By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

This culinary school certainly does not get enough credit for training young would-be chefs and bringing them into the culinary world. Not only do they learn a fixed set of cooking skills but the school has a revolving door of guest chefs who come and lend their special skills to the students so that they are exposed to as wide a repertoire of culinary styles and cuisines as possible.

The latest guest chef to lend his skills is Chef Issa Ramadan Al Chabo, a Syrian chef who has a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. I was fortunate enough to meet him at lunch and taste his cuisine.

All the middle eastern dishes were there, a taste I acquired in of all places, London, where a Lebanese friend would take me to his favourite haunts, in particular, the Al Hamra in Shepherd’s Market.

The mezze or appetiser course would always include my two favourites, the Hummus and the Baba Ganoush. Here Chef Issa had incorporated them to be served with Falafel. Hummus which is blended chickpeas is a dip and can be served plain with bread or in this instance, with Falafel, a deep fried lentil patty, lightly spiced and redolent with herbs. Similarly the Baba Ganoush, another popular dip made of grilled eggplant and mashed adding olive oil in the process. Both these dips were made with a light touch, fresh tasting, the olive oil lending its astringent touch to the dish.

The Shawarma lamb or chicken (there was a choice) on pita bun served with hummus made an interesting burger, the creamy hummus a healthy substitute for usual mayonnaise. The meat was well marinated, redolent with middle eastern spices of cumin, coriander, etc.

Pilaf Rice with grilled chicken and a mildly spicy sauce was delicious and the Turkish beef kebab that came along was just too much food in one sitting but nevertheless enjoyable.

Imagine the groans around the table as the piece de resistance of the day arrived in the form of Baklava, that ubiquitous dessert you’ll find in every middle eastern sweet shop. Layers of filo pastry sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey. This must be eaten fresh for the best taste and fresh it was that day. I, a declared non-sweet fan, had two pieces that day. That speaks for itself.

As for me, if the Crew Skills students would pick up some of Chef Issa’s skills, they would be blazing a culinary trail for themselves when they finish their course. Now all you parents out there….if your child has no inclination for academia, perhaps you could consider a chef’s training for him/her?

CREW SKILLS
No. 9, Lintasan Perajurit 17G
Taman Perdagangan & Perindustrian,
31400 Ipoh.
Tel:  05 545 9800
Website:  crewskills.edu.my
Facebook:Crews Skills International School of Culinary