News & Events

A long road to the kitchen

December 16, 2018

Abel Liam says his love of cooking came from his mum, Merian. She taught him to cook half a century ago after his older sisters had moved out of the family home in the Philippines. It wasn’t long before cooking became his passion. But it was a long time before it became a job. Abel is now the chef at OCAV’s Braeside Park village in Berwick. And he loves it.

Abel, 60, spent most of his working life serving food that others had cooked. He had long stints as a waiter on a Windstar cruise ship in Dubai, and in restaurants in the Middle East in Dubai and Bahrain.

“In Bahrain I worked in Versailles restaurant, Regency InterContinental and in 1982 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited I was chosen to serve the Amir Al Khalifa and Mrs Thatcher at the presidential table Gala dinner,” he said.

In 1989 after migrating to Australia he worked in some of Melbourne’s prestigious clubs, serving some well-known VIPs, including former Prime Minister John Howard.

Four years ago he decided to go back to school and train as a chef. His first job was cooking for borders at the Peninsula Grammar School in Mt Eliza.

Over three years he cooked thousands of meals for the hungry and appreciative Years 7-12 students, favouring an Asian cuisine.

The pace of the kitchen and quantity of food has certainly changed since he began cooking at Braeside Park in April. He caters for the 14 to 16 residents in the serviced apartments who have their meals prepared each day.

“We have a menu which is developed to make sure all residents receive the correct nutrition. But there is the opportunity to vary the meals a little,” he said.
Abel occasionally incorporates some of his early cooking successes into the menu, those perfected under the watchful eye of his mother, including mild curries and soups.

Abel has also discovered the benefits of cooking with a fresh vegetable garden in the backyard. Most days fresh herbs and vegetables are delivered to the kitchen to be used in the day’s menu. Resident May Hedin faithfully tends the large vegetable garden year round.

“This week we had plenty of rhubarb and broccoli and I love cooking with food that I know is so fresh,” he said. “I like being able to please people with my cooking. I know you can’t please everyone all the time, but people here are very grateful for what is cooked.”

Christmas is a time of great expectation for the home cook, but also for those catering for others and Abel is no exception. He plans to serve many of the favourites including ham, which was one of his mother’s winning dishes.

“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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