Seow Tzi Qin, otherwise known as Chef TQ in the kitchen, may look unassuming with his boy-next-door looks, but he has already built an illustrious career in the restaurant industry and is a Group Executive Chef at the young age of 32.
In the 9 years since Chef TQ graduated with a Diploma in Culinary Arts from At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, he has achieved what many chef hopefuls can only dream about, establishing himself as a chef with a reputation for his versatility and creativity. He has experience with the fiery woks and double boiled soups at Tung Lok Classics, tandoori and masala Indian thali at Singapore Airlines, to French entrees at the highly acclaimed Le Saint Julien and Les Amis, and intense Spanish flavours at La Taperia. In short, Chef TQ has done it all.
Chef Seow Tzi Qin is now the Group Executive Chef at The Brewerkz Company as where he currently manages a total of 4 outlets consisting of 3 Brewerkz outlets and Cafe Iguana.
Chef TQ has come a long way indeed. His culinary journey began upon completion of his National Service. Chef TQ eschewed the typical white-collar job career path and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. He first worked for a year in Tung Lok Classics to learn Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine; following which, he decided to formally dive into the restaurant industry with a Diploma in Culinary Arts from At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.
His choice to get a Diploma from At-Sunrice was deliberate as he was drawn to two remarkable features At-Sunrice offers.
First, the wide range of culinary techniques students will be exposed to - from the fundamentals to the advanced techniques of Eastern & Western cuisines. Second, the unique study-work programme available for students. The latter was extremely valuable to him because it provided something extra beyond just a theoretical culinary education or hands-on education in a learning lab without real-life work experience. With At-Sunrice’s study-apprentice pedagogy, transitioning from the classroom to the kitchen is seamless.
Chef TQ eventually apprenticed at Singapore Airlines SATS Indian cuisine kitchen, followed by a stint at the highly acclaimed Le Saint Julien and Les Amis restaurants. His broad range of experience shaped his culinary palate and philosophy. Chef TQ has ignited a wave of change at Brewerkz by transforming the menu with his own unique brand of Asian-European flavours. Brewerkz’s usual American-style favourites have been revamped into more elevated versions and Chef TQ has also introduced new dishes such as the Sakura Shrimp Pasta and Cempadak Chendol as an ode to the Singaporean in all of us.
Being an Group Executive Chef at such a young age is exceptional, and no mean feat. Chef TQ credits the formal culinary education he received from the At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy for giving him a strong foundation. Driven by the passion for creating delicious, accessible food for his patrons, Chef TQ acknowledges the importance and indispensability of a formal education in the culinary arts. Ultimately, this is what separates a trained chef from those who cook at home (some of whom are very talented, no doubt, he admits). “The science behind cooking and baking and familiarity with commercial kitchen equipment forms the base of a chef’s practice – and it is simply not enough to execute or try to execute recipes from books,” explained Chef TQ.
When asked about the dismal career prospects of being a chef, Chef TQ completely debunked these misconceptions and explained why with a gamer analogy (to cater to the millennial generation)!
“The profession of being a chef is a little bit like gaming. Successful chefs are the ones who are able to level up. At the beginning, you start farming, e.g., peeling potatoes and slicing cuts of fish and meat. These technical (and seemingly mundane, though highly important) skills form the foundation for your practice. You then move on to different stations like the saucier (sauces), poissonnier (fish), rotisseuer (meats), entremetier (vegetables) and patissier (pastries) stations. After mastering these different techniques, a chef then has the opportunity to become an artist, styling food and plating at the pass.
Chefs with the aptitude and appetite to move beyond the kitchen may take up management roles – this is where a chef becomes a negotiator, bargaining for the best prices and products with suppliers. Truly entrepreneurial chefs given the opportunity to helm a kitchen will embark in the planning and designing of menus and wear other hats such as being an accountant, working with food cost calculations and analysis to optimize the business.
At the end of the day, the truly successful chefs with a sense of community will become teachers, giving back and passing down what they have learnt during their culinary journey. Not many industries can provide such a fulfilling experience. It is a matter of whether a young chef has the motivation and grit to move beyond his or her comfort zone and level up throughout his or her career. Ultimately, the question is whether one is willing to put in the work to be truly exceptional.”
Chef TQ is, himself, a beneficiary of the notion of community giving – he fondly remembers his role model and batch mentor while studying in the At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy – Chef Dean Yassin. Chef Dean played an integral role in his learning and growth as a chef. Having a keen eye for identifying the best fit for each candidate in internship sites, based on individual skill sets and personalities, Chef Dean’s passion for the job and pride in preparing the batch for the industry was inspiring to Chef TQ.
Chef TQ’s parting words of advice
“For those who are interested, the culinary industry will not disappoint you. And I say this for both male and female aspiring chefs. In this day and age, female chefs hold more than their own against male chefs, while bringing their unique perspectives to the table. The industry is vibrant and exciting because of the diverse personalities within each kitchen. For those looking forward to have a challenging and fulfilling experience, this profession as a chef will give back to you as much as you put in.”
We’re proud to have had a part to play in kickstarting Chef TQ’s culinary career – and we wish him continued success.
Brewerkz is Singapore's longest-running craft brewery experience. It all began in 1997, where the company started as a brewpub. After years of expansion and growing the brand, Brewerkz now operates restaurants, a brewery, brew our own craft beer and cater at large-scale outdoor events.