The Girl Who Didn't Know She Can Cook |

The Girl Who Didn't Know She Can Cook

George Town, 8 Dec 2017 – When she finished her SPM, Kelly Lim Wan Chen thought she should study Mass Communications because she could not imagine herself having a desk job. But when she went to KDU Penang University College (KDU Penang), she saw something that changed her life.

She wanted her life to be active. She knew she did not like studying and wanted to study something that could take her to an active career. In search of her future, she walked into KDU Penang and by chance, met an administrative member of the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts. Kelly was given a personal tour of the school’s kitchens.

“I watched a class going on and saw my seniors carving fruit. They were creating beautiful drawings on papayas,” Kelly remembers.

Although Kelly did not know what to do with her future after SPM at the time, she was born with a talent she enjoys but never thought was important: she loves to draw.

“I had never cooked a thing in my life! I never spent a day in the kitchen until I went to KDU Penang. When I saw the fruit carving class and the beautiful designs my seniors were making, I knew straight away that I wanted to be a chef!” Kelly said with a laugh. She signed up for a Diploma in Professional Chef Training, a two-and-a-half-year course.

Kelly went on to become Penang Most Outstanding Young Chef 2017, a prestigious accolade from Penang Chefs Association, which is the state’s industry authority of the culinary arts and F&B sector. She also struck gold at the Penang International Halal Chef Challenge for her Herb Crusted Lamb with Traditional Jus and Fried Lamb Lor Bak. She bagged two silvers and two bronzes at the Philippines Culinary Competition 2017, a bronze in the Vietnam Culinary Challenge 2017, and a silver at the Battle of the Chefs 2016 in Penang.

It was not all art and flair in her culinary classes, of course. “I remember having to debone a chicken for the first time and was queasy about it. It is a challenging diploma, but I enjoyed every minute of it and I treasure my days in the campus.”

Almost immediately after graduating, Kelly found a job as a chef in Kota Café, an exclusive fine dining restaurant in Fort Cornwallis, Penang’s first large manmade structure built in 1786. And though she is now a competent member of a profession she never thought she would be in after SPM, Kelly said her favourite chefs are still the ones who groomed her at KDU Penang.

 “They gave me guidance in many things, not just in cooking but also useful life skills and knowledge,” she explained.

One of them is School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts lecturer Chuah Lay Yen, who is Penang Most Outstanding Chef 2017 under Penang Chefs Association. Chuah said Kelly was highly receptive to advice and feedback from day one.

“I’m proud of what she has achieved. As I always tell students, practice makes perfect. If you work hard, you’ll reap the rewards,” Chuah added.

For more information on the culinary arts, call 04- 2386368 or visit