She gives up law studies to train to be a chef
She drops out of law school to study cooking
Her parents wanted her to continue in law school at the National University of Singapore.
But Miss Melissa Tsang gave up after three semesters and dropped out in November 2013.
Instead, she enrolled for a diploma in Culinary Arts with At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.
The 22-year-old told The New Paper: "I felt strongly against continuing so I dropped out, only notifying my parents after."
Her parents were dismayed.
"My father was livid. I was not sure what I wanted to do, but it was definitely not law," she said.
Mr Charles Tsang, 64, a surgeon, said: "I just wanted her to be very sure of what she's passionate about as I've seen her make decisions that change constantly."
So, to be sure, Miss Tsang took on a few jobs, ranging from fast-food service to content writing in an e-commerce startup, after leaving law school.
Nothing struck a chord within her until a five-month stint in a cafe where she was involved in food production.
She finally found what she was looking for.
She said: "My parents asked me if I was okay and if I needed psychiatric help. They were mainly concerned about the long hours and the low pay."
She also had little experience in the kitchen beyond some home cooking and baking.
Mr Tsang said: "I was very shocked when she cried, telling me this is what she really wanted.
"As a parent, I can only support her, but I can't help but think whether she will drop out of culinary school, just like she did for law school."
But Miss Tsang stuck to her guns and is now in the final term of her 18-month diploma programme.
Miss Tsang is on a six-month internship with an Asian-fusion restaurant and bar, The East Bureau.
She said she had to pick up conversational Cantonese to communicate effectively within a Chinese kitchen, an area she is interested in.
She knows it is tough to make a name for herself in the industry.
She met a chef de partie from Malaysia who earns just over $2,000 a month, and that is with 17 years of experience.
Miss Tsang, however, aims to become a chef de partie in two to three years' time and hopes to take home a salary of about $2,200 to $2,300 monthly.
She said she has no regrets. Her advice to others thinking of jumping in?
"Just be sure, make a plan, and don't look back," she said.
Her determination has even convinced her father.
Mr Tsang said: "I am very proud of her and what she has accomplished. We finally have something common in our careers - we are both good with knives."
Baking her dreams come true
Miss Ong Jing Ting. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Despite there being a smorgasbord of food writers and home bakers, Miss Ong Jing Ting is keen to join the fray.
She is just too passionate about food.
Unlike her peers who are off to pursue business degrees, the 19-year-old Ngee Ann Polytechnic diploma holder will sign up for a professional degree in Culinary Arts Management, awarded by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
Miss Ong, who holds a diploma in International Business, told The New Paper that her parents are supportive of her decision since she has always been interested in cooking and baking.
Her mother, Madam Linda Sng, 52, an operations director said: "As long as she likes what she's learning, she has our full support."
Miss Ong runs an online business, Puffs And Peaks, where she accepts orders for customised pastries like birthday cakes and macarons.
She does everything herself, from taking orders to baking and even deliveries.
When she was a business student, Miss Ong travelled to Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Sweden and Denmark.
"While travelling, I tasted different cuisines. It is amazing how each dish has its own cultural background behind it," she said.
The experience reaffirmed her plans to pursue a master's degree in gastronomic tourism and now she hopes to also become a food writer. She started a blog last year in which she shares her baking experiences and recipes.
Fellow course mate and friend, Mr Benjamin Lee, 19, said: "It's a risky degree choice, but I'm proud she's chasing her dreams. She has the talent."
Miss Ong knows it will be tough but she said she will not regret her choice.
While travelling, I tasted different cuisines. It is amazing how each dish has its own cultural background behind it.
- Miss Ong Jing Ting, who runs an online business, Puffs And Peaks
Culinary courses becoming popular
Schools here offering courses in the culinary arts say they have seen an increase in student enrolment.
A spokesman for At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy said there has been a four per cent increase for Culinary Arts and Pastry Bakery programmes.
New intakes were added to meet the growing demand for continuing education modular programmes such as basic cakes, short crust pastry, wine, French eclairs and choux pastry, and both moist and dry heat cooking techniques.
Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre (Shatec) is also seeing a growing interest in its F&B and culinary courses and it plans to roll out more courses, said its spokesman.
Local polytechnics are also offering culinary courses and increasing intakes.
Republic Polytechnic's Diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations (DRCO) has seen strong demand and its intake figures have risen, from 58 students in 2011 to 96 students this year.
A Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) spokesman said that its Diploma in Food & Beverage Business programme has been consistently over-subscribed by about 17 times.
In the last three years, an average of 1,050 students applied for places. NYP increased the intake from 45 to 60 this year.
Apart from setting up their own restaurants and contributing to food production, those who graduate from culinary programmes can explore other career paths such as private chefs for ambassadors, owners of demo kitchens, guest relations to restaurant managers, catering, food and beverage suppliers, food journalism, food ingredient application technicians and food technologists.
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