From Culinary School to Odette, and Back to School

After eight years working in Singapore’s finest kitchens, Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Singapore alumna Elaine Koh returns to her alma mater. Now, she is vested in grooming Singapore’s future culinary professionals

An avid baker and cook, Elaine was halfway through her diploma programme when she realised that her heart was set on working in the kitchen. So, she started her research on various culinary schools but only found short-term diploma programmes or courses by private culinary schools.


Then, she heard the news that the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) was coming to Singapore.


As one of the world’s premier colleges, CIA offers a renowned culinary degree programme for students who want to develop their culinary skills. Through a partnership with SIT, CIA opened its first international campus in Singapore.


Working With the Best


As part of the school curriculum, Elaine was required to complete seven hours in the kitchen, followed by four hours of study for her academic modules. It was gruelling work but it helped her with the transition to restaurant kitchens, where long hours are the norm.


Pollen, a restaurant located at Gardens by the Bay, was the first professional kitchen Elaine worked at as an intern. She then went on to work at The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar before joining Chef Julien Royer in Odette, then ranked eighth on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. As a member of the team that launched the restaurant, she was elated when Odette won two Michelin stars in the first year it opened.


From Kitchen to Classroom 


With eight years of experience under her belt, Elaine’s extensive skill set drew the attention of Chef Eve Felder, Managing Director of CIA, who was on the lookout for an instructor for the school.


“At CIA, we hire professionals, and not purely teachers, because we need people who are at the top of their game, those individuals who have had a progressive career path,” shared Chef Felder.

Elaine never expected to venture into teaching. She had grown accustomed to the hectic environment of the kitchen and wondered if she had the patience to be a teacher. However, the unwavering support she received from her family eventually made her decide to make the switch.


Now, having completed her first year of teaching at CIA in September 2020, the journey has been a two-way learning experience for both Elaine and her students.


“Some people say that teaching is the end of your culinary journey but that’s not true. You’re still pushing the boundaries, but you’re pushing it together with your students.” she shared.


Teaching in a school kitchen gives Elaine the chance to use her creativity, and undoubtedly, the opportunity to still learn something new every day.


For the full story, please go to SIT’s Digital Newsroom: https://www.singaporetech.edu.sg/digitalnewsroom/from-culinary-school-to-odette-and-back-to-school/