June 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
The cafe is turning a year old soon. These days I find myself looking back at the photographs, recollecting moments building the space, testing recipes, helping to cement the floors, staying late with the crew, meeting new people and finally, to what it is today.
I remember unlocking the door wee hours in the morning and baked the first batch of muffins. The girls setting the coffee bar up and arranging the flowers as we wait for the customers. A few curious ones from the neighbourhood came by, our regulars from Henry dropped in to show support, so did our family and friends. We fed them our usual staples and other new dishes. Every opening day, we did the same thing to keep people happy with our simple ways of getting by.
Away from the hullabaloo of a city, there lies a cafe for individuals of all sorts sharing a meal or two at the table. Doing what they do as they like, spending them with good company, listening to lovely tunes, and indulging in anything honest and fresh. It is much adorn to remind yourself what is needed and return back to the basics.
I bake. That’s all I really do there. Baking sweet treats from dawn till mid afternoon. Then I carry on the day with yoga and writing, spend time with family and the cycle repeats. While it sounds so simple and pure, there are off days. Days when we get so packed, crap hits the ceiling. People demand for more, they want change, and are not use to the way we are. We become vulnerable to their dispositions and lose the bond.
Then there are instances where we connect in every level, spend more time knowing each other and start to nurture the sense of community. My supplier who drops off a bag of fresh apricots, just cause; the little girl who runs around the table before getting on the stool to eat her bowl of granola; the french toast and brew coffee lady who sits there the whole morning with an iPad and two cellphones; the family that brings everyone out to dine in the evenings, and have hot chocolate to beer & fried rice to sandwich. A community of characters.
Somehow, I did not intend to stay this long. I had put school on hold for this to grow and continue with life. Following the rhythm, and be present to being here has been difficult to accept. This island has always made me feel like a fish out of water, I found comfort in other lands and had planned to explore. Yet, things change, well to be honest, I found love. Unrequited, supportive and mad affection. Instead of pushing what I had help build or watched what it is today away, and finding thoughts to leave with every discomfort, I learn to grow and embrace.
James, who now lives in the north-west, call it “grounded perspective”. We were so naive to drive across country through the rush hour. We have slowed down since and are still looking for grounds that appreciate who we are. Afterall, isn’t it all we want in life is to feel appreciate by others? And be comfortable with ourselves?
This sentimental post perhaps will make you feel lost in space, but there is no other way to put how this past year has been for me. Currently, we’re just going to dwell in what we have, appreciate its form and make the most out of them.
April 27, 2014 § 1 Comment
Of late,I noticed there are more culinary students and cheffing has become a more appealing trade. There are plenty of kids going to culinary school, learning how to dice potatoes and going through hospitality textbooks. But when they step out of campus to stage in a kitchen, more often then not, they are not prepared for the daily grind.
Just the other day, a customer who is attending culinary school gave a feedback to the server on a sandwich. The server replied “I shall tell the chef/cook your thoughts”. His response was “Don’t bother, they will not care”.
Sandwich aside, we were rather repulsed with his attitude. Considering that he is a young chap from culinary school, part-timing at a hotel kitchen and learning about the industry, shouldn’t he be more understanding or thoughtful? That we take pride with the food we serve and are here to create real dining experiences. Good coffee, good food, good ambience and good people for the everyday life. The daily cup of joe, a fine bite of this and that but also wholesome to the soul. A space nourished with simple pleasures.
If we keep to our job and stick it out by making sure we complete our list and only ours with not helping others as a team, there is really no point in being part of a kitchen crew or any crew at all. Working effectively, to do dishes, serve customers and pick up each other’s slack or giving a helping hand, essentially is the core of delivering a thoughtful, holistic and enjoyable meal.
From serving the drinks before the meal to having all the dishes out together and playing good music. Maybe a good conversation or two with the staffs, a quiet read at the communal table or simply having to just soak in the vibe as it is. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a good meal with all these notes.
So before you want to work in the hospitality industry, do us, the ones who go through the daily grind of no three solid meals a day or family time, a favour, get this straight. Believe in the food, believe in the ingredients, believe in the crew, practice being selfless, practice being considerate and most of all, take less give more. Because this world only needs more love than anything else really. Have a splendid weekend folks!
January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
New beginnings call for restorations and continuations. As I grow deeper with writing and baking, I’d increasingly started to realize the importance of feeding and treating the body better. I wake up to feeling fresh and renewed, preparing for life’s offerings, to take everything in with a stride and translate all the bad energy to good things slowly and surely.
It is not difficult to choose a balanced lifestyle. While we all choose to complain, we can all choose to walk the talk more often. Take time for yourself, cook better food, choose less process or greasy, more wholesome, healthier ingredients with the simplest meals. Your body probably won’t agree from the start but will gradually be thankful at the end of the day. Feel light and happy.
There was once when your body, mind, soul and heart felt wonderfully whole. Find that tender moment, practice the positivity and keep them.
the heart feels more secured
the mind feels more pure
the soul feels more alive
Figs are often regarded as a symbol of renewal. With the start of the new year, we’ve decided to enjoy what’s left of the season by reducing them with warm spices, sweet onions and dark brown sugar. Then slowly bringing them to a simmer until each flavour immerse into a lovely chutney. Jar them while its hot, allowing the fruits soak in the spices and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, spread it over hot toast, melt some soft cheese like brie or camembert, throw a handful of fresh arugula or pea sprouts and drizzle a touch of extra virgin olive oil.
It’s a simple way of eating, and so tasty!
your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny
– mohamand ganhdi
September 12, 2013 § 3 Comments
Perhaps the danger in doing so is that you will lose out, but if winning is the only thing then you have nothing. I think if I did try to win every game I played or every fight I picked on, then I would have won nothing as well. I am so bad at being competitive in this rat race, I rather run at my own pace and make my own paths.
Perhaps this is how I keep my calm by believing that every awakening encounter is a learning process. That I give more than what I should, accept even the most ridiculous and move on. Sometimes, the lessons are painful and the waiting can test your patience or dash hopes. But I am reminded that it’s a journey of shortcomings and perfecting them. Just remember not to shortchange yourself or the truth.
It’s only Thursday but our crew is already tired and stretching our limits. Nevertheless, we are running at our pace with good 90s music, silly laughters and keeping each other in good company. If we got to do it together, why not make it fun? On the personal side, the heart is heavy again, yearning for a clean slate to start afresh.
“Always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marilyn Monroe.
I don’t remember the last time I got a flower, but I am so thankful for lovely Ly and her words. Here is a toast, to honor, simple pleasures and the simplest love.
a slice of wholesome brown bread
homemade strawberry/blueberry jam & nut butters
June 13, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been a great week for the cafe. The crowd has not stopped, regulars came in to congratulate us, families from the neighborhood fed their curiosities and images have been shared/clicked/retweeted furiously. While the hype and pressure is on, there seems to be a sense of steadiness in the air.
Perhaps it is just me, or the effects from waking up before sunrise even on the weekends. I have been finding solace in the quiet dimly lit kitchen. From the minute I unlock the door, the footsteps I take towards the oven and setting the temperature for the first bake. The undivided time dedicated to sifting flour, creaming butter/sugar, clearing last night’s clean dishes and picturing the dinner service. Though the shortage of hands seem to be a pain, there will never be a shortage of kindness or laughter. An unexpected gesture, a note of gratitude, a silly joke to break the ice, or dance in the middle of the kitchen.
Although by the end of the day, we are all physically drained, my heart is light. I look forward to the alarm at 0530, and demanding suppliers for my produce. Who would have known that it is not worth delivering 200 eggs, despite being just around the corner? Or I need 5kg of frozen fish from the Atlantic ocean, just so we can have one scrumptious item on the menu? If there is one thing I learnt from working in kitchens, is that always treat your suppliers nicely (from the dodgy delivery man to the rude but oh-so-desperate marketer).
What time do you open? I’ll let my delivery man know.
10am but I will be there by dawn.
Woah so early!
Here, I retreat into the comforting kitchen made with hard metal, but allows me to bake anything. I tried three new recipes and already have five more lined up. Here, I am not afraid to be vulnerable. In fact, I think we take joy in them. As NBC puts it “characters welcome”. We yell when we need to, we demand when we want to, we laugh when it is most inappropriate and perhaps even cry at some point. But the dark sides of us have seemingly made us into a family. Being selfless sometimes, can be the best thing you do for yourself.
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. – Pema Chödrön.
My favourite girl is back!
May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.
Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.
1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.
2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.
3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.
4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.
And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.
*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.
May 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
Always leave one door open for opportunities come knocking when you least expect. Overindulging is food is predominantly adequate when it’s an occasional affair. Share your food, so you can taste others and spread the joy. Immerse yourself in meals with the culture and surroundings. A dish can reconcile disappointments, smoothen feelings and keep that smile of yours going.
Lastly, be grateful and show gratitude in anyway.