SG to Overseas: Challenges Shared by Cherish Finden

1. Transitioning from Singapore to England must have been a significant change in terms of culinary culture and practices. How did you adjust to the culinary differences?


Coming from Singapore, where afternoon tea isn’t a big thing for locals, arriving in England was eye-opening. One of the first things I noticed was how afternoon tea is such a fundamental part of British culture. I absolutely adore cooking and baking in Europe because we get to use seasonal produce. Living near a farm has been such a blessing, as it gives me access to fresh ingredients like strawberries, blackberries, and more. I often make jams out of these and love to give them away. Being able to pick fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs directly from the farm helps to elevate the flavours and quality of my bakes.


2. What operational obstacles did you face while working in England compared to Singapore?


When I first got to England, one big hurdle was the fast-paced British speech. It was tough to catch everything they were saying. But after spending some years here, I’ve gotten the hang of the language and picked up on British culture. And let me tell you, summers in England are a whole other story when it comes to baking. In Singapore, we had air conditioning in the kitchen to keep things cool, but here it’s a different ball game. Without air conditioning, it’s a challenge to control the pastry temperatures during the warmer months.


3. As a seasoned pastry chef with extensive experience, how do you maintain the spark of creativity in your baking career over the years? Is there anything or anyone who inspires you?


The world around me is a constant source of inspiration, especially when I take in all the colours, textures, and vibes around me. It’s during these moments that my mind starts buzzing with ideas for my next creation. I find myself that my creativity shines pass midnight when everything is calm and quiet. When I’m in my creative zone, I also love to have some soothing background music playing. One of my favourites is Guitaro, a zen music that just sets the perfect mood for my artistic process.


4. It is not news that being a woman in the professional kitchen is hard or, indeed, rare Can you share if you’ve experienced any instances of gender inequality during your time working in England?


Many people have asked me if I feel inferior in the kitchen just because of my gender. Nope, not at all. What really matters is what ends up on the serving plate. The key is to believe in yourself and be comfortable in whatever you are doing. I firmly believe that whatever the guys can whip up in the kitchen, I can do it just as well. It’s all about skill and passion, not about gender.


5. We know that you have been staying in England for quite some time since 2001. Being away from home and family, how do you cope with feelings of homesickness?


Every night, I would be on FaceTime with my mom and sister, chatting about life and everything in between. But what I really miss is being able to see my own mom in person and have those face-to-face conversations. Looking ahead, I’ve got this dream of teaming up with investors to bring Singaporean brands to the UK or vice versa, bringing UK brands back to Singapore. It’s all about making Singapore proud and known globally to everyone.


To learn more about how Cherish Finden, who started her baking journey 38 years ago as a SHATEC student, went on to become the esteemed Executive Pastry Chef at London’s Langham Hotel and a celebrity judge on Bake Off, click here to read more.

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