Interview with Awang Norsah bin Hj. Kassim

Awang Norsah bin Hj. Kassim

Chef and Owner of Hommed Baga Restaurant & Catering
Menglait Class of 1997

Tell us about your accomplishments to date.
Currently I own and manage a restaurant in Menglait that specialises in offering customers a wide variety of hamburgers, including gourmet burgers. Prior to starting my own business I worked at the Empire Hotel for three years as a chef. While I worked there I learnt a lot from the more experienced chefs that came in handy later on. Five years ago, I started making four types of burgers at home. I advertised on Facebook and the response was very encouraging. After a few months I decided to open a stall and in June 2012, I opened my restaurant in Menglait, called Hommed Baga. I now have six employees including myself and I am involved in every aspect of the business from working in the kitchen to managing my staff and finances. Today, instead of serving just four types of hamburgers my customers can select from 16 varieties. I believe that my restaurant is the only one in Brunei that offers an 8 inch; and a super-sized 12 inch burger which can be shared between eight adults. This size is popular for birthday celebrations, and is usually used instead of a birthday cake. My accomplishments have been made possible because of determination and long hours of hard work.

How did your training and experience at IBTE help to shape who you are today?
My training and experience at IBTE enabled me to turn my dream of opening a restaurant into a reality. At IBTE I completed the BDTVEC National Trade Certificate 3 in Basic Cookery and Food Services. This course helped me to get a real understanding of what it would be like to run my own restaurant. I was given the opportunity to experience every aspect of working in a restaurant from creating a menu to managing the kitchen – and it was this that helped me to realise that I had a very keen interest in this area. My training also gave me a solid skill base and this made it easier for me to work with other people in the business. I remember being truly inspired by my instructor who were qualified and experienced but one instructor stands out in my mind, Mr. Navindra Liyanuge. I learnt a great deal from him not only about food preparation but more importantly, about having the right attitude. He taught me that “food should not be prepared for my satisfaction alone, but also for the satisfaction of others.” Apart from this, IBTE will always be a very special place to me because it was there that I met my wife Mumtazah Salwa who now teaches cooking classes there.

What advice do you have for the students in IBTE who are graduating this year?
I firmly believe that the only way to learn is by asking questions. I remember that while I worked at The Empire Hotel I saw many students who were just like me when I first started – they don’t understand the reality of working in a kitchen, but are hesitant to ask questions. My advice to anyone who is starting off in a kitchen or in any type of industry is to “keep asking questions to those who have more experience so that you can learn and improve your skills”. Besides this, you must also be interested and passionate about whatever you choose to do. And if you are going to be a chef, here’s an extra tip, “When the heat is on, make sure that you can work under pressure with a team”.

This article was published in the IBTE Special Issue (Oct-Dec 2015) of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!