Emily Livesey first pursued a “safe” degree at an Australian university before pursuing her dream journey: exploring the culinary arts in Switzerland.
When her father died in the middle of her studies, Livesey was confused between continuing her program in Brisbane or starting over. He decided to see KDU’s International Culinary Management course, a local institution in her home country Malaysia, and fell in love right away.
When the opportunity came for him to move and spend his final year studying at the International Management Institute in Switzerland, he immediately took the opportunity. It was the best choice he had ever made, he said. Today, he will be part of the opening team for a new restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Below we talk to this avid culinary graduate about his journey in Switzerland and what challenges he has had to overcome:
What were some of the challenges you faced while studying at the International Management Institute in Switzerland as an international student?
The transition from studying in Malaysia to Switzerland was relatively easy for me as it wasn’t my first time studying abroad. However, being on the continent of Europe, the language barrier is the biggest challenge. The International Institute of Management provides students with opportunities to learn German, so I skipped it.
I know this will come in handy when looking for an internship in Zurich and for future jobs I may have in a German speaking country. Switzerland is a relatively cosmopolitan society and because of that, I am very happy international friends group. This made life there a lot easier for me, because they were basically in the same boat as me.
So apart from language, there aren’t many challenges that I have to overcome. Even though during the start of the pandemic, I did experience some racial discrimination because of my appearance – I am Malaysian Chinese! For some “older” individuals, they thought I was from China and treated me like patient zero, which was unpleasant. But in my opinion, you shouldn’t let a few rotten apples ruin the tree. Overall it was a great time!
Tell me more about your food career trajectory since uni graduation.
Certainly some strange years. I never actually attended my graduation ceremony physically which made it feel surreal. In true COVID-19 style, I have to attend my graduation virtually. Thankfully, the International Management Institute is inviting us back later this year, so maybe I can take the stage and celebrate with my fellow graduates. Right now, I have amazing career opportunities that new graduates cannot easily get. I was part of the opening team for a new restaurant in Kuala Lumpur – what an exciting time. Even though it’s not easy, I know 100% that being a chef is the right career choice for me. I would like to thank my university in Switzerland for helping me develop the skills and knowledge I have used to contribute significantly to this project.
How do you use the knowledge and skills acquired in your culinary course in your current job?
Menu techniques, meal costing, recipe cards, and soup kitchen skills are all attributes I bring to the table. In addition, with the experience of working in a five-star hotel, I can use my knowledge and experience to better serve the team.
When you were at university, there was always a worry in your mind that what you were studying might not apply in the real world. But in my case I have found almost everything I have learned to be completely relevant and has equipped me well.
Studying culinary management is immersive, really thrown off to the deep end. At university, however, they provide you with a lifeline with tailor-made guides, help and courses to teach and test your skills.
What do you hope you learned more about during college?
Management of people. If there is one thing I learned post-university, restaurants and kitchens are about the people who work in them and also about the food. Another important skill that I hope to have more help with in unity is leadership.
Learn leadership in theory it is very different from putting it into practice. I feel students will benefit more from practical stimulation than just talking about it.
What advice do you have for international students planning to enroll in the same course as you?
Don’t glorify the culinary management industry. It’s hard and much more difficult than people think. Go into the course with an open mind and be prepared for ideas and input to be constantly challenged as you try to reach consensus in the kitchen. If you’re really challenged, don’t take it personally. After all, that is the nature of what we do in the culinary world.
In 10 years, what do you want to do and where do you want to live?
In 10 years from now, I see myself settling in somewhere like Melbourne or Zurich. In large part because there is an exciting culture around food. When it comes to advancing my career, I would love to be in a place that not only supports my culinary passions but enhances them. I feel like I will thrive in places like that. With that said, Malaysia will always be my home as most of my food inspiration comes from here.
What is one thing about your home that you have missed and how do you replace it?
Must be the food! I think that is one aspect that all Malaysian students who go abroad miss. I understand each culture has its own unique cuisine, but Malaysian culture is undeniable and in my opinion, the best. That’s the beauty of growing up in a country with different ethnicities that unite their food cultures with others.
Unfortunately, there are no Malaysian restaurants in Switzerland. However, Asian grocery stores are very much available. Hence, I had the opportunity to cook Malaysian food in my own house.
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