‘The Come Up’ with Tsai-Rung Sara Lee

In an effort to shine some light into the inner workings of the Vancouver restaurant scene, “The Come Up” aims to detail the big talent of tomorrow, today. Meet Tsai-Rung Sara Lee…

Born and raised in Taiwan, Tsai-Rung Sara Lee moved to Canada when she was 14 years old. With no specific career path in mind, the young woman followed the advice of her high school counsellor and signed up for the ITA Youth Train in Trade program, where she discovered her interest in culinary arts and began on her track to becoming a professional cook. Currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Vancouver Community College, this past December Lee became the first ever recipient of the 2022 Andrew Morrison Memorial Award, which will continue to be handed out to promising VCC culinary students. On the heels of this momentous occasion (for both the future chef and Scout), now seemed like the perfect timing to interview the aspiring young chef.

Photo credit: Anjali Spooner

Working in a kitchen isn’t for everyone. Now that you’ve been in training for a while, do you think you want to pursue cooking? If yes, can you articulate why? I think that cooking is inseparable from my life. I may want to touch other industries in the future, but for now I want to stay in the culinary industry, because in the process of learning, I have a lot of fun and it finally develops into my interest. I really enjoy doing my job as my hobby. I hope that I will become a real chef in the future.

What skills are you interested in developing as you move up in the kitchen? The skill of kitchen management is the next thing I would like to learn, because I want to have a more comprehensive understanding of my kitchen and workplace.

What is the most tedious kitchen-related task that has ended up teaching you something valuable about where you want to go? I think the simplest but also the most complex task in the kitchen is teamwork. In order to achieve a successful execution, everyone in the kitchen is necessary, but for profit and other reasons, it is almost impossible to get everyone to cooperate and be satisfied with plans that are already made.

What’s the most challenging part of working in a kitchen right now? I believe the most challenging part is the lack of staff in the kitchen (which is, I think, due to unstable scheduling, lack of benefits, and an imbalance in wages).

What’s one thing you wish you could change about the restaurant industry? I hope that my team, or the people who work with me in a company, have joined this industry not only for the salary, but also because of their real love of cooking. If I’m able to, then this is the thing I most want to change right now – even though it may be very difficult.

Where would you like to see yourself in three years? I would like to work in a fine dining restaurant to expand my knowledge and skills, and also to enter management and work in a leadership position.

Do you have an End Goal in the hospitality industry? Like many people in the industry, I dream of having my own business in the future. But before that I want to fully understand the industry as a whole, and develop my own skill as a chef.

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