Foong Wai Loong lasted just two weeks at his first job, but has emerged all the better for it.
As a 14-year-old, he started waiting tables at a Chinese restaurant in his native Kuala Lumpur. But it wasn’t long before the boy turned his attention towards the business end of the operation. “The kitchen was where all the action was, and it looked like a lot of fun,” Foong, now the executive Chinese cuisine chef at the iconic Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta, recalls.
This explains how the boyish-looking 32-year-old has managed to clock a startling 18 years behind the stoves, and has the skills and a respected CV to match. After learning the ropes at home, Foong put in eight years at the highly-regarded Crystal Jade group in Singapore, where he fine-tuned his abilities with stints in the company’s catering and restaurant arms.
Thereafter, he spent six months in Shanghai, to deepen his understanding of the region’s distinctive cuisine, before returning to Southeast Asia to helm the Chinese restaurant at Holiday Inn Batam.
After clocking five years in what he remembers as an enjoyable but demanding environment, Foong continued his journey in Jakarta, taking the reins at Xin Hwa restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, where he stayed for a year before assuming his current post just across the roundabout in the heart of the capital.