer on 24 hour shift based work. I shared this concern of mine with my new leaders with the hopes of them being able to do something about it.

Work then ensued and we threw ourselves into the A380 project. The A380 is to be the savior of the company and we had to devise a multi-prong approach towards winning back the love and support of our customers.

Weeks on end, it was discussion after discussion, meetings after meetings, sometimes to the point of shouting matches to get things done. Most of us acquired tunnel vision, so engrossed were we in the multitude of tasks.

Personally, my task was to create new F&B service offerings in the KLIA Lounges. As it were, we had to slog through budget constraints, rehash and revamps of the facility, identification of new technologies and equipment and the formulation of new menus for both beverage and food. Interestingly, this was for the same department I was in before I was uprooted.

As we got closer to the deadlines, things got even more frantic. The work hours grew longer and longer as we tried to close the various process and service gaps. Training sessions were mounted and we literally downloaded everything we could to the new team in the Lounges.

Thankfully, the new Lounge was finally opened to the customers as planned. Many of our customers were pleased and some others did not take too well to the changes we made in the refurbishment. I am happy to note that most were very pleased to see new offerings for them.

Then it was about review activities, where any incorrect or lacking procedures were revised and amended. Now we are on to making changes to our other sister Lounges within the network so as to ensure a consistent service offering across the brand.

It is true what they say, work never ends!

During the same time, I was under the impression that my new management were working on my concerns about my allowances. I was assured and promised that they will look into it, and if my allowances could not be reinstated, they would attempt some other manner of suitable compensatory remuneration, either by dispensation of a special allowance, or a promotion.

In my mind, I knew that it was going to be difficult for the management to deliver anything at all, as the company was on a company wide cost mitigation exercise. Still, my heart of hearts hoped that something positive will come of it.

Then I got the news, that nothing could be done. No former allowance, no special dispensation, no promotion. Nada.

Heartbroken, I continued to slog with work. I told myself it would not be professional conduct to let it affect me. However, the reality of earning less than what I was used to was surely affecting me. Sacrifices had to be made, to scale back my spending.

What this meant was that I had to give up things that made me happy, buying leisure books and professional tomes, trying out new restaurants on my culinary jaunts, experiencing new service offerings and such. It also affected my ability to keep Mom happy by taking her out during weekends. GF just suffered as we were not able to kill time the way we usually do.

And all this time I got progressively angrier inside but I managed to keep it in check in the name of being civil and professional.

Then mid May, the company sent out a notice offering a voluntary leave program (VLP) for either 12 or 24 months. I considered this intensely and decided that it would be perfect opportunity to take it up and try new things with other establishments. It was perfect timing as I was seriously run down and emotionally ragged. Colleagues posited that this would be the chance to market test my F&B knowledge, service competencies and culinary training.

I submitted my application on 26 June 2012, days shy of the launching date of the new KLIA Lounge. The primary reason was that I did not wish to suggest that I wasn’t committed to the A380 projects. I would stay until all projects I had been assigned was successfully delivered.

Alas, again my management became a stumbling block and decided to reject my application, using my colleague as an excuse. This colleague, the only other person with F&B background had also submitted his VLP application, as both of us felt that we were being mistreated and marginalized by the same people who promised the sun and the moon (of course in hindsight, I should not have been such a child to believe).

I made several appeals and finally it was approved by my division’s No 2. There was a catch, my direct manager (the same person who summarily rejected my application despite my pleading), would actually get to decide when I can leave. I had wanted the start date to be 1 August so that I have a long break (to rediscover myself, as it were!) before I start employment with an alternative company but now I have to re-plot that date.

There is good news in this though; I had managed to acquire a position managing F&B operations and I would start on 1 September (which is looming closer by the day).

My current superior has yet to sit me down to finalise my VLP commencement date, yet another delay tactic on top of other delay tactics. I have a good mind to just storm the bitch (Sorry, I run at the mouth sometimes), but I know I wouldn’t be true to myself I did that. Un-gentlemanly conduct is not something I wish to add to my list of accomplishments and I had promised my self not to over-react.

But something needs to be done. I hope to god to give me the patience and foresight to stay calm and deal my exit.