Photo Credit: Diocese of West Malaysia
[ACNS, by Yit Ching-Li] A church-run secondary school in Kuala Lumpur is the first government aided school in Malaysia to be equipped with a state-of-the-art hospitality and culinary arts centre. St Mary’s All Girls’ Secondary School now has a hot kitchen, patisserie, store room, hospitality suite, indoor dining hall and an al fresco dining space which will be used to teach culinary and hospitality courses.
The centre was named the Saleha Hospitality and Culinary Arts Centre, after Tan Sri Dr Siti Saleha Mohd Ali, an ex-student of St Mary’s, and elder sister of Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the wife of Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Dr Siti Hasmah, who is also an ex-student, officiated the opening of the centre together with some of its major donors.
The idea to start up a culinary centre came from the alumni society of the school. Desiring to provide holistic education to the community, the school’s board of governors took on the project by faith as they only had one third of the RM 1 million (Malaysian Ringgits, approximately £190,000 GBP) fund at hand for the completion of the whole project. In October 2015, the construction for the bakery started and was completed by December 2015.
As the kitchen, cafeteria and suite remains on the drawing board, the bakery was put into good use as St Mary’s partnered with culinary college to conduct baking workshops for graduates. These efforts were to help those who may not be academically inclined to explore and “trained to get a set of skills to prepare them for the job market”, Dr Siti Hasmah said at the official opening of the centre. With the guidance from a chef and teachers, students prepared and served some mouth-watering appetisers and desserts for the guests.
This small beginning at the bakery has attracted some private corporations with CSR and school alumni to fund the project to its completion. With the completion of the centre, St Marians were excited that the school can apply to Ministry of Education to offer home science classes as an option under the living skills subjects for forms one to three, and home science and catering classes for the technical optional subjects for forms four and five. The school hopes to receive the necessary permissions in 2017.
Meanwhile, the school is working together with the private sector namely the universities and colleges which offer culinary and hospitality courses to help on a CSR basis. St Mary’s is working out a viable curriculum with Sunway University for St Marians who are interested in this field.