Saraven Ravi’s gift and passion for cooking is obvious when his grandmother chose him in the family to pass down her secret recipe for her famous fried chicken. Find out how this Year 2 student made the decision to use the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) route to enter his dream course in Temasek Polytechnic’s Culinary and Catering Management.
By the time Saraven Ravi was 16, he already knew he wanted to be a cook or actor. A natural on stage, he was picked by his school, Serangoon Secondary School, to emcee several events, including Teachers’ Day, Chinese New Year and National Day celebrations, and even at a Singapore Youth Festival’s event.
His interest in cooking was inspired by his family, as well as motivated by personal factors. “As a child,” Saraven said “I was very passionate and persistent, and never took No for an answer as long as I feel I’m right. Because of that, I had issues controlling my emotions.
“But as I craved to learn new things, and being detail-oriented was part of my nature, I was able to calm down and focus on measuring and preparing ingredients while learning how to cook different dishes. Over time, I found that the process of cooking and baking helped me to focus better.”
One of Saraven’s role models in cooking is his grandmother. “Every weekend at my grandmother’s house, my family will have a weekly potluck. My aunties will come together and cook massive meals. What I found interesting was when 3 of my aunties cooked butter chicken, for instance, the result was 3 different versions of the same dish, just because they had each used their own masala mix!”
When he asked his grandmother about it, she explained that everyone had a unique cooking touch. After that, she brought him into the kitchen and taught him how to make her delicious, one-of-a-kind fried chicken. “She only taught me the recipe and no one else – perhaps she knows I have a gift for cooking.”
From that day on, he would pair up with his grandmother to make this dish for every family reunion.
His other cooking heroes are his aunties who pass down their recipes for their own, special dishes to him. “I feel like they are passing down to me an important legacy,” Saraven says, “to continue to keep alive our family recipes.”
Food, to Saraven, is not just for eating but means something more. “I believe that my cooking can tell stories – stories of my family.”
Sharpening his focus
Like most teenagers growing up, Saraven had loose ideas of what he wanted to do. “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and doctor too. I loved the English subject, Principle of Accounting, Biology and Chemistry, and especially Food & Nutrition, which taught me the basics of cooking. Watching plenty of MasterChef and Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows also gave me a lot of inspiration.”
When he was in Sec 4, after completing his N-Levels, he consulted the ECG Counsellor in his school as well as several of his teachers about his future pathways. “I was asked to do a mind map to list down my likes and dislikes about my two options: acting or cooking. I felt, in the end, that the culinary field was a more appropriate option.
“Besides, I found out through my research that Temasek Polytechnic (TP) offered a 3-year program for a Diploma in Culinary and Catering Management, which would allow me to learn both the culinary side of F&B as well as the business side of things. This means I could learn how to open my own eatery later!”
To further cement his decision, he checked out TP’s website and asked his secondary school seniors who were studying in the polytechnic. When he saw how lively TP’s campus was, he was sold. “The lifestyle seemed energetic and lively, which appealed to me. I was also attracted to the partnership between Temasek Culinary Academy and The Culinary Institution of America.”
Shorter and more assured route
Having decided on his dream school and course, he was concerned when he was told by his ECG counsellor that this was a very popular course and hard to get in. In fact, many of his secondary school friends were eyeing the same course. He made up his mind then to enter TP via its Early Admissions Exercise (EAE).
“I was afraid my grades were not good enough to secure a place so I asked a few of my teachers to write recommendation letters for me,” Saraven says. “I also consulted my Form Teachers and career counsellor on how to prepare for the interview.
“To beef up my interview portfolio, I cooked a 3-course meal and took pictures of the entire process. I made a prawn avocado salad, baked chicken stuffed with parmesan for main course and, for dessert, a chocolate truffle. I wanted to show the interviewers my dedication towards cooking.”
During his interview with TP, he believed it was his experience as an emcee that had honed his public speaking skills which gave him an edge over the other applicants. “I was confident about what I was saying and able to communicate my thoughts properly while answering questions from the interviewers,” he notes.
Words of wisdom
Looking back, Saraven believes there were a few factors that got him so far – being true to himself was most crucial. “You must be 100 per cent sure you have passion for this course. Don’t be forced to pursue something you don’t have passion for. You need to have faith and confidence in this line – and yourself.”
For more information on the EAE process, approach the relevant institution: