by Jia Ying Chia
Taking opportunities when they arise is something Lynne Liew has been very good at; the 26 year old pastry chef has already worked at the tallest restaurant in the world and is now creating at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria brand in Dubai, after spending just shy of five years in the industry honing her craft. The William Angliss Institute alumni shares real talk of life in the kitchen and staying grateful for what has been and what’s to come.
Q: As a self-taught baker was there a natural affinity towards desserts over cooked meals?
A: I always found (desserts and pastry) more relaxing compared to cooking. You’re in front of the grill, in front of the oven… trust me, it’s intense. It’s like that sometimes for desserts, but I would say it’s more easy-breezy in a way? and who doesn’t like sweets man, let’s be real. When I was in highschool, I spend a lot of my free time baking stuff or cooking with my mom. What makes it so satisfying is the end product, and to be able to give the food you make to others. Watching the Masterchef series was inspiring too. I was very lucky to have my parents support my decision. As a local in Brunei, I knew at the time I wanted to pursue it, things were difficult. I was afraid that I might not have a job when I came back so I’ll be forever grateful to my parents for letting me do this. Culinary things are quite well known in Brunei now.
The opportunity to come to Dubai and work was already insane for me. I remember getting the email from the first company i worked for. Let’s be honest, who would’ve thought a girl from Brunei could manage to get a job as a chef in Dubai? You can say I was very, very lucky. I’ll be forever grateful to my mentor at my first hotel in Dubai, Indigo Hotel — she taught me everything I have now and helped me kickstart my career here. Moving to and working in Atmosphere Grill and Lounge (which is one the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa) was intense. I think one of my core memories in Atmosphere was joining a competition in Abu Dhabi and placing third. I always wanted to join competitions but I never had the guts to or didn’t have anyone to push me. I’m glad my head chef did. Slowly throughout this journey, I became more confident.
Q: As a lover of ramen and chicken wings, have there been any life-changing experiences based on these foods?
A: I started eating proper ramen when I was in Australia. The meals I’d say made me become a self-proclaimed lover were in Melbourne. The street that I lived in was filled with restaurants so it was very easy for me to try different things and to expand my food knowledge. I think one of the best chicken wings I’ve ever had is at SamSam restaurant ; the garlic and soy was always my favourite. Every time I visit that place, I would usually just order two different flavours of chicken, a bowl of rice and a beer and I’d be full.
I think that’s when I realised my love for wings and for ramen was intense. Recently I took a trip to UK and my friend brought me to Wingstops, that was really good. I think that would be the second chicken shop I’d recommend if people want to go for good wings.
Q: You’re a BlackPink super fan. Do you have a playlist that helps keep you hyped through a prep or service session?
A: Yeah, I am a big fan of BlackPink! And I was so happy to find out they’re actually coming to play in the UAE for the ‘Born Pink’ Tour. They’re actually going to be playing in Abu Dhabi so I’m hoping I can get tickets. I’m also planning in March to take leave and watch their show in Kuala Lumpur as well, so pray for me. I don’t really have a specific playlist, I just listen to whatever I feel like but obviously BlackPink is definitely there.
Q: Are there any hard truths you wish more people acknowledged about living that chef life?
A: I’d never actually seen The Bear, so I had to go watch that! But yes, it’s an example of how life is in the kitchen. I think I’d like people to stop romanticising the long hours. I feel like whenever I mention that I work 10, 12 hour days, honestly speaking it’s not fun. You tell people you work 15 hours and they go ‘Wow, that’s insane’ and praise you. I mean it’s nice to get praised but at the end of the day, your mental health is jeopardised.
Another thing I’d like people to stop romanticising is that that is normal, that’s it’s okay. Like when we’re sick and sometimes we’re still asked to come to work. There are days where I don’t feel well but I force myself to work mainly because I worry about the team (if we’re short-staffed, for example) so yeah. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I care too much or maybe I love my job too much. I hope one day I’ll be at the point in my career where if I’m sick, I’ll just say that I’m not coming in.