Famous Kota Kinabalu Seafood Restaurant

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I have been to many seafood restaurants in Asia over the years as they are a dime a dozen but this one has something very different and quite unbelievable. If you look very carefully at the bottom and last picture you will see that the large mantis prawns are inside large and clear plastic bottles. The bottles have not been tampered with and they have very small holes in the bottom so that when they take out the bottles at night to store them in the fridge the water runs away easily.

I stared at the bottles trying to work out how they managed to get the prawns inside the bottle, kind of like the model ship deal.

After a few minutes of scratching my head I asked the manager how they did it. He looked at me as if confused, “We don’t squeeze them in these bottles you know, after growing to their full size they are placed inside and the bottles sealed afterwards.”

I was rather irritated with the thought of them spending the last few weeks of their lives squeezed inside this small bottle and then asked him, “Why on earth would you do that, they can’t possibly taste any different during this storage process?”

The guy turns around and coolly says to me, “It stops them from fighting inside the tank.”

Go figure…..I did not order them.

Are we the “Daddy” our daughter’s deserve?

I received a letter about 6 months ago that brought to my attention a possibility that never occurred to me for a second as something that may be true. The letter made compliments to my autobiography Chef’s Tales, they wrote to tell me how they had enjoyed the book and lamented on how it had made an impact on their life giving them the courage to pursue their dreams. 

 I was feeling rather happy with myself and felt extremely proud that I had managed to make an impact on a persons feelings enough for them to chase their dreams. Then, right at the end of the lovely note, the author of the letter made a statement followed by a simple question, “I think you were very brave to just simply pack up and leave home whilst you were just 18 and travel the world on your own, congratulations to you, however I have one question if I may please. Children living in a normal, loving and caring family would be broken hearted to leave their home and family as you did, how did you cope with this loss at such an early age?” 

Over the years many people have asked me how I was so brave, but until it was brought to my attention, I never reflected for a second why I felt the urge to leave so early in the first place. The standard answer was that I loved travelling, therefore the romance and glamour of being a globe trotter took the better of me and off I went strolling towards a beautiful setting sunset never to be seen again for many years to come. 

A lot of soul searching pursued and I have come to the following conclusion, somehow I must have been unhappy about something or felt a void that needed to be filled. I really believe that I had a lovely child hood; however my father was a very conservative man who constantly told me that whilst I was living in his house, I had to do as I was told until I was 18 years of age. The constant feeling of being controlled and told not to leave the house over the years, especially when I was young may have affected me subconsciously. He went on to teach me that on reaching 18 years of age, I was then old enough to make my own decisions and so I did, not only leaving the house, not only the country but leaving the continent too! 

A few days ago I was telling a girl friend of mine about how I whisper every night in my two daughters ears that I love them before they go to sleep. She told me that daughters were very lucky and wished her father had done so with her. She then mentioned that she had made up for the lack of love from her father by finding other men to love her instead. 

She went on to tell me that when she was young, going to school was very unpleasant, as her friends were being hugged at the gate she would already be half way to her class and her father half way down the road in the car before other parents would be willing to break the bear hug on their children. The last heart wrenching sentence to me was that watching her friends enjoying the attention from affectionate and loving parents whilst she was unable to purchase a hug if she had the money to do so would always tear her heart out. 

My conclusion to this lesson in life is that as a daddy, I should continue to hug my daughters every day and tell them I love them, for without this, I fear they may rush all too quickly and find another “daddy” to fill this void and whom may not have the same intentions as I do.

Lasting impressions on our children

I read in a magazine that even picking up kids late from school on a regular basis can have a negative and long lasting impression on children and should be avoided when ever possible. As I was reading this article I could not help but think that the writer was overreacting somewhat and thought to myself how Alycia, my 9 year old, was so happy to see me when I showed up late, not a frown or angry look in sight. A few days later when I picked her up, I decided to have a slow drive home and get involved with some idle banter on the subject and at the same time get her opinion.

As I asked her how her day had gone and when I received the customary “ok”, I moved on to the main gig, “you know sweetheart” I started out, “when I arrive to pick you up from school you always look so happy so I guess you don’t mind so much that I am late do you?” I ventured. “That’s not exactly true dad to be honest, I am so happy to see you due to the fact that I don’t have to sit there anymore and be embarrassed being, yet again, the last one to be picked up from school”.

I turned on the indicator and pulled over, “What do you mean” I enquired. “The worst part of all” she continued, “is that as there is no parking and as I have no idea what time you and mummy are going to pick me up, I can’t even hide in the Library so that no one sees me, I have to sit by the drop off and pick up area in full view of the whole school and wait for the daily comments to start”.

I was shell shocked to think that as a loving father, I could be so busy with my daily schedule and routine that I could have become so clueless.

Later that night I went back to the magazine to have a closer look, they explained that even a minor public scolding, forcing children to wear clothing which would ensure that they were made fun of all day at school, using pet names in front of their friends, showing baby photos of them to their friends, holding their hands in public, announcing their weaknesses in front of others and even a public hug may humiliate them and set them off down a slope of terrible memories when they became older.

I have lots of middle age friends and we all seem to carry some kind of scared baggage about our childhood and we all seem to harbor some kind of memories which indicate that we may have been hurt in one way or another.

I have now come to the conclusion that as parents, we are the main obstacles that get in the way of where our children want to go which will usually end up with some kind of confrontation and if we are not careful this will allow ill feelings to develop. Alycia, is as yet unable to see why I don’t allow her to have a sleep over at her friend’s house; the trivial fact that her friend has 2 brothers aged 14 and 16 does not mean anything and in her mind is information that should not be involved in the decision process. I can only live and hope that one day when she is old enough to understand what may have happened if I would have allowed her to go, will enable her to appreciate my decision and for its importance.

Everyone knows my thought process on verbal, physical or mental abuse and that I believe it is an absolute disgrace and tragedy to say the very least, but the question here is, are we doing enough to make our children really understand and believe that we love them.

Are we giving them memories that we would hope keeps their soul warm at night and memories that will ensure they grow up with enough love to share with their own children too.

I have to believe that there must be nothing worse than enabling your children to carry around bad memories forever that could have been avoided with a little more care and thought.

To ensure that Alycia has long lasting, loving and fond memories, I am going to pledge that I pick her up from school on time more often than not, whisper in her ear that she is my angel before she goes to sleep at night and every day give her a big hug, look at her right in the eyes and tell her that I love her….if I do this long enough, hopefully she will forgive me for the mistakes that I have already made.

Moonshine on a moonless night

This musing was first published in Flavours magazine and is not in Chef’s Tales the book:

Did I ever tell you about the time when I was working in Kuala Lumpur and went for my very first visit to Sabah to introduce myself to my in-laws? On announcing the master plan to visit the wife’s family’s village, Beatrice jumped out of her chair. “We can organise a Christmas party for all the people in my village.” “Hang on a minute – How many people are there in your village?” I was almost scared to hear the answer. I mean to say, feeding two or three thousand people had to cost a bundle and on my salary at that time, I will tell you, it was a most daunting thought. “Oh, there are lots” – was not the answer that I was looking for, believe me. “How many is ‘lots’?” I whispered out to her. “About 52,” she replied enthusiastically. “How many?!?” I asked in a shocked manner, expecting 5,200. “52,” repeated Beatrice. Well, I thought this was going to be the cheapest Christmas party I could ever have hoped for. “Although we are short of money at this moment in time, I do believe that we can we can offer to hold a party for the entire population of your village. I will even throw in a couple of cases of Carlsberg for good measure,” I announced, trying to conceal my relief.

Beatrice booked and organised the trip as she always does and off we went. Arriving in Papar, we were greeted with the biggest and heaviest tropical downpour that you could ever imagine, which stirred all the toads back to life and unfortunately, all the mosquitoes too. Being eaten alive is not the most pleasant of experiences and not being able to sleep due to the loud croaking coming from the paddy fields did not help either.

The day of the party was a monumental affair to say the least. People came from miles around carrying potluck food items to place on the table for everyone to enjoy. We worked all day to get everything ready and the time had come to enjoy ourselves. On discovering we had no ice, I offered to get it, so off we drove. The first thought I had was how dark it was getting.

It was a moonless night, there was no lights to illuminate the road and the only way to go was to drive slowly down the narrow path so we did not end up in the hitch. Suddenly, we saw something in the middle of the road and slowed down. I thought it was a water buffalo having a nap before continuing on its journey.

As we approached, we found that it was not a buffalo. Instead, it was one of the villagers lying down motionless. He was not moving an inch and I was worried for the poor guy. “Is he dead?” I asked, petrified. “No,” was her monosyllabic reply. “Then what’s wrong with him?” “Tuak,” Beatrice answered. “Tuak? What is that – a tropical disease or something?” I wondered out loud. “No. It’s tropical liquor made from palm or coconut and he has had too much of it.” “Too much of it? He looks like he has had all of it. It’s a wonder that there is any coconut left, by the looks of him!”

I later nicknamed tuak “Gut Rot” once I had tasted this delicate beverage. I will give you another red-hot tip. You do not want to drink this stuff while smoking – you may end up being blown up to kingdom come! As I stared at the drunken villager, out of the blue came the cavalry in the form of two of his mates. They picked him up and carried him off, having a good laugh as they went. “How strong is that stuff?” I asked Beatrice. “It’s quite strong, but alright if you are used to it. Old man Bob is used to it – he’s been drinking it all his life.” If old man Bob was used to it, what would happen if someone was not used to it and drank it for the first time? We would be rushing him to the intensive care unit to have his stomach pumped… Or maybe even replaced! “What is this stuff made from?” I asked Beatrice. “Tuak can be made from the sap of palm trees or coconut trees but it’s usually made from coconut tree sap. There are others as well, you know.” “Oh yes, well, why don’t you give me a heads up so that I can make sure I avoid the stuff at all costs?” “Well,”

Beatrice started out, there is bahar which is also made from the sap of the palm tree, but is made with a different recipe. And then there is tapai which is made from rice.” Different recipe? Maybe there is a recipe book I could buy and place it on the drinks list in the Farquhar Bar menu in our hotel lobby. I could not help but to ask her the golden question: “Do you like a tipple of this refined alcoholic beverage once in a while?” Beatrice pulled her glasses down to the end of her nose and stared at me over the top of them.

Her impression simply implied the articulate response she was expressing. “Idiot” – would have been the best way to explain her thoughts, but as usual, her manners were way too polite to voice it. When we got back from the shop, it was time to get the party started. I decided to take a quick shower before going down to the dinner table.

I emerged about fifteen minutes later and everyone was sitting around chit chatting and looking at me with looks of anticipation on their faces. “What is going on?” I asked Beatrice. “They are waiting for you to eat first before they start.” I could not believe how polite they were and announced that they should all eat and enjoy themselves.

I dipped my hand into a large bucket of ice and grabbed a bottle of beer. As I turned around to speak to Beatrice, I could not believe the sight before me. There in front of me, was old man Bob! Instead of being hung over for four days like I would have been after having my stomach pumped, he looked as if he had never touched a drop. “Here in Sabah,” he started out, “we like to consume this local beverage called tuak. Have you ever tried it?” “Before I answer that question, let me ask you one – do you have an identical twin?” Beatrice came from nowhere and retorted: “Don’t listen to him Bob – he’s a twit!” I tried to defend myself while looking around for help. “To answer your question Bob, not lately, no,” I mustered. “Well, let’s have a shot together. Come, let’s share a glass.” He poured two glasses, walked towards me and handed me the one that was the most full.

Very polite people, I thought… too polite. “Why don’t you have the full glass and I will have the short glass?” We swapped the glasses and I took my first sip. Now I have to tell you something that I shouldn’t but I can’t help it. I have never tasted anything so vile in my entire life. As it passed down my throat and into my stomach, it dissolved every body part in its path like an ice cube in a microwave. “That’s not so bad,” I declared, while wincing badly. As Bob turned around to smile at Beatrice, I quickly poured the balanced of the tuak into the paddy field next to me and pretended as if I had finished it.

I could have sworn that I saw the paddy wilt the instant the tuak touched the water surrounding it. I probably contaminated the whole eco-system of Sabah with that one thoughtless and selfish act. “Wow, look at you,” said Bob. “You have finished it all, but don’t worry, there is plenty more where that came from, I will go and get you a top-up”, “he better not or I will throw up,” I whispered to Beatrice. “Just another drop to make them happy and then you can return to your beer,” she pleaded. “After another drop, I am going to return to my bed. Hopefully, not to a hospital bed!” “Don’t be such a baby!” Beatrice snapped.

This was going to be a long night, I thought to myself. And a much longer day tomorrow, if I kept on drinking this drain cleaner. “Maybe we can place a few bottles in the boot of our car, just in case,” I suggested. “Whatever for?” asked Beatrice. “Just in case we run out of petrol, we can pour it in the tank and keep the car running for a few kilometres until we reach another gas station. “Of course, we would have to keep it in a non-corrosive metal container. You know – the one that does not corrode if it comes in contact with metal-eating acid.” I pointed out that the foul-tasting stuff had indeed been delivered to the village in a screw-top petrol can, which I thought was only appropriate since tuak was also a highly-flammable liquid.

Beatrice rolled her eyes at my latest observation. Bob returned with another couple of glasses and I gingerly sipped on the cloudy substance until it was all but finished, trying to cause as little damage to my insides as possible along the way.

 As I was talking to old man Bob, his eyes glazed over and he started to fall backwards. I had downed two glasses of this rocket fuel myself which resulted in me not being as alert as I should have been and thus, was not able to catch him. Bob just fell backwards right into the paddy field thereby squashing the toads. That was the end of my first, and hopefully my last encounter, with East Malaysia’s version of toddy. Although I am sure that these home-grown Malaysian beverages create an enjoyable pastime, I have to say that they are little bit out of my league in strength and I will stick to the conventional beer or red wine.

A cook's top priority is to know how to cook

Michael wrote to me today and sounded as if he was heart broken due to the fact that, after he has now reached a certain level, has been over looked for a promotion as he has been told that he does not have a formal education in the culinary field. He explained to me that he has been cooking for 10 years, worked in numerous countries, even on a private yacht and now that he has landed a plum job in a 5 star international chain hotel has unfortunately been told that he has reached a level where he is unable to escalate further. He also explained to me that some chefs who have just recently graduated from school, have now received better promotions unfairly as he believes they can’t cook anywhere near as good as he.

I would like to offer my 2 cents worth of advice and opinion here by starting to answer this question on a personal note. I always believe that others feel heart warmed by the fact that people understand their disgruntled feelings and have gone through it them selves thereby knowing how they feel. I am such a person, so I can open my closet a little and tell you that I have qualifications from a hotel school and went to college for 3 years before graduating. I do not however have a degree in business, what I do have is 34 years of practical experience in overall hotel operations which have sent me on a journey through the school of very hard knocks.

I had reached the stage in my career where I had been an Executive Chef for over 12 years and then there were Food & Beverage Managers that were coming out of school with degrees and certificates to show how clever they were…and were now my new supervisors whom were now going to tell me how I should conduct myself and how I should do my job.

It never made sense to me that I would not have a say on how the department was going to be run after so many years in the game and that this fresh graduate with no experience at all would be guiding the company in the right direction when it came to making money. Unfortunately some of the larger chain hotels have certain criteria built in to their manuals that state what qualifications you must have to be confirmed for certain positions and they are not flexible with this criteria, experience seems to count for little I am afraid.

However the good news is this, not every company has the same philosophy and we all have to find the company most suited to the way we work or most suited to the way we like to manage. I have no animosity towards Food & Beverage Managers I truly don’t, but it did not make business sense to me at the time as they just did not have the experience to make the right decisions at the right moment. In life you only get better and gain more experience by either making mistakes yourself or watching others make them and then taking notes so you don’t do the same. Standing by watching my boss making the same mistakes that I had made years ago was taking its toll on me and as I did not see this changing, I decided to move on, find a job as a Food and Beverage Manager myself and I have never looked back.

Michael has to do the same, he has but a few choices to choose from and they in my opinion are as follows:

He can go to his present employer and explain to them his worth, tell them he does not have the culinary qualifications needed to go further and request his employers to help him go through school, even offering to sign a longer contract so that the company can get back their return of investment. If his employer does not agree, then he must slowly look around for an employer who has different priorities, as in my experience many of them do.

Some companies for example like their General Managers to sit in the office all day and do reports for them to read, some hate this approach and want them to be available for the customers thereby hiring a secretary to type all the reports, some hotels today even put the General Managers office right in the lobby.

When he does find another position and he hands in his notice, he must still handle himself in a professional manner, never leaving on a bitter note due to the fact that he never knows when one day he has the qualifications and he may want to return to the same hotel.

Michael, the bottom line is this, nobody can tell you that you are finished, nobody can tell you that you have reached a dead end or that you can’t progress further, its just that you can’t do it with them. The only person that decides what you can and can not do is YOU. Nobody can convince you to believe that you are a Chocolate Chef if you KNOW that you are a Golden Chef. You must go and look for another employer who understands your worth, who deserves your commitment and understands that the most important trait about being a great cook is that you can cook.

Michael….Happy cooking young man.

The power of dreams

I always wanted to be a chef; I don’t know why it just happened that way. I remember the first time I walked through the back door of a hotel on my very first day of employment and it was like walking into a totally different world. A world of madness, lunacy and endless stress that no one of sound mind could possibly want….and yet I loved it! 

After spending a few months on the job and struggling with this new world, culture shock and daily abuse by the more experienced chefs, I still loved it. That was until my executive chef exclaimed out loud in front of the whole kitchen team, “I have come to the conclusion Saxon, that you will never make a chef as long as you have a hole in your arse!” The other chefs seeing an opportunity to lower my self esteem even further for their personal gain, started laughing to ensure that the pain I was feeling reached the maximum level possible. 

I still remember how I felt that day, at 3 am I laid in bed looking at the ceiling and contemplated throwing in the towel, but if I did they would win you see. This is what flames my determination to fulfill my dreams and what keeps me going no matter what happens or whatever life throws at me. There is always someone who will tell you what you can do and what you can’t, but there is only one person that has the final decision on what you will become and that is you. It is your job to ignore all of these trivial obstructions, smile and go about your challenges and the sole purpose should be for you to show everyone who doubts you that they could not be more wrong. 

Physical abuse of any individual is horrific, demeaning, criminal and disgraceful, but verbal abuse has taken a back seat and does not get the attention it deserves. People who are suffering with self esteem issues are the most venerable and most affected by verbal abuse. Having gone through this on numerous occasions during my climb to where I am today, I can tell with an open heart that verbal abuse can make people feel worthless. 

Although I am far from perfect I do try to choose my words carefully when I am getting hot beneath the collar. It always amazes me how some senior managers expect their staff to smile with a happy face greeting their customers when deep down they are heart broken after being abused or scolded in public. 

Each and every one of us is beautiful, valuable, special and without doubt able to be an incredibly important pillar of society. We must not let anyone destroy our soul with words that are intended to penetrate our perceived fragile heart. We must believe that we are educated, as educated people do not react to belittlement, if someone calls you a fool and you are not then the words are ridiculous and harmless. 

We are all responsible for the people around us, we are jointly responsible for their state of mind and we must help them feel better than they are feeling at that moment in time when we converse with them. 

I would encourage all my readers to never give up on your dreams, no matter who tells you that they are out of your reach, that they can not be accomplished, that you are not capable and that you don’t deserve them. 

After reading this, I urge you to write down what you want to accomplish, plan out a path how to reach your goals and whoever is standing in front of you with their arms spread out trying to convince you that you can’t reach them, smile and walk on by, as today is your day and tomorrow holds your dreams. 

I am typing this as I look at my soul mate and two beautiful daughters playing together and with my hand on my heart, I can assure you that I am living my dream and you can and must live yours…Happy dreaming!

Chef's Tales Evolves

As in any venture, business or private, if you are to be successful, you must listen to your circle of friends, advisors, readers or customers and include their constructive criticisms to your growth formula. I started Chef’s Tales wanting it to be a very basic blog, thereby trying to teach readers the cooking fundamentals needed to ensure they could follow recipes presented to them without failing. I was not really planning on adding any food pictures and was trying to be a little different to other food blogs. However, many readers have requested me to add some delightful pictures to liven up the blog and to enable me to do this, I have entered a partnership with a very close chef friend of mine, Chef Kasdi. Chef Kasdi is a very well know chef here in Malaysia and we will start to post some of his pictures and recipes real soon. We will continue to enable our readers to be able to follow recipes by explaining how, what and why. We hope that readers can get the best of both worlds, lovely recipes from Chef Kasdi along with a Myself, an Ex Executive Chef on hand to answer any questions put to him. I will also continue to write my Musings about every day life in the hospitality Industry, hopefully to give Chef’s Tales as much variety as possibly. Happy Cooking!

The power of words

If there is one thing that I have learned over the past 30 years is the fact that words are extremely powerful. If we are to use people skills correctly, we have to read people and try to understand what drives them to go to work every day. One never knows what is happening in their private lives and what they are carrying around on their shoulders each and every day. Dealing with people from all walks of life and from all the corners of the earth has taught me that essentially all people, once you have scratched away the rough exterior, are all the same and that we are all some what fragile.

Words can make people believe that they can single handedly conquer the entire word, or, if the words are not chosen properly ensure that they go home feeling worthless. It is up to us to build up our team so that they all feel confident, powerful, to ensure they have pride in them selves and to ensure they go home with a feeling that their dignity is still intact.

The kitchen steward who washes the dishes and cooking pots everyday for example, has to be made to feel that without him the whole kitchen would collapse. I always brief my colleagues, that not taking care of these wonderful individuals will ensure that one day we may have to wash all the dishes ourselves.

The next we all walk into our working environment; let us all not forget to ensure that we pay attention to the people doing the most menial jobs. If we can ensure that these people feel that they are important and have self worth, everything else will take care of itself.

So, the next time we go to work, let us try to use words that will ensure that our people follow us to the end of the world, ensure that they will be willing to die for us and follow any instructions given without hesitation…use words that may destroy them and we will live with it forever.

It is all our responsibility to help each other to be better people, to understand that words hurt, that unfortunately words once said can not be retrieved and to develop the people we care about to ensure that they feel pride in themselves.

Every day, let us look in the mirror and honestly ask ourselves if we like what we see, if we do not, the good news is that it is never too late to change.

Last but not least, let us not fall in the trap of falling in love with television chefs who shout, swear and belittle people, as may people may want to be like them one day, but nobody would want to work with them any day.

Beautiful cook books with beautiful pictures

I urge non trained chefs to go to their local bookshop today and purchase any cook book that is filled with fantastic food pictures. Take the first recipe and picture that catches your eye, follow the recipe and instructions to prepare the dish. Lay the dish on chosen crockery and compare the finished dish with that of the dish in the book and see if they look the same. If they do not look the same, this is because you do not have the basic cooking methods that the chefs have who prepared the dish in the book. However, all is not lost and it is never too late to start to get these basic cooking fundamentals to ensure that every dish you make will turn out just fine as if prepared by professional chefs. I try to keep Chef’s Tales as simple as possible to ensure everyone understands that basic fundamentals are whats needed to ensure you have the gift and skills to experiment on your own. Sometimes chefs even use terms and words that you do not understand and get lost in translation making the finished dish impossible to duplicate. I would hope that Chef’s Tales becomes like a classroom to arm you with the skills to follow any recipe given and to ensure that you are cooking wonderful meals for your loved ones you can be proud of at home. I will also start to compile a list of culinary terms used by trained chefs so that when these terms arise in cooking methods you understand what they are talking about which should help you follow the instructions more easily. Happy Cooking!

An Angel In Waiting

The first time I walked through the back door of a hotel, I was 15 years old and I walked in with visions of romance, dreams and glamour…I still have those visions today as they have never changed. After finishing cooking school, I left England and set off to Canada starting my life’s adventures that would eventually hand me a gift that only God could create and only an endless collection of jigsaw puzzle like decisions would put me in the right moment, at the right time, for me to be in the right position, to be able to accept this beautiful gift. When I was in Canada I spent a night on a frozen lake, sitting there, looking down at hundreds of feet of dark water moving beneath me whilst watching the full moon turn the entire lake white and then the sun rise turning the same lake into a wonderful sea of orange and red. I went on to the Bahamas, walked on pink beaches and swam in a sea that was so clean and untouched that it could only be described as breath taking. I sat on tiny islands that had the feeling that they had never, ever been walked on before which made me feel like I was somehow special and that I had accomplished something that others could only dream of. I then went to Hong Kong and laid on a car bonnet, staring into the sky whilst a jumbo jet came roaring over the top of the building I was parked outside before it landed in the city airport, the noise was so deafening it appeared as if the engine was in my lap and it was so close that I felt that it was possible to actually reach out and touch it.

I drove with break neck speed round a mountain road in Penang, after being promised to savour the king of fruits only to find fresh Durians waiting for me at the end of the journey. I stood in awe and watched millions of gallons of water flow over Niagara falls, I saw poverty in the Philippines that would break you in to tears and visions in India that I will carry to my grave. I played pool with Dustin Hoffman, Drank with Duran Duran, talked to Stevie Wonder, Steven Segal, Donald Trump and Charles Bronson. I saw friends die young and the wife who I thought at that time I would be with forever, walk out on me for another man on my birthday.

I then moved on to Penang, a broken man, heartbroken, devoid of all hope and forcing myself to push through life’s motions every single day. Every morning I woke up wanting to turn over, go back to sleep and not even bother getting up at all. The simple task of pulling my legs over the side of the bed ready to stand up became a task of monumental effort. On one fateful lunch time whilst eating my Caesar salad on Penang island, I looked up to see whose attention I could catch for some parmesan cheese and then I saw her. For a brief second, I was squinting as I tried to focus through blinding sunlight streaming right into my eyes. It made a direct hit on my face while brilliantly shining from behind her. A passing cotton wool cloud blocked the direct sunlight, dulling the glare, and there, through a ray of beautiful golden sunshine, I saw a woman with a perfect smile that could only derive from her soul.

For no reason at all, it just made my eyes well up with treacherous tears. Beatrice and I have now been together for over 12 years, married for 10 and have two beautiful daughters. How I ended up there after all I have been through and after working in over 9 different countries is beyond me. All it would have taken was one single decision to go somewhere else at any time and the meeting of my soul mate would never have happened. I would like to promise to all of my friends, colleagues and readers that there is always hope, always love and that you should never stop dreaming. I would like to say from the bottom of my heart that the hotel industry and life in general really is beautiful! Never, ever, ever give up.

Complimentary Paperback copy of Chef's Tales

For the month of July, I am willing to give away signed paperback copies of Chef’s Tales. All you have to do is send me proof of purchase of a copy of the hard back from Amazon.co.uk plus the postage fee and the complimentary signed paperback, which you can give away as a gift, will be on its way. Enjoy reading 30 years worth of real life, incredibly funny and heart warming stories that will inspire you to enter the wonderful world which is the Hospitality Industry.Please contact me at michael.saxon@e-o-hotel.com for more info.

Lee Kuan Yew

We have just had two wonderful days at our beloved hotel, The Eastern & Oriental with Singapore’s Minister Mentor Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. As you can imagine, not everyone who walks through our doors on a daily basis qualifies for being outstanding members of the international community, but this man does. Obviously having him in our hotel was an honour to say the least, but more importantly I have to say it was also a pleasure. The man oozes class and behaves impeccably as if he is a walking advertisement to how the human race should conduct them selves. Mr. Lee, (as he likes to be called), I take my hat off to you and declare on a personal note that I wish there were more leaders like you that carry themselves with such dignity. I think that as the world becomes a busier place and everything becomes a matter of time or bottom line, that we are forgetting the importance of standing still for a second, looking at people in the eyes whilst conversing and paying attention to them as if they were, at that moment in time, the only person in the world that you want to talk to. Only when we begin to do this can we hope to start to improve as a species.

Self Confidence is the Key

It is never too late to change if you do not entirely admire what you see in the mirror, every single person is a “works in progress” and we should all help each other develop, feel better about ourselves and become better people……otherwise what is the point of having friends.

Life is Beautiful!

When I was working in the Bahamas, a few friends and I rented a sea plane, the small propeller type that lands on the sea. The pilot flew us to a remote & secluded tiny island and dropped us off so we could enjoy a very private barbecue. It really was a tiny island with a pink tinged, fine sand beach! We spent the whole day there followed with a sunset to midnight barbecue, it was unbelievable. It was so untouched you really did have the feeling that you were the only people who had ever been on this particular island and beach. We sat round a camp fire waiting for the plane to come, it was pitch black and you could see every single star that lit up the sky. The only worry was if the pilot forgot about us and did not come back!!

The International Hotelier

Can you imagine the pressure of catering for a young couple about to get married and relying on you to make sure it’s a day they will always remember with pleasure rather than one to forget? Hoteliers, and more especially restaurateurs within the hotel industry, are a breed on their own, living a strange lifestyle that only they can fully understand and appreciate. Of course, hoteliers would not exist without their guests, and they too form part of my rich store of treasured memories as an international chef and hotelier. To all these people I dedicate Chef’s Tales and share my reminiscences, hoping that one day we will all have the opportunity to work and live alongside people from other cultures, and so enjoy the sort of priceless experiences that have been my daily life for the past 30 years.

Gold or Chocolate Medal?

I remember many years ago I worked for a very “old style” hotelier who never cut me any slack, he used to constantly berate me at every possible occasion, belittling me daily. This constant harassment made me think at that moment in time that my life was worthless. I was working my butt off, he never left me alone for a second and in a moment of weakness and or madness, I asked him how harder he thought I could work. He turned around, looked at me with his usual facial expression of discontentment and announced, “Work smart not hard, its no good to get a Gold medal for effort and a chocolate medal for expertise”. Wise words indeed and valid to all hoteliers around the world, this teaches us balance is of the essence if we are to retire happy, healthy and with a soul mate. I have mine….hope you have yours.

The World People

Being a hotelier has provided me with experiences that money could never buy and memories that time can’t erode. I’ve worked with people across the globe and come to understand and appreciate the religions and cultures of the many countries I’ve worked in and visited. As a result I would like to think that this has made me a more tolerant and open minded person who can adapt and fit in just about anywhere. The hotel business is a very transient one; where people become well, plain and simply people. To offer a good international range of food, a hotel has to have a diverse range of staff from different countries. Working in harmony with other different foreign nationals is imperative, understanding different cultures to appreciate each and every customer who walks through the door, no matter where they have come from is do all and end all. Tolerance of any nature, truly is a beautiful trait to have.

Television Chefs

I love watching many of the chefs on television cooking up a storm and teaching people how to cook themselves at home. I respect most of them and think that they are doing a good service to our industry, I do wish however, that the ones who are always screaming, belitteling and swearing at colleagues would stop and think twice, as they are actually hurting the industry rather than helping it. Many young chefs may want to be them, but they sure as heck would not want to work under them. This puts many young people off joining the industry and portrays chefs as uneducated people that only swear to gain attention to them selves on the screen and increase their ratings.