Friday, 2 April 2010

Malaysian Chef Jumps Into the F1 Kitchen

SHINING STAR: Norman with Lotus Racing Team principal Tony Fernandes in Bahrain
LONDON: In the midst of the Lotus Racing team gearing up for a huge homecoming at the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang International Circuit, one very important member makes sure the team's drivers and crew stay well fed. He is young, self-taught chef, Norman Musa, one of the three official chefs for the 60-strong Lotus Racing entourage this F1 season, which ends in November.

Norman received a phone call last November from top F1 chef, Dave Freeman — who asked if he was interested to work with the Lotus Racing team. His Ning restaurant website came up when Freeman 'googled' for Malaysian chefs in the UK.

But the job didn't begin until a couple of weeks before the start of the F1 season on March 12 in Bahrain.

"It is definitely a challenge moving around to all the racing venues, getting the right ingredients from places I have never been, and working for a racing team instead of my restaurant. It is different but I am looking forward to doing my best," said the co-owner and head chef of Ning Restaurant in Manchester.

Norman, who hails from Butterworth, Penang, said: "I keep losing track of the days and dates. We just get on with work as it does get hectic on race days." Prior to that, Norman was back in Malaysia earlier this year to promote his recently published cookbook 'Malaysian Food', a collection of his favourite dishes and recipes with inspiring stories behind them. The book will be launched at KLCC on April 7.

"I wanted 2010 to be the year to get Malaysian food recognised throughout the UK and the world for its authenticity and diversity. Joining the Lotus Racing catering team wasn't in the plan but it is a fantastic opportunity."

Asked about his experiences so far, he said: "There’s no time to recover from jetlag. I often go straight to the race track with my kitchen team. Bahrain's track was in the middle of the desert. We were the first team to arrive and set up a restaurant. It was all very efficient." After two races, Norman is still getting used to the job. "Melbourne was not as hard as Bahrain. But it was not just the catering team who worked hard, other team members like the mechanics and technicians also put in a lot of effort.

"It was commented on the Lotus Facebook page that the food was excellent. So our hard work has paid off!" On interacting with the racing superstars, he said: "I see Jarno Trulli and Heiki Kovalainen almost every day but I still get tiny tingly nervous feelings when they start talking to me." Then, at last weekend's race in Melbourne, "I bumped into Lewis Hamilton, who took the back alley to go back to his paddock. He is so tiny and petite. All the drivers are small, apart from Mark Webber.

"I also bumped into Michael Schumacher, who stayed late before the qualifying day. He walked past in his white race suit. The experience was surreal, the most talked about figure in the Formula One business passed in front of me!" It seems a far cry for this former quantity surveyor of nine years, who went to the UK to study in 1994. Just last year, Norman was nominated Chef of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards.

During his F1 travels, business partner Andy Spracklen said: "Norman will continue to be Ning's executive chef and will return to the Ning kitchen between races." Opened in 2006, Ning's concept is influenced by the trendy noodle bars of Asian cities, with the relaxed and sociable ambience of continental European caf├ęs. The menu fuses the best of western quality and presentation with authentic Malaysian home cooking.

"In June, July and August, Norman will be heading three master cookery classes and four introductory cookery classes. It is a busy but exciting time for all of us," said Spracklen.

Article from The Malay Mail Friday April 2nd by Haliza Hashim-Doyle

Monday, 29 March 2010

A Malaysian in Melbourne

Melbourne is a great city. Plenty of things to do here and the weather is great. Their autumn is like summer in the UK.

The Lotus Catering team are always the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave as we have to set up the kitchen and pack up, so this gives plenty of time for me to explore the places we visit. I went to their Chinatown to see what’s it like. Not much different from London or Manchester’s Chinatown but many more Malaysian restaurants. I was there with my colleagues on the day we arrived. On the way back we all fell asleep on the tram due to jetlag and missed our stop.

Since we arrived, I keep losing track of days and dates. We just got on with work and things get hectic towards the race day. Two days ago I bumped into Lewis Hamilton who took the back alley to go back to his paddock. I guess he was avoiding the press and TV crews wandering around the main aisle. He is so tiny and petite. All the drivers are apart from Mark Webber. He is tall. I also bumped into Schumacher who stayed late before the qualifying day. He walked past in front of me in his white race suit. The experience was surreal. The most talked about figure in the Formula 1 business just walked in front of me! With Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, there’s no thrill anymore as I see them almost every day but I still get tiny tingle nervous feeling when they start talking to me. How odd.

Anyway about the food, it was commented on the Lotus Facebook page that the food was excellent. So hard work has paid off! This week is not as hard as when I was in Bahrain. It was close for me to decide not to do this anymore as it was really hard. It was not just us in the catering team work so hard, other teams like mechanics, technicians they work hard too.

Tonight I will be flying to Malaysia and I have been warned about the guest list over there but one for all, it will be good and hectic experience. Bye for now.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Lotus Racing in Bahrain!

I arrived in Bahrain at 8pm last night. Never been to Bahrain before so don’t know what to expect. The hotel is good and close to shopping mall. That would do for me. Tried their curries and kebab in the mall, well to be honest I’ve tried better curries and kebab in Northern Quarter, Manchester before but at least I get to know what their food is like.

I went mad with shopping in the mall, they have some nice designer shops. Twice I was mistaken as a salesperson, perhaps because I look a bit like a Philipino. Many Philipinos and Indians work here which explains why.

There’s no time to recover from jetlag. In the morning I went to the race track with my kitchen team, AMAZING. It’s in the middle of the dessert. We all went to the Lotus garage and just to let you know, I’ve ‘touched’ the Lotus car racing (well just the tyre as the car was covered up). None of the drivers and mechanics turned up yet, so the kitchen team managed to get everything set up for the restaurant. In fact, we were the first team to arrive and set up the restaurant. How efficient and everything looks marvellous.

Tomorrow will be a food shopping day and I can’t wait to go to their local market, see what their local market has got to offer. My mission is to find Lemon Grass. Hmmm, that would be interesting.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

TV shows

Hello All.
January 2010 has been amazing month for me and Ning. Lots going on. I went back to Malaysia for 2 weeks, initially to be with my mum who wasn't well. So it was good to spend time with her even just for a shortwhile. Then I went to Kuala Lumpur to appear on Malaysian TV9 and also Astro for the morning TV shows.

I was told to cook outside the studio (for Nasi Lemak Kopi O' slot) which you can imagine, the weatherwise. It was HOT! Well I can't complain as that's my country but before I left Manchester, it was heavily snowing so that was a big temperature change for me. I kept sweating a lot during filming. Good job they didn't show much of my 'melting' face. Ha Ha. So that was a good experience, in fact was a bit of practice for me before appearing in Market Kitchen (Goodfood Channel in the UK) in February.

For Astro Awani TV Channel, the producer told me to be at Chow Kit Market at 3am to do the filming. The market is like a wholesale market and sell all fresh herbs and vegetable. I saw huge bundle of lemon grass and ginger flowers, which I wish I can take them home to Manchester. Everything sold there was fresh. We were there for about couple of hours to do the filming. Then head back to the hotel and slept for two hours before appearing in Awani Pagi, morning talk show. Goodness me, the questions asked were sort of 'clever' ones. Ha Ha. I didn't expect that so I hope I did well answering those questions. You can watch all these on NingTV

Supposedly I should be on another TV show on the same day around lunchtime but I was told by the producer 'someone' with a bit of 'power' and 'attitude' don't like me to be on that show. So I honestly didn't expect I will create a 'threat' or 'competition' for someone in that short period. Well that is a bit of gossip for you. Somehow I managed to meet up with the 'producers/people behind the scenes' to talk about my proposal for Malaysian TV which can take Malaysia by storm. Too soon for me to reveal that, so keep reading this blog if you want to know the update. ;)

I have to thank 'The Magnet Girls' (Nori, Juliana and Lin) for all those TV appearances. They were the one who worked hard and organised my itinerary when I was there. I have also been appointed to be their official ambassador for 'The Fridge Magnets' products (woohoooo) which you can see more details on . Our aim is to get the fridges in every Malaysian households covered with the magnets. Now that is interesting.

Next post, more story about how I have been chosen as Official Malaysian Chef for Lotus Formula 1 Racing. This is BIG news for us at Ning (and the Magnet Girls).