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Learning and relearning: How 44 years at SATS Catering looks like

Learning and relearning: How 44 years at SATS Catering looks like

There’s never a dull day at SATS Catering even for someone who has worked in the kitchen for several decades.

Wong Teo Hiom joined SATS in December 1978. She has been working with the in-flight meal preparation team for an impressive 44 years and counting.

SATS Catering Supervisor - Wong Teo Hiom

Wong Teo Hiom, Catering Supervisor

Her goals might be the same day in and day out, but Teo Hiom never finds her job boring. To her, it’s like a river that always flows even though it stays in the same spot.

More than four decades on the job allowed Teo Hiom to evolve. She has seen the company grow and has grown alongside it.

Working her way up

Over the years, Teo Hiom learnt the ins and outs of the kitchen, from food preparation to quality control. Looking back on her journey, she fondly recalls her humble beginnings at SATS Catering.

“I started as a tray assembly staff whose job is to preset meal trays according to airline menu summaries,” she reminisces with a smile.

Casserole Assembly Dishing at SATS In-flight Catering Centre

Casserole Assembly Dishing at SATS In-flight Catering Centre

Her first assignment in the kitchen was a real eye-opener. She started small but it was the start of a long learning-filled journey that made her hooked on cooking and food.

Teo Hiom’s most interesting assignment was in the team that prepares special meals for passengers with dietary requirements. “I loved discovering the different ways to meet passengers’ needs. I can make their experience better by paying close attention to what they can and cannot eat,” she notes.

After 15 years, Teo Hiom was tasked to work in the food bank, a physically and mentally demanding role that required her to be familiar with flight schedules. “It was crucial to make sure that all meals were prepared on time and delivered to the right flights,” she explains.

Next, Teo Hiom was transferred to the control room, where she played a key role in arranging meal checklists and ensuring that the right number of meals were prepared for each departing flight.

She soon moved on to the hot kitchen, where she took charge of monitoring the dishing of meals and ensuring that all food safety and hygiene regulations were adhered to.

Teo Hiom’s years of diverse experiences in the kitchen gave her an in-depth understanding of what goes on behind the scenes of airline meal preparations. Today, she is a Catering Supervisor at one of SATS’s largest kitchens, a testament to her dedication to learning and adaptability to the ever-evolving industry.

Embracing innovation

While Teo Hiom was used to the traditional way of doing things, she welcomes every change, whether it’s a change in job scope, teammates, area of deployment, or job title.

She knows that to stay relevant, one must embrace change. It may be a long process, but Teo Hiom believes in looking at challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. “We cannot be behind the times,” she underscores.

Currently, Teo Hiom oversees the new retort machine introduced to the kitchen in 2021. Traditionally, meals are placed in a chiller or a cold room to extend their shelf life. With the retort process, meals are placed in a high-temperature chamber to destroy any microorganisms that could spoil them, allowing the meals to be stored at room temperature.

Teo Hiom admits that the learning curve was steep, but she saw it as a necessary part of streamlining the meal preparation process and ensuring that passengers receive the safest and cleanest meals.

Today, she has become confident with modern technology and with teaching new kitchen staff how to operate the machines efficiently.

Every day is a learning day

Forty-four years in her role does not seem enough for Teo Hiom. She believes there’s still a lot to learn in her career with SATS Catering.

“I love my job and this company,” she says. When asked what she enjoys the most, Teo Hiom mentions the geography lesson she gets for free. “Every day, we know where the flights are headed and what cuisine to prepare. It’s like travelling to unfamiliar places without leaving the kitchen.”

Working alongside many younger colleagues, Teo Hiom encourages them to learn as much as they can. For her, SATS Catering is not just a stepping stone for bigger things, but a great teacher about the food and beverage industry, aviation, and even geography.


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