Promoting equal opportunity in the workplace has allowed chefs like Juliana Ng to realise her full potential as a female gourmand at V-Zug’s Gourmet Academy.
Working in the F&B industry conjures up images of frazzled maître d’s, disgruntled chefs and overworked kitchen staffers. When you think of the gender balance in an environment such as this, the lines are a little more blur today. That is because of the inclusivity and diversity encouraged by progressive companies like luxury kitchen appliance manufacturer, V-Zug.
One such person the Swiss brand has groomed for a life in the spotlight is chef Juliana Ng, a rising star in V-Zug’s Gourmet Academy. Her passion for cooking developed from watching her mother work the traditional stone mortar and pestle in the kitchen. As her mother spent hours in the kitchen pounding up Asian spices and preparing heartwarming meals for the family, Juliana was reeled in by the thoughtfulness and sincerity her mother poured into every dish.
Brought up in a household that operated an F&B business, the aspiring chef decided to continue the legacy of her family’s venture by starting her own humble eating establishment. Working the restaurant grounds made the her realise that she enjoyed the long hours in the kitchen, and she was eager to hone her skills as a culinary professional. Her burgeoning enthusiasm and hard work led her to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Skills at Shatec where she scored an outstanding performance of five distinctions.
Making a professional leap into the position of Chef De Partie at Coriander Leaf, Juliana gained invaluable insights into Pan-Asian cooking and natural flavouring techniques. Under the tutelage of celebrated chef, Samia Ahad, Juliana was inspired to experiment with unusual flavours from different cultures. Her culinary philosophy “spice is life” reflects her commitment to celebrating her unique Indonesian and Japanese heritage.
In this interview, she shares what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry.
What are some challenges that women face in the professional kitchen?
The barriers to becoming a professional cook in the kitchen are aplenty. As women are often perceived to be physically weaker than males, I often get questions about whether I’m able to adapt to the physical demands of a professional kitchen. Long working hours also mean that I have to juggle work and motherhood.
How did you overcome these challenges in your job?
Honestly, I have never regarded myself as different from my male colleagues. Toughness doesn’t come from appearances, it’s a matter of perspective. So long as you are willing to step up to the plate, and you’re not afraid of hard work, you will gain the respect of others in the kitchen.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
If there’s one person who ignited my passion for cooking, it would have to be my mother. She was always the bright spark who fuelled my grit, determination and resilience. Although she had to raise four kids on her own and see them through school, she always made sure we had amazing meals at home. Because of her, cooking is now very much an important aspect of my life. I believe it is one of the most significant gestures of affection and concern that anyone can show.
What is your advice for females who wish to pursue a career as a chef?
You might meet objections to pursue a career as a chef because it’s really hard work. But, it’s important to recognise that failure is part of success. Don’t be afraid to try out new things and open yourself up to challenges. A mentor once told me, even after 30 years, he is learning every day. Embracing a never-ending learning curve will lead you to greatness.
How do you think V-Zug promotes diversity and appreciation for women in the workplace?
V-Zug offers me a platform to celebrate my unique Japanese and Chinese heritage. As a gourmet academy chef, I am given the opportunity to be creative and push culinary boundaries in my work. I work with the global team to develop unique recipes and training experiences for V-Zug customers. Although most of my teammates are male, the organisation practices open communication. I can speak my mind and raise ideas freely.
Grooming women for leadership roles
V-Zug views sustainability as more than just a concept. It is a way of thinking, working and living. As a Swiss market leader in the household appliance category, V-Zug has set itself ambitious goals: to provide lifelong inspiration and to capture people’s imaginations with simple, individual solutions. In the era of digital transformation, this is an aspiration that goes far beyond developing and manufacturing high-quality household appliances.
The way V-Zug utilises natural resources, manages its employees and supports society is becoming increasingly important. That is why promoting a caring and cross-collaborative work space is essential to ensuring the longevity of its business.
“My goal is to create a cosy work environment where all employees look forward to coming to work. And it is important that each person is valued because everyone has a part to play in the growth of the organisation,” says Angeline Yap, managing director of V-Zug Southeast Asia.
V-Zug is aware of the potential and importance of its employees and recognises their wide range of skills, qualifications, cultural backgrounds and life situations. The company firmly believes that diversity is a key driver of innovation. “We have established a supportive work culture which encourages good teamwork and open communication channels between employees. This is to ensure mutual respect for one another to grow as a ‘family’ in the organisation,” attests Yap.
To advocate and nurture the diverse talents at V-Zug, the company has a three-tier career model — the traditional hierarchy, grooming specialists and project career development — to allow its employees to realise their career goals and aspirations. The career model also provides promotion opportunities for employees who work part-time, helping them to balance their work and personal life. Employee satisfaction surveys are carried out anonymously through external providers, to ensure that the company’s staff are motivated and satisfied.
When asked how women perform against their male counterparts, Yap believes the fairer species have a definite leg up. “Contrary to popular belief, I strongly believe women are just as qualified as men when it comes to leadership roles,” she affirms. “In fact, in certain jobs, I find women are better as they are genuinely more meticulous in nature and are better in multitasking.”
Prior to her appointment in V-Zug, she has managed the growth of Miele and Heraeus in Asia with 27 per cent increase year on year with revenues of $450 million. As the Managing Director for V-Zug Southeast Asia, she set-up office in less than one year and acquired over 10 projects in the same period.
A mother of one, Angeline’s big personality, drive and energy are the qualities she requires to steer her team. As the embodiment of a strong female leader, she is quick to point out that lots of hard of work and sacrifice is still very much needed for women to excel in a male-dominated industry. “It takes more effort just to be on a level playing field as the men and we have to defy all the odds to be even more extraordinary than them.”
Who is V-Zug?
Established in 1913, V-Zug is the leading Swiss brand for premium household appliances. At the heart of the company is a belief that everyday life should be simpler, and sophisticated household appliances are the key to making it easier to enjoy life at home. And it is this belief, combined with the famed Swiss precision, that has driven the pioneering spirit in the company for over 100 years now.
From blazing a trail for sustainable washing machines to bringing the power of steam technology into the home, the world of V-Zug has been one of unparalleled quality and remarkable innovation.
Even as V-Zug innovates for the future, they continue to stay true to their heritage — a commitment that is highlighted in the name of the company. The V in V-Zug honours their past as a galvanising plant (Verzinkerei in German) while Zug, which represents the canton of Zug in Switzerland, marks their dedication to champion the Swiss values of innovation, precision, and excellence.
With the recent V-Zug 2033 initiative, V-Zug has embarked on a 20-year journey to safeguard the “Swiss Made” claim for V-Zug by reducing the footprint of the factory by 50 per cent while doubling its capacity. This is achieved by creating a vertical factory benefiting of the latest digital manufacturing tools. The production site will include a “Tech Cluster Zug” — a space reserved for various industries, universities and start-ups. This will serve as a platform to increase cross-industry sharing and promote Zug as a place for innovation.