Sandy Chng’s background as a chef was one of the reasons he was inspired to join Singapore Airlines (SIA) as a flight steward. For him, the opportunity to travel meant that he could connect to the international dining scene.
“Keeping up with the latest food and beverage trends is important [to me]. Being a crew member gives me opportunities to taste different food and experience different cultures. It allows me to continue pursuing my passion every day,” he says.
As a flight steward, Sandy has ample opportunities to source food globally.
“I love to look at ingredients, especially fresh ingredients. [I’m very lucky] to be able to go to different markets around the world, such as the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, even when I have nothing to buy – just to see what fresh produce there is and to get inspiration for dishes,” he says. Some of the more interesting ingredients he has found on his travels include purple asparagus from Germany, Persian saffron from Dubai and tonka beans from Barcelona, which Sandy has used to enhance the flavour of his handmade chocolate truffles.
In many ways, Sandy has always been a citizen of the world: after his time studying at Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre (SHATEC), at 22 he moved to Paris to pursue his culinary passion at Le Cordon Bleu, where he obtained a diploma in culinary arts.
“I was the only Singaporean in my intake. It wasn’t easy to live away from home for a couple of years. There was also the language barrier [to contend with],” he shares. During his time there, Sandy learnt French. Since then, he has picked up other languages such as Thai and Spanish.
Before coming on board with SIA, Sandy worked at Saint Pierre, a French fine-dining restaurant in Singapore, where he was mentored by chef-owner Emmanuel Stroobant. He has also worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Joan Roca and the late Joël Robuchon. He says that working in restaurants has taught him valuable life lessons.
“I learnt to have patience and discipline and how to deal with and face challenges as they come along. Being a chef is not easy. Day in and day out, we have to handle [a lot of] pressure in a calm manner,” he says. The ability to show grace under pressure is helpful when it comes to unexpected situations in the air such as medical emergencies, and the crew needs to assess and decide what they can do to help the passenger. In order for cabin crew to perform their job well, being able to react calmly under pressure is essential.
Sandy has also learnt the importance of teamwork and delivering quality service. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. There is no difference [whether] you’re serving passengers on board or serving customers in a restaurant. It’s about always giving your best.”
In addition to his training as a chef, Sandy is also a certified sommelier. He possesses three qualifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). This has enabled Sandy to help passengers with food and wine pairings.
Sandy is passionate about sharing his knowledge with his colleagues and derives immense pleasure from nurturing younger trainees and conducting related food and beverage classes. “I enjoy seeing trainees progress in their career,” he says. By sharing his knowledge with others, there will be even more crew to help passengers with their food and beverage options on board.
Through his life experiences, Sandy has learnt the value of progress and strives to improve every single day. Being able to help someone brings him great joy – whether that’s a fellow cabin crew colleague, or seeing a passenger satisfied with a glass of wine that marries perfectly with their meal.