Overcoming disability in battle to carve a name

ONE-HANDED fruit carver Mohd Ameerul Shafiee, 19, has spent less than a week learning the art and he is all ready to “go intobattle”.
The lad from Sungai Petani, Kedah, will join the 16th Battle of the Chefs that starts today in SPICE Arena in Penang.

It will be a test of skill and creativity for over 1,500 chefs in 65 classes.

Mohd Ameerul is studying for his Diploma in Hospitality Management in AsiaPro Chef School, Sitiawan, Perak, and about a week ago, school founder Ong Beng Yew urged him to try fruit carving.

“I noticed he had a talent for drawing. He could do it almost from the moment he started classes at AsiaPro Chef.

“Fruit carving is a sought-after skill for its beauty and intricacy. I see Mohd Ameerul has the talent,” said Ong, who quickly enrolled Mohd Ameerul in the greenhorn category for fruit carving of the longest-running cooking contest in Penang.

Being born with a right hand that ends about 3cm after the wrist with five stubs that should have been fingers did not stop Mohd Ameerul from striving for his independence.

“After Form Five, I worked as a cook in a chicken chop outlet in Sungai Petani.

“I became intrigued with cooking. There is a lot to learn about serving up good food and I wanted to learn more.”

He did some online research and liked AsiaPro Chef School’s diploma programme.

“The fees are affordable but it is conducted in Sitiawan. So I left home for the first time, rented a room and began studying about a year ago,” he said, adding that he found work as a part-time cook to supplement the funds his family gave him.

By now, Mohd Ameerul has already learned Western, Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisine.

Fruit carving is his latest foray and he is thankful for his love for drawing back in his school days.

There is no stencilling. Mohd Ameerul said he pictures the design he wants on a melon, papaya, capsicum or pumpkin and begins carving right off.

If he desires a particularly complex design, then he will first draw it on a piece of paper before putting knife to fruit.

Asked how he would advise other disabled people about carving out a good life, Mohd Ameerul’s answer was immediate.

“Being physically disabled is no hindrance as long as we have a sharp mind and a brave heart. I am enjoying myself studying in Sitiawan and living by myself with only one hand.

“Be diligent and never give up. No problem,” he smiled.

The Battle of the Chefs is being held with the biennial Asia Food Festival from today till Sunday, organised by Penang Chefs Association.

Over 130 booths showcasing the latest in F&B and cooking ingredients and the inaugural International Curry Gourmet Summit will introduce visitors to curries from around the world.

There will also be military field cooking demos by the Malaysian Armed Forces and the Arabica Estate Asia Latte Art Championship 2016.

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