Ammie Khoo, who is currently the Chef De Cuisine for Rosemead in Singapore, got into this career due to her family and background, as cliché as that may sound. Her mother is well-known for her baking and cooking skills. Ammie would accompany her mother to the market or to her mother’s friends’ house, where they would cook and bake together since she was a young child. She began helping out in the kitchen as she grew older, particularly on Saturday nights when the family would do a mini food production that they’ll bring to church on Sunday. Little did she know, she’d begin to develop an interest in cooking and a more refined palate.
Her father is known for creating systems, teaching, and recognising potential, among other things. With a bit of each of her parents’ personalities and traits, it was only natural for her to want to be a chef. She went to a few colleges to look at the available courses and discovered Culinary Arts, which was relatively new at the time. With her father’s support, she decided to give it a shot, and there has been no looking back since! After her diploma, she pursued her higher education and earned a First-Class Honours Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Management (Hons).
How did you get your first start?
Upon graduation, I chanced upon Marina Bay Sands’ recruitment drive in Kuala Lumpur. After two years at Mozza by Chef Nancy Silverton, I moved to Skirt Restaurant at W Singapore – Sentosa Cove. About two years in, I got a call from my former chef mentor – there was an opening in Dubai for Cut by Wolfgang Puck. I hesitated at first, as I was unfamiliar with Dubai and would be moving to a new country alone… it was daunting! After much consideration, I took the plunge, and it was the best decision I’ve made.
The company sent me back to Singapore when an unfortunate fire broke out in the hotel in Dubai where the restaurant was located. From Spago Singapore, I also got the opportunity to transfer to Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Marina Bay Sands. At that point, I had worked for the Wolfgang Puck group for 7 years.
During the pandemic, I received an offer from Jigger & Pony Group for a new restaurant that they were planning to open. So here I am now, currently the Chef de Cuisine at the group’s modern Californian fine dining restaurant Rosemead!
Tell us about one pivotal moment on your career path that shaped your journey. Why did you choose this particular moment?
The one pivotal moment for me was when I was working about 13 hours on weekdays and 16 hours on weekends, with no breaks; I was burnt out, and it took a toll. It was a wake-up call to self-reflect on what I could do better to reduce the stress that I was imposing onto my body.
Out of all the crossroads, I chose this because I believe this was when I matured as a person and as a professional.
Can you tell us about the challenges you faced?
I was new to the team and was put in a managerial position. It was a relatively new restaurant and a huge operation with different concepts under one roof. Not many systems were set up, so I had to figure things out the hard way. I was put in the smallest kitchen with the least amount of staff. However, we were churning out the most revenue for the restaurant. With those limited resources that I had, I had to put in more hours and effort. On top of that, being a female in a hot kitchen does not make it easier.
What happened next?
I sat down with my chefs and told them that I needed more support from them. We strategized and charted out a more effective way of operating the kitchen. I learned how to stand up for myself and became a better manager. Since then, it was a ripple effect that not only benefits me but also the people around me.
Here, Aimee is writing to her younger self while reflecting on this pivotal moment of her career:
You may be wondering what the future holds for you. Be patient because life just gets better.
Believe it or not, you’re going to have the time of your life at university. Lifelong friendships will form with not only your classmates but with your lecturers too. You’re going to participate in many competitions and win medals. Plus, you’re going to excel in your studies and get a full scholarship. That’s the cherry on the cake!
And then life actually starts once you begin working. It is going to be rewarding, but it isn’t going to be easy. Don’t worry. You’ll have mentors along the way, guiding you as you navigate your way up the ladder in a male-dominated industry.
Here’s some advice. Being a force of nature yourself, don’t react, respond. You cannot change the way people act, but you can control the way you respond.
There will be people trying to pull you down along the way, but stand your ground when you have to.
Knowing you, you’re unstoppable once you’ve set your mind on something. You’ll just keep going, until one day you realise that you’re burnt out. It is okay to slow down. Here’s a word to learn – self-care. Reward yourself, be it having a drink or 2, or going for a vacation. Come back renewed and energized.
Lastly, just know that both good and bad experiences shape your mind and heart for what is to come. Soar high but stay grounded.
Cheering you always,