Behind the scenes: Cooking for the SEA Games

Look at this oversized wok:

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Each wok cooks 200kg worth of food. Which is pretty useful because the Games demand SATS Institutional Catering to feed about 1000 people a day.

This morning I had the good fortune to observe the world of mass cooking – where flavour is as important as food safety. It wasn’t easy to gain access to this facility at this time. No unauthorised person (let alone outsiders) is allowed to enter the food preparation areas. Staff who are taken ill are not allowed into the work area. Even if you have mild colds and sneezes, you’d be assigned light duty instead.

The food is made in a secured zone. Boots, hairnets, mask, and gloves… every part of your body will be protected from accidental contamination.

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One thing that struck me was how hot this place was. To cook food for thousands require a fairly abundant amount of heating. “There is always a safety officer on duty, this person would assure the team that facility is safe”, said Patrick Tan, the Safety Offficer of SATS.

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And here’s a gigantic deep fryer.

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It takes about 4 hours, 17 cooks and 10 chefs to prepare all this food. A dietician is also on site to upkeep food quality.

So once the food is ready, it has to be packed just in time to be deployed to the SEA Games participants and staff. Even this packing is a feat on its own… the food has to be packed and maintained at just above 70 degrees centigrade. Once ready, it has to be delivered quickly in order for the food to be consumed within four hours. All this is to prevent any bacterial growth in the food that may occur.

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There’s one more step to go before delivery though, the food has to be x-ray scanned. We can’t post pictures of this here as police clearance is not granted for photography.

If you want to work in this industry, you’d have to be ready to do some shift work. Some operations start as early as 3am in the morning.

Here’s a guy who has been working with SATS for a very long time:

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Azan Mohd Noor is 53 years old and is in-charge of operations to the childcare sector. Not only has he been working with SATS Institutional Catering for a long time, he is also a member of the Food Drinks Allied Workers Union and a union leader for 20 years. “Workers need someone to guide them on HR knowledge, issues, benefits and I’m happy to help to do this”, said Azan.


*Note: SATS Institutional Catering is not the only catering business serving the SEA Games




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Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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