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24 Hours Behind The Scenes at The World’s Best Airport Hotel

24 Hours Behind The Scenes at The World’s Best Airport Hotel | Hidden Hustles

I love buffets. It’s a food lover’s paradise— from the live menu to the seemingly endless choice of variety. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of those all-you-can-eat spreads? – [Wendy] It looks so good. It’s a glorious-looking meat.

– [Alvin] Try one more time. I’m curious about what it’s like working in the kitchen of the world’s best airport hotel. So here’s 24 hours of me hustling in the kitchen. I’m Wendy, and this is Hidden Hustles. – [Wendy] So it’s 04:11 a.

m. right now and I’m on the way to Crown Plaza to start the buffet shift. It is so early and I am not functioning right now. I think the key to enjoying yourself at a good buffet is knowing what to go for. – [Director] What do you usually eat at a buffet?

– I go for, like, the meat and the seafood because I think that’s the most worth it.

– [Director] But you’re there to work. – Yeah, but I’m there to… Sorry. Yes, I’m there to work. The breakfast buffet starts as early as 6:30 a.

m. and I’m meeting Chef Alvin, the executive chef of Azur who will be showing me the ropes. – [Alvin] Good morning. This is Chef Zi Bao, who’s handling all the pastries. – [Zi Bao] We need to prepare two types of Danish pastry.

For each (tray), you can arrange around 15 pieces. – [Wendy] So how early do you all come (to work)? – [Zi Bao] Midnight? – [Wendy] Of the day? – [Zi Bao] Yeah.

– [Wendy] So it’s six hours of kneading making the dough, doing everything. So actually we are… Okay, we’re at the tail end of the whole service. – Yes, yes. – [Wendy] Wow. – You need to press (this button) to have more moisture.

– Ah. – [Wendy] Ah. You hear the sound? – [Wendy] So, oh… Okay, this is so interesting. – [Zi Bao] And we wait.

– [Wendy] That’s it. – [Zi Bao] And we wait. – Okay, then we wait. Okay. Ooh… I like to see and watch the bread bake.

So it’s very important that you all come on time do (things) on time – [Zi Bao] Yes. everything is on time. everything is on time. – And also at 6:30 a.m.

, (the restaurant) opens. That means by 6:15 a.m., we need to be done with everything. – [Wendy] Okay.

Which is soon actually. – Yeah. – [Wendy] Do I turn it or do I hold it? Okay. – [Zi Bao] No, you just… – [Wendy] Do I turn it or do I hold it?

Okay. – [Zi Bao] Pull out. – Is this enough glaze? – [Zi Bao] Yeah. – Okay.

– [Zi Bao] Now you need to snow powder the chocolate.

Too much. – [Wendy] Oh, like this? – Yeah. – Okay.

– Then you start dusting it. It’s almost time. I will be beside you. Ah, slow. Okay.

Okay. Careful! The croissants, can you take them out? Then the Danish (pastries) bread rolls on top. (Place the) slice bread beside the toaster.

Final thing you need to (turn) on the heating lamps. – Right. – [Wendy] So what do you look out for when you are inspecting? – [Alvin] Usually you need to ensure the presentation you know… the cleanliness, the food— is it enough? Either (with) my presence or not everyone, each of them is actually the inspector of the food.

Where are your almond flakes? Where? No, you don’t show me, you just put (here). You have to garnish them all. – [Wendy] So when do you decide whether you need it to be topped up?

– [Alvin] Of course it’s… It depends on the timing. Like, right now, it’s still early. You know, rearrange the sausages just to make them more presentable. For the breakfast shift I’m assigned to help out at the live egg station. – [Alvin] Good morning, sir.

Would you like to have any omelette or fried egg? Have you folded an omelette before? – Yeah… Yes. [laughter] – [Alvin] You’re, like, not confident. – [Wendy] Yeah.

– [Alvin] You’re, like, not confident.

– [Alvin] While we are waiting for the guest (to collect his order) – [Wendy] Hmm. – [Alvin] Do you mind doing one to show me? – [Wendy] Err… I can try. – Do it!

– [Wendy] How much do you… – One and a half rounds. More, some more. – [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] Are you scared of oil? – [Wendy] Yeah.

[laughter] – [Alvin] You can feel the flavour. – [Wendy] Whoa! – [Alvin] You can feel the flavour. – [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] You can feel the flavour.

– [Alvin] You can also stir. – [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] I’ve reduced a bit of heat for you. Just stir in a clockwise direction. And (use) your left hand to stir a bit.

– [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] Stir. – [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] You can see it’s not really smooth enough. – [Wendy] Oh.

– [Alvin] One tip that I always tell my staff when they are training— no matter whether they are nice or not you have to eat all of your omelettes.

Sir. Your omelette is here enjoy your breakfast. – [Guest] Thank you. – [Alvin] You’re welcome.

– [Wendy] Is this the most stressful station to be at? – First of all, is egg a simple dish to cook? – Yeah, exactly. – [Alvin] You’d think that, right? – [Wendy] Okay… I think.

– Now, it’s still early. When a group of guests comes to you you need to memorise each of the guests’ orders and at the same time, you need to cook. If you miss out on one or two you may cause a guest to be angry. – Guest-facing stations all require more experience. – [Alvin] Yes, yes.

– Okay. – [Alvin] Good morning, sir! – [Wendy] Hi! – [Guest] Good morning. – [Wendy] Hi!

– [Guest] Everything, yeah. – [Alvin] Omelette? – Everything sure, no problem.

– [Guest] Two portions of masala omelettes please. – [Wendy] This one is done, right?

– [Alvin] A bit more burn. – [Wendy] Okay. – [Alvin] A bit more burn. – [Alvin] Here you go, sir your omelettes. – [Guest] Thank you.

– [Alvin] Left is mine, right is hers. – [Wendy] Okay no, but enjoy. – [Alvin] Left is mine, right is hers. – [Wendy] Okay no, but enjoy. [laughter] [laughter] – [Wendy] Hi!

Good morning.

Would you like some fried egg or omelette? – [Alvin] Well done, you got their orders. – [Guest] Can I have four sunny-side ups? Ah, five.

– [Wendy] Is this okay? Cooked enough? – [Alvin] Yes. – Okay. – [Alvin] Whoa.

I have a big order here. So now, we need to speed up the order. One more. Put some oil. – [Wendy] Oh, there’s still one more?

– [Alvin] Put some oil. – [Wendy] Oh, there’s still one more? – Oh. – [Alvin] Aiman. For the guy at this table.

Nice moist cheese melted at the centre. – [Both] Enjoy your breakfast! – [Wendy] So, like, running such a (huge) buffet line, right do you ever get bad reviews online? – [Alvin] Of course we do because food is subject to an individual’s preference. The stress is actually more from the prep work at the back end.

– [Wendy] I mean, I only came, like for a little bit of the prep. I have a lot of respect for the long hours that go into what makes food services run well— the attention to detail that you need to pay. – [Alvin] Polishing the skills actually takes a long time to build up the foundation of your cooking skills. Then, you can start to deliver the standards. – [Wendy] So what got you started as a chef in the first place?

– My parents are actually moving hawkers in Malaysia. – [Wendy] Oh. – My parents are actually moving hawkers in Malaysia. – Was your first job also cooking-related when you came out to work? – Actually, no.

– [Wendy] Oh! – Actually, no. – [Alvin] I dropped out from school at around 15 years old. After that, I became a mechanic. Then, when I was 17 or 18 years old, my friend contacted me asking whether I wanted to work in Singapore, as a chef.

– [Wendy] So they knew that you liked to cook? – [Alvin] They didn’t know, actually. Out of these 23 years (as a chef) and 2 years as a mechanic being a chef is easier.

24 Hours Behind the Scenes at the World’s Best Airport Hotel | Hidden Hustles
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It’s in my DNA. It’s my passion.

It’s my everything. While breakfast service is finally over my day has just started and I’m preparing a welcome dessert for a VIP guest. – [Wendy] Is this where the aeroplanes go? – [Zi Bao] Yeah, one of them is here. – [Wendy] All these are handcrafted.

– [Zi Bao] Handmade. – [Wendy] All these are handcrafted. – We have moulds to make the chocolate. Then we mould the chocolate into shapes. – [Zi Bao] Okay, enough.

– [Wendy] Okay. – [Zi Bao] Okay, enough. – [Wendy] How often do you come up with something new for the guests? – [Zi Bao] For the time being, we will stick to this (design) because we have the advantage of making airport themes. Because we are near the airport.

Only we can make these. – [Wendy] Oh. Yeah, I know. You seem very proud of your work. – [Zi Bao] Yeah, sure.

I’m very proud of my work. After we’re done I follow Raymond, a guest relations officer to deliver the dessert to the guest. – [Raymond] Basically, this one is for birthdays this one is for anniversaries and this one is a special amenity – [Wendy] Oh. and this one is a special amenity like this one.

– [Wendy] Oh, I didn’t know it’s open air.

– [Raymond] Third floor is the swimming pool. It’s so gorgeous – [Wendy] Wow. It’s so gorgeous – [Wendy] Wow. you will remove your jacket and just jump in you will remove your jacket and just jump in – [Wendy] To just jump in. you will remove your jacket and just jump in And then this is the runway view.

– [Wendy] Oh! It’s so cool. And then this is the runway view. – [Raymond] It’s so nice, right? – [Wendy] Wow.

– [Raymond] It’s so nice, right? – We’re here at the room. We’ll just ring, knock and announce ourselves. Guest relations! – [Wendy] Okay.

– [Raymond] Okay. – [Wendy] Okay. – We’re good to go. – [Wendy] Is it okay for me to take off my hat? – [Raymond] Yes, take it off.

Such lovely hair. Don’t hide it. Take this one. Place it over here. – [Wendy] Okay.

Your role in the hotel is guest-related. – [Raymond] Mm-hm. I started F&B (Food & Beverage) services while I was in college.

A handwritten note would make them feel special. Okay.

My mum told me that one way of being successful— you treat your workplace as your home. – Mmm! – And then when your friends visit you you take care of them you give them food, you give them a place to stay. – [Wendy] So it’s your mentality when you come… – [Raymond] It is. – [Wendy] So it’s your mentality when you come… – [Raymond] It’s my mentality.

It’s basically what was instilled in me when I was young. – So this is why you’re so passionate about what you do. – [Raymond] Yes. – So this is why you’re so passionate about what you do. – I’m so in love (with my job).

I’m so into it, as you can see that I’m hyper, and so I’m happy with it. So it’s one and a half hours before dinner service and the team is busy preparing a feast.

Under the guidance of various chefs I’ll be helping out with miscellaneous tasks from different kitchens. – [Wendy] It looks so good. It’s a glorious-looking meat.

– [Yong Wei] Would you mind helping me add the butter? Yeah, so do it in a steady flow. So what I’m doing now is actually a Béarnaise sauce. It’s a very classic French sauce that goes with steaks. Okay, to be honest it’s already broken.

– [Wendy] Oh, no. – [Yong Wei] Yeah. – [Wendy] Oh, no. – So we will restart everything. – [Wendy] Do you guys always taste the food before it goes out?

– [Yong Wei] Yeah, of course.

You know, that’s to ensure the consistency is there and the quality is being met. – [Darlene] Take an oyster—there’s a gap here in between. Use a cloth to cover it so that you won’t hit your hand. – [Wendy] Is it like, time-sensitive?

– [Darlene] It has to be like, very fast because this is seafood, right? Yeah, it’s very (time) sensitive, actually. – [Wendy] How fast do you normally shuck the oysters? – [Darlene] Ten seconds, five seconds? Temperature is very important because you eat it raw.

It has to be under five degrees (Celsius) because it’s a dangerous zone within five degrees to sixty degrees. – [James] So this is the preparation for the Hokkien fried noodles. – [Wendy] Oh! Hokkien fried noodles. – [Wendy] You work such long hours in the heat and with all the smoke.

Is it tiring? – [James] Of course, it’s tiring but anyway, if you are interested in this line (of work) then you will feel that it’s very interesting. All my burn marks are here. – [Wendy] Oh my god! All my burn marks are here.

– [Wendy] They’re all recent? – [James] Yes, correct.

– [Wendy] Wow. – [James] Yes, correct. – [Wendy] Why are you so passionate about cooking?

– [James] I also don’t know why. But whenever I’m cooking I love it. If I calculate, I would have around 30 or 40 years (of cooking experience). – [Wendy] Wow. around 30 or 40 years (of cooking experience).

– [Wendy] Okay, so it’s 15 minutes to the start of the buffet service and everyone is moving around trying to get the whole place up and running. – [Alvin] Prem, where is the Béarnaise sauce? – [Wendy] And they’re really working like a whole team like a well-oiled machine. Yeah, so I think I’m quite… nervous. How do you have the stamina for such a long three-hour service?

– [Alvin] This is your passion this is your job and this is your commitment.

So our roles here need to be firm, energetic together with the team to deliver the final product to our customers. Last year, I had a torn ligament in my left knee. So I thought I was finished. Because as a chef you need to stand the whole day.

You know, you need to walk the whole day. All (my career) I had to stop. – [Wendy] Then how did you overcome that period? I had to fully rest for four months. During my absence, the kitchen was turned upside down.

Everybody… Some chefs left. They hired new chefs—in and out. They really needed to retrain a new team. – [Wendy] So you’ve been working for so long and I’m assuming the whole time in Singapore, right? So how has it been like… Is your whole family back in Malaysia?

– My family is actually in Malaysia and just two weeks ago was Mother’s Day. My mum had been invited to Singapore to work with me to bring back my childhood memory dish. – Mmm. – Of these 23 years in Singapore this was my first time… celebrating Mother’s Day with my mum.

– [Wendy] How did you feel?

– [Alvin] How did I feel? – [Wendy] How did you feel? – Firstly, I felt sorry because I made her so tired. But I also thought that it was fun. The happiest part was actually how she could see how successful I am now.

– So it was quite a moment. – [Alvin] Yeah, I felt very touched, you know? My mum was also very happy. And I also made a small little gift for my mum— a specially-made apron with “Happy Mother’s Day” on it. – [Wendy] I mean, I’ve heard that being a chef is quite a lonely profession.

Are you happy with what it is like? – I prefer what I’m doing now. Of course, I want to find someone (a partner) but it’s not… Everybody needs to wait for the correct time. – Then what is the most rewarding thing for you? – [Alvin] Rewarding?

– At the end of the day.

– A gin and tonic. [laughter] – In your 20 years of cooking what’s been the most rewarding thing? – To really get more people into this industry. Yeah.

– After you teach them and then you, like… – [Alvin] If I see them being very successful after (joining) then certainly, of course I will be happy and, yeah, this is my reward if they are successful. – [Wendy] Today was quite intense. I thought that we came quite early at 4:30 a.m. but I know some of the pastry chefs reached even earlier, at about 2 or 3 a.

m. At least for me I realised how much physical labour goes into preparing, like a spread for so many people. Yeah, they are still working now they are still clearing up. Like, it’s eleven something. The service and the stewards, I believe are clearing the whole place and resetting the whole place for the next morning.

And they are the last to leave which is insane.

So it really take a lot of people who you don’t see to make your experience great. Yeah. – Hi, guys! I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Hidden Hustles as much as Wendy and I enjoyed working on it.

Like what Wendy shared in her reflections it was really tough working in the kitchen as we experienced it first-hand for ourselves and it was only for a day. But we hoped that you guys have also managed to get a better understanding of what goes on behind the kitchen of a buffet service.

And as usual if there are any other jobs that you would like to see us cover do leave a comment in the comments section below. Bye!.

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