BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei Darussalam’s first dedicated culinary arts institution, The Culinary School by Laksamana College of Business, will welcome its first cohort of students in March, hoping to usher in a new generation of aspiring chefs to elevate the country’s food industry.

With syllabuses adapted from City and Guilds — a London-based vocational education and training provider that has been in operations for more than 140 years — The Culinary School will equip young chefs with the basics of professional food preparation and best practices that have been adopted worldwide.

“Cooking has never been so popular,” said head instructor Luke David Macaan, especially with the rising popularity of cooking shows like Masterchef.

At 47, the professional chef has been working in kitchens from San Francisco to Beijing for almost three decades, and even plied his trade with Jamie Oliver at the River Café in London.

Head Instructor at The Culinary School by Laksamana College of Business, Luke David Macaan, demonstrating how to make crepes to a member of the public during one of the school’s public cooking class. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

With The Culinary School’s first cohort on the horizon, Macaan hopes to share his vast experience with Bruneian students.

“We’re going to start with a certification program on March 4, which serves as a prerequisite for our diploma program down the line,” he said.

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The programme will be open for anyone above the age of 16, with no previous experience required.

The Certificate in Food Preparation and Cookery will serve as an introduction to the field, with classes on basic kitchen knowledge such as knife skills, the concept of starch, temperature, as well as the different cooking methods.

The diploma course will focus on cooking proteins such as beef, lamb, poultry and different starchy foods.

Students with industry experience can enter the diploma course directly without having to undertake the certificate programme.

“It’s an old and well-respected syllabus that covers basic knowledge, yet at the same time is relatively broad — it gives you a deep understanding of the different food groups and the basics of cookery,” said Macaan.

The first intake will be limited to 25 students for each of the programmes on offer. The certificate and diploma together will take around 18 months to complete.

“Of course, they’re not going to leave the course being a master chef, but you are going to leave here with some [international] standards, industry knowledge and industry appreciation,” the head instructor added.

“We want our students to be knowledgeable on the best practices of every aspect of cookery, from hygiene to food safety.

Head instructor at The Culinary School by Laksamana College of Business, Luke David Macaan, demonstrating how to make custard during a cooking class. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

While culinary education is important, Macaan believes the most important lessons for a young chef will come from first-hand industry experience.

In Brunei there is a renewed emphasis on developing the tourism and hospitality sector, and more young people are seeking opportunities in the restaurant industry, with many opening up their own businesses.

When asked about the market demand for chefs globally, he acknowledged there may be over-saturation as the profession becomes more popular and more culinary school graduates enter the job market.

“I do believe that there will always be a market for good products,” said Macaan. “I think that when people are put in a situation where they are faced with a lot of competition, they will be driven to improve what they have.

“So for example, even if there are multitudes of burger joints, if you pay attention to your ingredients, create a burger that has a unique taste and texture, there will always be a place for you”.

Ultimately, the chef wants to see the food industry in the sultanate not just grow, but elevated to a new standard, with The Culinary School offering support to any student who wants to open their own food business.

“I also want to instill in them the concept of human resources, marketing, basic economics and how to make your staff happy, because all of these things will play a big part [as they enter the industry]”.