Malaysia has a rich cultural heritage, and eight of our Hospitality and Tourism students have experienced this first hand, recently returning from a visit to the country as part of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan for student mobility.
Hosted by Taylor's University in Kuala Lumpur, The University of Queensland Business School students undertook a two-week intensive course in Culture, Cuisine and Gastronomy.
“The intensive program involves learning about Malaysia’s cultural heritage and how that reflects in their cuisine and gastronomy” said Senior Lecturer in Hospitality and Tourism, Dr Richard Robinson who is accompanying the students.
Students at Taylor's University
“The main program components are made up of a theory base and practical classes in Taylor's (University) kitchens where students have the opportunity to cook and share different Malaysian cuisines” he said.
“This immersion program, designed to provide tactile and deep learning experiences, has transformed the students’ critical understanding of the role of food in all aspects of culture, hospitality and tourism. Malaysia is a complex and diverse multi-cultural society in which food pervades daily family, community, cultural, religious and even professional life - and so is the perfect environment for a course like this to achieve its learning objectives” he said.
Beyond the kitchen, students also visited the British and Australian High Commissions to learn about food and diplomacy, where they met with Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia.
“In addition, the students spent time shadowing senior executives at the KL Convention Centre, visiting DIB (Deaf in Business) asocial enterprise restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and attending a dinner sponsored by the Malaysian Office for Tourism and Culture, where they quizzed the Deputy Secretary General on Malaysia’s food-related policies in an industry-led forum.”
Ms Alexandra Plowman is one of the eight students who participated in the trip and has found the experience eye-opening.
Students gained an understanding of where the food is grown.
“This trip has given myself and the other students a chance to understand the importance of food from a ‘paddock to plate’ perspective and the diversity in culture, and how that is signified in the cuisine.
“Having witnessed firsthand how food is harvested, prepared,cooked, served, and managed, I have come to realise how Malay culture informs each step of the process. Without these cultural influences, we would not have the melting pot of flavours and passion that constitutes the cuisine of modern Malaysia” she said.
As part of a more authentic experience, students are also participating in an agri-tourism home stay in Kuala Selangor, a rural region 2 hours north-west of Kuala Lumpur, where they will participate in traditional village practices like rice planting, visiting a palm oil and rubber plantation, coconut and tapioca plantations and visiting traditional farmers markets and preparing local delicacies.
The action packed two weeks also paves the way for the major assessment, where students will compile a ‘digital diary’ to thematically record an aspect of Malaysian food throughout their trip, selecting diverse topics such as authenticity, sustainability, globalisation and cultural food practices.