28 September 2013

Jamie's Italian Singapore

It has finally happened. A chef I admire much, only being able to watch and read about his food, is within reach of my taste buds. Well, his food I meant. Not wanting to have a taste of him, or anything like that. Jamie's Italian Singapore, Jamie's first restaurant within my reach. How can I miss it?


It has always captured my imagination, sometimes even frustration, that what exactly is the standard to a high level of taste and cooking is. I never really had the chance to visit a restaurant of a Michelin stared chef. Being just an average person who's income translates eating Michelin stared chef food, is equivalent to squandering hard-earned money. Just way out of my league.

However, sometimes, it doesn't take a Michelin star chef to point to you what standards really are. Jamie Oliver is exactly that. He could be even more famous and widely received than a Michelin stared chef. I've always loved the way he presents his food, how it looks, and especially how much passion he's put in. Surely, he can't be far off.


Standing right outside the restaurant gave me an almost "dream come true" feeling. I'm about to step in to the restaurant of one of the chefs I may never meet in my life. All the memories of watching him in various TV programmes he's produced started to playback in my mind. Anticipation continued to build. I had in mind the list of what I wanted to experience and remember.

First up, the first contact: Service. I was greeted immediately by a friendly waitress, and was promptly showed to my seat. I've got to say, it's been a while since I had such a good first point of contact service. It's almost non-existent in where I live. The walk through was pleasant. There's a nice pleasant aura in the restaurant. The decorations were very well themed and made sense.

It had a flurry of wooden furniture, with a touch of authenticity, very much like what you'd imagine to see in the good old days of Italy. Not as though I've been to Italy, but reading up magazines and watching documentaries are enough of an idea what it's like right?



After being seated at the table, I was immediately interested in the menu. Why? I saw some chefs preparing pasta, fresh, hand-made, right near the entrance of the restaurant. I never thought I could ever have it. Consider me, not as lucky as some, I never heard of fresh made pasta from where I live. Yes, I live in Johor, Malaysia.

I continued to have a good experience of service from the staff. They are communicative and really know their menu. I say this solely based on the amount of such restaurants I've visited, paying similar prices, and never once had proper service.


I ordered the fish plank where it had breaded fish and cuttlefish, mussels and clams, and I'm sorry I don't quite know what raw fish it was, and other sides.


The breaded fish and cuttle fish was really a standard I would continue to use from now on. I had crispy, fluffy breaded batter on the outside, soft, juicy, sweet fish and cuttlefish inside. The fish and cuttlefish were cooked perfectly, not sacrificing the outer batter. It was a remarkable one for me. Since I'm really there to enlighten myself on what exactly the standards are on taste and cooking, this really got me cracking. I've always only had tasted oily batter, overcooked inside, some outside, some either one and the list goes on.


Then there was the mussels and clams. I've grown up eating rubbery, tastes just like its gravy mussels and clams. This however, was truly enjoyable. The mussels were soft and tasted fresh. The clams were the biggest surprise of taste for me. It was not only soft but creamy as well! I never tasted a clam being creamy, or never knew it should be creamy and sweet! Mind you, it was only prepared with white wine and served with a few chopped chillies. Authentically fresh tasting!




I can't tell you much about the sides as I was trying to figure out what they are. There's, the bread served with a spread, like tuna spread, along with fresh olives and jalapeño was slightly on the salty side. Then the salad had beetroot in it. Perhaps the white bits were radish and the yellow, not entirely sure. I'm too caught unaware of how really fresh ingredients tasted like when they are done the right way.

Then there was the Humble Salad. It was served rather oddly, first time for me again. Half cut lettuce topped with sunflower seeds and sour cream. It was very fresh. The lettuce was still crunchy and sweet, without bruises. Again, another standard to impose next time, elsewhere.



Then came the most anticipated dishes I've been waiting for. I ordered prawn fettuccine and my girlfriend, Spaghetti ala norma, the most basic of spaghetti. A good way to really understand authentic Italian pasta. You didn't think from the beginning I'd be visiting Jamie's restaurant alone did you?


I'll start with the most basic. Freshly made spaghetti in tomato sauce. I have to say the sauce was special. It tasted earthy and loaded with fresh tomatoes. However, sadly, the spaghetti was slightly undercooked. Didn't do the hand-made pasta enough justice. Just that bit more hard and dry in the middle. Nonetheless, it hinted well on what Italian cuisines are renowned for. Freshest ingredients, authentic taste of those ingredients.


Now my prawn fettuccine. This time, the fettuccine was done well. It tasted very different from the dry ones we find in stores, and sadly many other restaurants I've been to. It was springy but really robust in texture. Dense should be the word. It was good for the texture. I could taste enough egg in the pasta, but not overpowering. The pasta blended well with how it was cooked. The prawns, although small, had quite a number of them, enough to eat your pasta every mouth with a few little prawns in it. They were done just right. Springy and fresh. The pasta tasted with a hint of tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper all well put together. The fresh rockets really added a punch into the flavour as you eat it together with the pasta and prawns.

I really enjoyed my lunch there. Surely it has made me more aware of how fresh ingredients should taste like when put together. Sorry I couldn't provide a food blogger-esque review as I was there on a mission of enlightenment. Thus, I could really use more information on the next visit. I was just there, really hungry and really excited to put the food into my mouth!

04 October 2012

Measurements

I think it's safe to say that humans are hot-wired to be logical. That's just how our brain works. It constantly tries to make sense of every single input from our senses in order for us to comprehend what's going on around us, else we'd go crazy. We define everything we see, touch, smell, feel, hear, taste without us even needing to try. Our brain does it autonomously and we can do nothing about it.

So imagine now, if our world never came up with "Measurements". Everything around us, whether it's size, length, weight, space and TIME. What will happen to us? We would literally be living in oblivion. Even Science would never make sense if measurements didn't exist.

Inevitably, we even measure ourselves. Ironically, we never really measure ourselves, by ourselves. It's usually dependant on the measurements that are set by others, or the world. For example, what we look like, whether good or bad, we are subject to what "others" think. That's why we have people who have zero self-confidence in how they look, because the world tells them "YOU LOOK BAD!"

Another instance, our intelligence is measured by the amount of education we get, or exams in short. We take tests, exams, etc. and then be judged by a system that some other "more intelligent" human had come up with to see if we are as intelligent. You can argue about it, but in some way or another, we still use something to measure how smart one person is.

How about self-worth? How do most people measure it? Well, sadly, it's still measured by the standards of the people around us or the world we're in. Whether you're still pursuing your education, career, or even in your own family, your self-worth is constantly changing, adapting to how your environment makes you perceive who you are.

The stress of making ourselves feel worthy or feel useful is always there. We can never run from it, therefore we live with it. So we can say, each day of our lives, we are dependant on the people around us: i.e. what they say about us, what they say about others, what they think about you, what they think about others and also dependant on the things around us: i.e. what we are doing, what others are doing, what we have, what others have, etc.

Such are the things that affects our perception of our self-worth. In reality, most of these factors usually go against you. They never really helps us build our self-worth. There are bound to be people whom, all they do is, bring you down. There are things that all it does, or when you're doing it, makes you feel useless, or you'd feel useless when others are doing it.

Isn't such life tiring? That constant pressure of finding self-worth? But why are there people who are so full of confidence as well? Where in the world did they find so much worth in themselves that it seems like they are living in their own world of imagining they are great? There must be something that had caused them to measure themselves that way.

What is it?

The answer, very likely would be that they measure themselves, by themselves. They wouldn't allow other factors to measure them. Yes, it may seem stupid because, how in the world did they know they are better than others? But think about it, when you measure yourself, by yourselves, what do you use to measure? Very likely, everything around them. Now you may think, "See, we're back to square one. It's still about external measurements on us!"

But I would think, the main difference is: the mentality in believing that they can do better, and not being dictated by the external elements, telling them, there's your limit. They believe they look good enough if they just made some effort. They believe they can do well in the exam, if they try harder. They believe that they will just keep doing better if they keep doing it, regardless how long it took.

Most importantly, they won't let the fact that someone does something or has something better than them dictate their worth. They recognise that EVERYONE is good at something. There is always SOMETHING in anyone that they will do better than someone else. It's that acknowledgement that they know, they aren't so bad after all.

We just need to find that SOMETHING. How? Usually, that something you do well is something you are most frustrated about when someone seem to keep telling you to do it, because it's so boring that you can do it with one eye closed. Or, when someone has a very hard time doing it as easy as it seems to you.

All in all, it's about believing in yourself. Accepting who you are. If everyone pursues the same standards, perfections, and achieves it, what good is there? Nobody stands out any more. Uniqueness of an individual is lost. Imagine stepping out of your home, every one seems the same, every boy/girl is the same. It's like a mass production factory. You don't have to pick out each and every product to test, you just need a random sample, whatever the results, it will reflect all the other products that were produced together.

So start believing and accepting yourself first. Measure yourself that way. That's how you should also do to others. Let them measure themselves. Don't mess it up by judging them. Yes, people are flawed, so are you and I. But each flaw is what makes someone unique as they are. It characterises them, gives them an identity. We are supposed to be built around not just our strengths but our flaws too.

Are you measuring correctly yet?

17 April 2012

Embracing Change


Life is ever-changing. Yet the one thing that defines us is how well we adapt to those changes. 

Lately, many things are changing in my life. One of them, obviously is that because of the tremendous amount of change I need to cope with, I chose to start writing again. It's the one way I can let out some thoughts and emotions and not implode and die without knowing what had happened.

Since graduation, I have been thinking about my options for my future. Plenty of things I wanted to do. I enjoyed TV Production but sadly, I wasn't able to follow through. Why? The concerns are simple. Going into such a line will have me compromising my priorities in life. One might say, "Our lives are shaped by our careers, we can't let go of a career just because it is going to alter our lives. It means you're not stepping out of your comfort zone."

I can agree with that. However, we can also choose to have a career that doesn't require you to alter your current life that much, instead enhance and upgrade it in order to match, not compensate.

I'm now working full-time in my church. Serving the church and community. Yes I'm paid but are peanuts compared to what I would get from the big boys' market. People might come to say, "I'm simply sticking to my comfort zone." Yet what I experience is truly out of my comfort zone. Here's why:

If I had chosen to go for a job that I would be good in, I would have taken up TV Production jobs. Yes, it alters my life but only to the extend of compromising. Just have less time in certain parts and have more time in job. End of story.

Yet here, I not only have to enhance my life to make sure I walk well in line with God but also learning to do many things that I didn't learn in class. What am I doing? What is there to do?

Well, I do admin work largely. Nothing to do with what I've learnt and no idea how to do them. So had to keep learning. Dealing with different people on various ministry works in the church. Following through on various church projects, brainstorming on new ideas, and plenty more.

Nothing sets one person out of their comfort zone more than when everything in their lives are stretched and forced to be enhanced. Be it learning or doing. I'm not just into a life that all I needed to do was adjust my time with my job but instead, upgrading each aspect of my life. No compensation, just demanded MORE. 

So my life now is in a constant exponential learning curve. Each day I have to deal with learning to adapt. Not every day I succeed. I still get tired and beat down. But I keep my life. I keep my passion. I make my life better and continue in my passion to serve God. I continue to have a life with my family and loved ones. 

Great minds think they know better and don't see the need or even the existence of God. God is for the weak and gullible? Only when you experience God and can't explain it with your great mind will you submit. There's already aplenty of things in this world that great minds still fail to explain. 

Regards,
EC

17 October 2011

Chapter End. Begin Another!

It's been so long I've last posted anything. Even thinking about an overhaul seems like an extremely tedious job. And then, the timely interface change in blogger. I don't think I will change anything on this blog for now.

Just a little something I feel like I should write it down. Again, it's been so long since I last wrote anything. Pardon the rust in the language or content or anything like that. Hard to believe something I loved to do can feel so different when I didn't do it for awhile. Probably takes some time to get it back.

As the title suggests, I'm documenting a remarkable time of life, a mark of an end to a wonderful chapter in life. A chapter that my life took a turnaround, growing more than I ever had in the past.

This whole chapter started somewhere around the end of 2009. I remember just finishing my diploma at Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) and barely know what to do next. Job searching was a sure dead end. Why? I wanted to work near home so that I be around for my family. That's priority. I didn't want to work in the mainstream media either.

Long story short, finding a job was just not what I was supposed to do. Early 2010, I  got into a degree course offered by Oklahoma City University (OCU), USA that was available through Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Somehow, I felt that the door was intentionally left open, given that the registration deadline is just two days away, or so, if I remembered correctly.

In the end, I got in just like that. Paid my fees and await to explore the unknown. I got what I prayed for. Somewhere that I could stay close to family, making up the time I had lost with them. I went back to seek God when I had no where to go or have no idea what my future holds. His grace knows no bounds. He showered me with countless blessings. God is so faithful that He can never break our heart. We are always that unfaithful other half that breaks His heart. Again and again.

I was then surprised by how the course would be conducted. I will have 18 months to complete all my modules. Each module had only nine days worth of classes. Each class is three hours and 30 minutes. Most would think that it should be easy but it is just the contrary.

What every student learns back in US for 16 weeks is crammed down to nine days for us. Although they have multiple subjects in a semester, we didn't fair much better at all. During the nine days, we would usually have quizzes and even assignments that are to be done and handed in the very next day. We only have two weeks to finish up final assignment and study for exam right after the class.

We had at least a module every month. Then there was a month where two modules were back to back, thought by the same professor. Which meant, we only had two weeks to complete assignment and studies for the first module then just another week to do the same for the following module. It required a lot of work and I just kept finding the time too short.

Then more and more things start to string together, seeing God's grace in a bigger picture. When my sister had her first baby August last year, I was just available to be there for her and her new family. She had many problems then. Guess I shouldn't name too much. I'm thankful that God gave me a chance to see my niece born safely and I got to help take care for the first month.

I saw God putting me in my sis' family as part of His plan for them. Things would have been so different if I had went back to KL for anything at all. I never could have been so available, had not the course was conducted this way.

God watched me through each and every module. Even when I had to take time for my family, help my sis out, I still had time for studies. It was just an amazing experience of God's awesome and perfect plan being revealed and executed before me.

Now, I have graduated with a 3.1 CGPA. An achievement I never had before. I've never touched 3.0. Somehow, looking back at my transcript, I saw a trend. God didn't intend to have me score 3.9 CGPA, probably because I have my limits, although He could. He let me see something else. Amidst all kinds of things to do during this 18 months, He led me to a steady climb in my grades.

I'm talking about juggling between relationships with friends and family, helping my family, helping my sis' family, do my ministry work, plan things for my ministry, plan things for the church, attending events in church, organising or coordinating events in church, just too many to mention.

My grades? I started with 2.375 for my first two modules. I felt so lousy but I continued to trust God, knowing I can't do it by myself. Then the next three modules followed. I did better. CGPA climbed to 2.6. By then, I was satisfied as I knew that's my average points throughout my studies. Then the next three modules was even better. My CGPA rose to 2.719.

The following three again, CGPA went to 2.909. By then, I had no idea it had rose to this point. I was just so thankful that I did quite well for the modules, just by looking at what grade I got. Then came the modules I done in US, including a final Student's Showcase assignment. My CGPA went to 3.054.

The final and last module summed the whole transcript up, stunning me beyond words. My CGPA got to 3.117. I had no idea about this trend until I sat down and looked at my progress. Indeed, it was never my own capabilities. God really showed me how great He is through this. It didn't have to be spectacular. It was more than enough for me. As if it was tailored just for me to see. This is my personalised testimony!

God took care of my grades, showing me a steady growth I have never seen. Why? I've never thought of relying on Him in the past. How foolish. Yet He gracefully showed me His steadfast love. I'm just a sinner, not worthy of anything. To deserve Christ's blood is just an act of pure love and grace.

Graduation on October 15 was a day I just kept looking back at how impossible my results were. All I could really think of was "anything is possible through Christ". Indeed, He deserves all my praise and thanks! Glory to God!

So many things have changed in my life. God has really showed me that I could never go wrong if I choose to follow Him. This journey of experiencing Him has just only started. I know I will see even greater things done in future through Him.

What's next? I'm sure I will find out in due time. For now, I'm occupied with so many ministry work and I'm really enjoying them. Although there are some frustrations here and there, but God is good. Things never seem to be done in vain.

Who knows I may be able to go for full time ministry? I just want to experience God until the day He calls me home. I thank Him for everything He has done for me, good or bad, I will continue to praise Him!




12 September 2011

A Wedding Gift

Here's a wedding gift my friends and I did for a beloved sister who got married recently. It was hard to edit the whole thing together, especially soundtrack choices. Hope you guys enjoy and REMEMBER TO LIKE on YouTube!