Two IFT graduates from the first intake of the Culinary Arts Management Bachelor Degree Programme are currently attending a certificate programme in Italy, focused on the cuisine and food culture of that European country.
Ms. Otilia Rodrigues Novo and Mr. Gaston Lao began their studies at the Florence University of the Arts, in the Italian city of Florence, in August 2018.
The Culinary Arts Management programme was launched by IFT in academic year 2011/12. It produced its first batch of graduates in 2015.
During her studies at the Institute, Ms Rodrigues Novo opted to do her curricular internship in Macao, and did not take part in any exchange programme overseas. She decided the certificate programme in Italy – ‘Master in Italian Cuisine’ – would be an opportunity to experience other teaching methods, and a different culture and style of living.
“To become a chef, you need to broaden your horizons,” Ms. Rodrigues Novo says. “This was just the right timing for me to go out, and to learn more in a different part of the world.”
From the time of her graduation from IFT, up to the moment of packing her bags to go to Italy, Ms. Rodrigues Novo sought to increase her professional experience. She first worked at an Italian food restaurant in Macao, and later moved to the kitchen of The Manor, a fine dining restaurant at The St. Regis Macao hotel.
Ms. Rodrigues Novo greatly values the knowledge and education she received from her 4 years of study at IFT. “These match the industry criteria,” she says. By attending a training programme focused on Italian cuisine, the IFT alumna hopes to boost her knowledge as a chef.
Ms. Rodrigues Novo gave up her Macao job to attend the programme in Italy. Mr. Lao however is being sponsored for the certificate programme by his Macao employer, Michelin-starred Italian cuisine restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, located at the Galaxy Macau integrated resort.
Mr. Lao had planned to leave his job to attend the programme and thereby enhance his knowledge of, and proficiency in, Italian cuisine. But his employer offered to cover the tuition fees, granting him 12 months of unpaid leave to attend the classes in Florence.
The programme provides knowledge and skills “equivalent to managerial-level” standard, Mr. Lao says. “Once we complete it,” the professional qualifications provided would be equal to the knowledge needed for “positions such as supervisor or assistant manager,” he adds.
The IFT alumnus recalls he became passionate about Italian cuisine while studying at IFT. “I did my curricular internship at [a property in] Bangkok,” he explains. “I would be assigned to a different department each month: while working in an Italian restaurant for a month, I developed my interest in this kind of cuisine.”
The 2-semester-long programme at the Florence University of the Arts features a wide range of subjects beyond preparing staples such as Italian pasta and pastries: courses also cover menu development, the typical Mediterranean diet, and communication between work colleagues in a professional kitchen environment. Applicants must have at least 3 years of working experience in culinary arts or hospitality.
Both Ms. Rodrigues Novo and Mr. Lao say the programme is very hands-on: students are expected to contribute ideas, have frequent exchanges with their peers and spend a lot of time practising their kitchen skills.
Mr. Lao says that working in a professional kitchen demands passion. “It requires manual labour and long working hours: if a person does not love this type of work, he can never persist in doing it,” he says, by way of advice for new entrants to the food and beverage sector in Macao.