Learning > Inspiration

Chef shares with mentees his 47 years of experience

Increased re-employment age will allow more older workers to continue contributing

Isabelle Liew on 01 Aug 2017

The New Paper


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Mr Tan Gee Sey, now 69, has been working at The American Club for 47 years. He is now a mentor and the most senior executive sous chef there, but it was not always an easy journey.


Mr Tan told The New Paper in Mandarin: "When I first started working, I mostly washed dishes. I had no experience in cooking and had to slowly learn from the chefs. It took about four years before I was promoted to assistant cook."


His promotions did not come easy as hehad no formal education in cooking.


When he turned 62 - after 40 years at the club and being an executive sous chef for 13 years - Mr Tan was re-employed.


The club redesigned his job, allowing him to take on a less physically taxing role. As a mentor and executive sous chef, he does less cooking and guides younger chefs while drawing the same salary.


Mr Tan has been responsible for the roasting of all Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys, ham, chicken and beef for the last 20 years.


"Roast turkey is my signature dish, because customers would feedback that the taste is unique and they cannot find it anywhere else," he said.


Now, he takes a step back and oversees the younger chefs, stepping in when things do not meet his standard.


Employers must offer re-employment to eligible employees who turn 62. The Ministry of Manpower raised the re-employment age from 65 to 67 from July 1 to allow the growing pool of older workers to contribute to the workforce.


Mr Tan said: "My job is more relaxed now. I teach a lot of younger chefs and interns, and I would supervise them to ensure that they are doing things such as plating salads and cutting meats correctly.


"I learn new skills from them as well, such as using the Internet to find recipesfor new dishes or to enhance the existing ones."


The ministry's WorkPro Job Redesign Grant allows companies to receive up to $300,000 to support job redesign, up from $150,000, since the enhanced scheme took effect in July last year.


It was introduced in April 2013 to augment local manpower, foster progressive workplaces and strengthen the Singaporean core of the workforce.


Mr Tan completed a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points project when he was 64, learning more about hygiene procedures.


In 2014, when he was 66, he was sponsored for a Workforce Skills Qualifications Professional Diploma in Leadership and People Management to support his role as a mentor and executive sous chef.


He completed all six modules and said that the Cultivate Workplace Relationships module taught him how to manage conflict and better communicate with his team of 12 chefs.


He said: "I like learning as much as I can, especially about management - how to communicate with others and change their way of thinking."


The American Club's senior director of people development Tan Lee Lee said re-employment and redesigning jobs supports the club's business stability and continuity.




She said: "We recognise the value that older workers bring to our organisation - they have tremendous work ethics, a wealth of experience and knowledge and skills that can complement those of our younger workers.


"Because of this, they serve as wonderful mentors to our younger employees."


Mr Tan recounted a South Korean student he mentored for about a year, who later found a job with a higher position in the United States.


He said: "I am happy to have taught students like her, and I am proud to see her skills grow and expand to other countries."


Although his wife and two children would chide him for working so hard, Mr Tan said he is not planning on retiring soon.


"As long as I am fit and able, I will continue to work - it keeps me active and young.


"I love working, and I rarely take medical leave. I will feel bored if I am just at home, and I do not want to rely on my children (for money)," he said.


"Being at work is like home, and the people are like my family. I cannot bear to leave."


The New Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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