Adam Haywood: Making culinary waves

By Julian Matthews
Published in StarMag, The Star, Nov 27, 2005

Adam Haywood

THERE is something fishy going on at the Still Waters restaurant in Hotel Maya. Swimming nonchalantly at the bottom of your appetiser’s bowl is a live Siamese fighting fish.

“Guests love it,” said chef Adam Haywood. “It’s great way to get the meal off to a good start with some animated conversation. We recently held a winemaker’s dinner and some of the guests were so captivated by the concept they’d even forgotten all about the wine.”

He confirms, with a smile, that the fish is not meant to be eaten, that it’s just a garnish of sorts for the restaurant’s amuse-bouche, a bite-sized treat before every meal (the phrase is French for, literally, ‘‘mouth amusement’’).

Haywood was barely a week into his new appointment as the executive chef of Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur when he came up with the idea with chef de cuisine Michael Koh.

“We try to surprise the guests with the amuse-bouche; sometimes it’s a prawn salad with warm mayonnaise or mixed seafood with mango, or chicken fillet in a crispy basket,” he said.

Adam Haywood
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Kampung Kirkby First To Hear Of Merdeka Date

By Julian Matthews
Published in The Star Merdeka Supplement, August 31, 2005

On a chilly winter’s day on February 7, 1956, about 300 students of Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool were told to assemble in the hall to receive a Malayan delegation from London.

The students, aged between 17 and 21, had no inkling at that time they were about to become a part of history.

“Every time a dignitary came, it was customary for us to dress up in our traditional finest,” recalls Chiam Tah Wen, a Kirkby student then.

“That day the ladies were in their sarong kebayas, cheongsams, sarees and Punjabi costumes and we were smartly dressed in our college blazers or baju melayu and songkok. The hall was decorated with various state and Federation of Malaya flags,” said Chiam.

PRECIOUS MEMORIES: The significance of the Kirkby announcement in February 1956 only struck Chiam much later at a rally on Aug 31, 1957 in Kuala Lumpur.

According to The Panduan, the college magazine at the time, the students and staff had “taken great pains” to decorate the compound. “Palm trees and potted flower plants lined the entrance. Flags and buntings adorned the hall. And all the students had put on their best multi-coloured national dresses…”

Moments later, beflagged black Humber Super Snipe limousines drew up at the hall. Alighting from them were the then Chief Minister of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman and the then Education Minister Dato’ Abdul Razak.

Tunku had taken the 340-km journey up from London fresh from meetings with the British government.

“When Tunku’s turn came on stage, he said the talks had went well,” said Chiam. “He then made the announcement that we would be getting our independence and the date was August 31st, 1957.

“There was a roar in the hall and we all clapped and cheered. Tunku then cried ‘Merdeka!’ and we all stood up and shouted very loudly in return ‘Merdeka!’ at least three times. Even the ‘orang puteh‘ lecturers stood up and cheered along. It was a very exciting moment,” he said.

It was perhaps the first time the cries of Merdeka! had ever been heard on British soil.

Zainal: ‘I think we were too young to know the implications of that day’

“I think we were too young to know the implications of that day,” said Zainal Arshad, 70, who was in Kirkby from 1954-56 and remembers the hall erupting and the euphoria of the moment when the announcement was made.

“We didn’t understand what independence meant. I was only 20-years-old back then. We only knew it was a happy occasion and we had reason to be proud,” said Zainal.

Chiam said it was only after he graduated, returned to Malaya, and later took part in the rally on Aug 31st, 1957 in Kuala Lumpur, that the significance of the event dawned on him.

“When I heard Tunku repeat the Merdeka cry in front of thousands in Kuala Lumpur, then it struck me emotionally. Especially recalling the incident in Kirkby, over a year and a half earlier. Then I knew what independence meant,” he said.

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Yes, sir, I’m from Kirkby

Published in Star Education, The Star, August 28, 2005

The Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool, existed for a short 11 years, between 1951-62, but changed the lives of its trainees and the nation forever, reports JULIAN MATTHEWS.

RETIRED headmaster Zainal Abidin Abdul Manaf, 72, leafs through a photograph album. In it are faded black and white photographs, some over 50 years old and no bigger than a matchbook, but neatly captioned by the fastidious Zainal. “That’s my mother and I on the train to KL before I boarded the plane,” said Zainal who, in his neat white shirt, had the brash look of a college freshman.

Andersonians At Kirkby
Kirkbyites from Anderson School, Ipoh at Kirkby. Note the huge, black heating pipes snaking their way through college. –-Photos courtesy of Zainal Abidin Manaf

Zainal was only 20 years old in 1953 when he was selected with five others from Anderson School in Ipoh, to attend a two-year course at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool.Between 1951 and 1962, 150 trainees from thousands of applicants were selected annually to attend Kirkby, a college set up specifically to meet the demand for trained teachers in Malaya back then (see sidebar Close to their hearts).

“At the time, going to Britain was something great,” said Zainal. “My parents were very proud and excited. We were given a RM500 allowance for clothing and we went to Whiteways (the only ready-made winter clothes store in Ipoh back then) and bought enough thick clothes for the two-year stay there,” he said.

Another Kirkbyite Tan Sri G. Vadiveloo said being selected was like “a dream come true.”

“I was elated. It was something special. My thinking then was that only the affluent went to London. How could an ordinary person like me go?”

The former president of the Malaysian Senate and one-time MIC secretary-general is the son of a Malayan Railways chargeman in Sentul.

”My brother and I were breadwinners for the family when the call to Kirkby came. Despite this, they gave me all the encouragement. The prestige of being ‘London-trained’ was there,” he said.

Plane jitters
The teacher trainees came from diverse backgrounds, from across Malaya. For the majority, it was their first time on a plane. “I was only 17 years old,” said Moira Hew, 68, who remembered they took off on a four-propeller British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) plane from Sungei Besi airport.

“It was the first time I’d seen an aeroplane, let alone been in one!” Hew confessed she fainted when she got on board and had to be revived.

“All of us were excited and laughing but on take-off everyone was quiet; some were even praying,” recalled Zainal. The plane to London stopped at “exotic” cities for the occupants like Rangoon, Calcutta, Karachi, Nicosia (Cyprus) and Rome.

“I remember seeing grapes for the first time at a restaurant during a stopover in Rome,” said Datin Ramlah Ahmad. “I also insisted on having Turkish coffee there; I remember how bitter it was,” she laughed. After the four- or five-day journey, the trainees made their way to Kirkby, 340km from London.

Zainal at Kirkby
Everyone celebrated each other’s festivals and there was no racial divide.

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Kirkby: Close to their hearts

By Julian Matthews
Published in Star Education, The Star, Sunday August 28, 2005
(Sidebar to “Yes, sir, I’m from Kirkby”)

Originally called the Kirkby Fields Hostel, the buildings at Kirkby were first established as housing for munitions factory workers during World War 2.

VADIVELOO: We were a close-knit group. There were no racial remarks, cliques, or the polarisation we sometimes see today.

It was set up far enough from the Mersey River to escape the intense bombing suffered by Liverpool and other Merseyside cities.After the war, Britain needed to alleviate a severe shortage of teachers in the country and Kirkby was converted to become one of 55 temporary emergency colleges for that purpose.

In 1951, the last of the courses for British teachers was completed at Kirkby.

Meanwhile, in Malaya, the school population was expanding rapidly and there was also an urgent need for trained teachers, especially in rural schools. When the offer for Kirkby came up, the government of the day grabbed it.

Negotiations were made by the Federation of Malaya and the British Colonial Office to set up a college to train future teachers from Malaya there.

HEW: I am quite proud to say that I am the fierce, horn-rimmed bespectacled teacher Lat often draws.

The rationale back then was that it was better to have a whole college rather than distribute students across many colleges in Britain. Despite some protest on the expense, the plans went ahead.

Unique experiment
The pioneer principal of the college Robert Williams had noted: “By any standard, it was a unique move in the history of education. Never before had any government in the world set up its own college in Britain.”

The Malayan Teachers Training College in Kirkby accepted its first batch of 150 students on January 2, 1952.

They arrived on a cold wintry day after a three-week journey on the steamship SS Chusan.

After that, 150 trainees arrived every September in four-propeller planes. About 1,500 teachers and over 300 teacher-trainers were trained in Kirkby before the college was shut down in 1962.

Sadly, the Kirkby College that became so dear to the teachers who trained there is no more.

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All about distinctive capabilities

By Lim Beng Choon

I often get asked by friends, “What is a good business to be in?” At the risk of sounding cliched, my answer has always been “Take any business and run it well. Then, figure out how to build distinctive capabilities”.

For example, look at Zara, the Spanish clothing manufacturer and retailer. There is nothing new about the retailing business, but they can deliver new styles to their outlets in three to six weeks compared with up to five months for competitors. Or the Dutch insurance company Universal Leven, which has only three employees to look after 23,000 customers. Or Bristol-Myers Squibb’s innovative use of cutting edge technology to achieve overall performance improvements of several thousand days/year in their drug discovery process.

Breaking out
High-performance companies are constantly trying to find new ways to produce the breakout new product, deliver a service or operate a new business model.

When it comes to technology, they avoid the “me too” philosophy and try instead to find new ways to adapt that technology to give them an edge.

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Outsourcing: Learning from the masters

By Lim Beng Choon

Owning and managing teams in the English Premier League can be likened to running a high-performance business.

A few decades ago, managers would scour the land for homegrown talent, groom and bring them into the first team. Today, managers buy the talent globally, inject them to transform the team, and expect players to perform at their highest level in every game.

As in football, businesses these days are in a highly competitive environment. They require management and team players that are focused, have multifarious skills, demand the best from each other, and have a world view of their industry.

A key imperative to stay in the game of global business today is that of outsourcing.  Many first-time outsourcers, however, adopt the shallow view that outsourcing is all about cutting costs and relegate it merely for low value external services.

In reality, outsourcing has taken on a larger role in ensuring any company’s long-term survival. Increasingly, companies across the world are outsourcing more critical functions such as information technology, corporate learning and even customer relationship management (CRM).

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Winning the war for customers

By Lim Beng Choon

Keeping customers delighted in any business today requires fresh thinking and approaches.

To me, Suria KLCC is a world class, high-performance example. Aside from the customary festive decorations, Suria rigorously gets tenants to renew their storefronts regularly and rotates store locations to give the mall a fresh look all year round. Even the fstalls in the food courts stalls are constantly monitored and upgraded.

The same thing goes for high-performance businesses: they need to find new and innovative ways to keep customers coming back.

Two different Accenture studies show that there are strong links between innovation and sustained business performance. We found that companies such as Nokia, Samsung, Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, Dell and IKEA, which continued to innovate even through downturns in the 1990s, were best positioned for success in the upturns that followed.

These companies were obsessed with winning the battle for the customer.

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Boosting human capabilities

By Lim Beng Choon

I purchased a new car  in which I discovered a small part of the steering wheel missing.  After waiting a few months for the part to arrive,  I made an appointment with the service center and was told it would take “only 15 minutes” to fix the problem.

Yet, I was made to wait for 45 minutes. Apparently, the service engineer who ordered the part was on leave and the part couldn’t be located. After they finally found it, the fixing took another 30 minutes.

How often have we encountered situations where the service levels are only as good as the personnel assisting you at that moment? Service levels drop when individuals leave or are taken ill  New employees end up learning the hard way from tough customers.

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Investing to capture value


In today’s competitive business climate, IT investments have fallen to budgetary concerns. But in fact, investing in IT now, more than ever, can create value for the future.

By Lim Beng Choon

I have a bone to pick with my previous bank. After moving house, the bank continued to send my statements to my old address despite repeated attempts to inform them of the change. Several letters and phone calls later, I moved house again—but the bank continued to send my statements to the old address.

There was only one thing to do. Close my account and move my business elsewhere.

How many of us have similar frustrations with our financial institutions?

Is this a case of technology gone awry? I beg to differ. It is easy to blame technology as the scapegoat. My previous bank is in the same boat as other  institutions and businesses across the country. The crux of the issue is acquiring the mindset to make IT investments part of building new business capabilities.

Successful IT projects have strong ownership under key business leaders and are a critical part of differentiating one business from another.

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Staying on top of the game

By Lim Beng Choon

Accenture’s country MD kicks off his monthly column by defining the concept of the connected corporation and embracing it to deliver high performance

What differentiates a company from its rivals and how does it sustain growth in the long-term? Accenture believes the answer is in enabling high-performance and continuously challenging the norms once you get there. Several findings from our nine-month research in this area have been applied to help companies and government agencies globally.

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