Chef Bob Adnin grew up with an appreciation for good food. As a young boy, he would find himself accompanying his father, who ran his own catering business, to the morning market during the earliest hours of the day and introducing him to the cooking styles of local favourites such as Assam Pedas and Nasi Minyak; dishes that would become a staple in his career.
Though we now know him as a local culinary master with almost 25 years of experience, he had aspired to be a pilot. Despite this, he would follow in a friend’s footsteps and pursue a career as a salesman instead, a stint that lasted about a year.
Upon rethinking where this path would take him, he received a call from his father, encouraging him to give the family business another shot. This experience would be a life-changing one, as his interests and palette were peaked as to what the local culinary industry had to offer, igniting a passion for cooking like never before.
Chef’s food journey began at Petaling Jaya Hilton when he was only 18. Starting from the bottom, he had to work his way up as a kitchen helper, taking on laborious tasks such as clearing the inventory, peeling onions and potatoes, and grating 10kilos worth of cheese every day, before he could even hold a pan next to his fellow chefs. But he wasn’t undeterred.
To prove himself, Chef Bob decided to take things into his own hands, coming in at the earliest hours of the day and staying back after an 8-hour shift, shadowing his seniors in their element. This effort eventually paid off for the chef.
“I was really determined to accomplish what I had in mind. Slowly from there, I picked up on the many ways to expertly and meticulously prepare a dish and create a sauce from scratch. This really helped me to build up my career.”
After finding his foothold, the Malaccan-native knew he needed to carve his own path. This led him to work on cruise ships with Royal Viking and Sea Bourn Cruises before moving on to Jebel Dhanna Resort Abu Dhabi, UAE and Khartoum, Sudan for two years.
Even though this was an exciting experience, he never forgot his roots and the joy of cooking traditional Malaysian cuisines for the local people. Chef Bob returned home and served at a myriad of 5-star hotels including The Westin, Mandarin Oriental and Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur before becoming a full-time consultant chef and the host of his own cooking show, Chef Bob Cooking.
With all these culinary escapades under his sleeve, Chef Bob has risen to the top of his game. He currently holds the title of President of the Professional Culinaire Association of Malaysia, a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.
“This title carries weight. As the President, I must ask myself what I can contribute to the association, not the association can contribute to me.”
“I really want to bring the local culinary industry to a whole new level. Most countries have their varied culinary levels, why not Malaysia? So, I want to expand the reach of our local dishes to the enjoyment of international palettes.”
Despite being a celebrity culinary figure himself, sharing his recipes and techniques in the public eye, Chef Bob doesn’t see himself as one and still struggles with the trials and tribulations that come with the spotlight.
“I wouldn’t really consider myself a ‘celebrity’ despite what the fact that others do,” he laughs. “To me, a ‘celebrity’ is someone skilled in the arts and would better refer to famous entertainers, singers, dancers and actors. These are real celebrities who have made it big in their industry.”
“But I think my time in the public eye has taught me a lot about discipline and time management. It was difficult for me to balance between my professional and personal time, spending weeks on end devoted to my work that I didn’t have time to spend with my family.”
Since the start of his career, Chef Bob has never shied away from a challenge. On top of all the many hats he wears over his eclectic journey, he’s made his first steps into a whole new challenge: entrepreneurship.
“As a chef, your main priority is to cook. But when you have to be an entrepreneur, you need to come up with your own product. One product goes through a lot of R&D to make sure it remains as authentic as possible.”
The multifaceted chef has created his own line of ready-to-make products that allow his fans to create their favourite local as he would make it. His next product in the pipeline takes it back to the dish that started it all: Assam Pedas. “I hope that it will be a successful product. It’s not easy to be a businessman, and the time and money invested to make this work was all so new to me. But it was an interesting challenge.”
His next goal is to foster a new age of young culinary masters, Chef Bob maintains that perseverance and not cutting corners as some of the crucial things one must remember to find success. “You need to ask yourself what you can do for the industry. I always believe that hard work will pay off in the future.”
“If you want to be a chef, do it properly. The art of cooking is to be shared with others, and I’m passionate about sharing what I’ve learned over the years with young chefs to ensure they have all the tools necessary to build their own culinary careers.”
“I hope they work towards doing the same for others when it’s their time too.”