Although he is a qualified engineer, with a successful career as a service engineer with the Toyota plant back in the Philippines, Chef Carlo Sobingsobing decided to give up all of it to follow his parent’s footsteps and joined the culinary industry by taking charge of his mother’s restaurant in Dubai, which has now taken to new heights of success.
Carlo is a double graduate – in technology and culinary arts. But his quest for knowledge did not stop there; he’s now doing an entrepreneurial course as well along with his hectic restaurant schedules to climb higher on the ladder of success.
Let’s find out what Carlo has to say about his career transition, and his journey so far as a chef and an entrepreneur.
You are a qualified engineer. What inspired you to change your career path?
The restaurant that we have here in Dubai was started by my mom around 14 years back. And, all these years she has managed to run that successfully all by herself. But lately, she has been having some health issues, and at such time it only felt right to take care of her and the business. She has invested a lot of time and effort into building up the business, so I didn’t have the heart to let it go.
Did this sudden change in choice of career upset your mom?
Oh yes, she was quite upset with my decision. Mom really wanted me to go back to my engineering field, as she knew I was quite happy with my career at that time. When I came to Dubai to help her with the restaurant she asked me to apply for jobs worth my qualification, and I even gave some interviews, but whenever it came towards the last lap I invariably rejected the offer. I think I had made up my mind to manage and develop the restaurant and was mentally prepared for a new career adventure.
How did you feel about the drastic career transition from being an engineer to a chef?
It was definitely a huge transition. The fact is, I have always enjoyed being an engineer and I used to love my job too. But that never bothered me in taking a decision to become a chef, mainly because there was a part of me who enjoyed cooking too. From childhood itself, I used to help mom in the kitchen not because she asked me to but because I loved cooking and being around food. I remember reading a book based on restaurant management lately that says “consider having an own restaurant only if you are passionate about cooking or you have it in your family”, and in my case it fits very well with my decision.
Could you please give us a glimpse into your career as a chef so far.
In the beginning, when I joined mom’s restaurant, I started with the basics since I didn’t have any formal culinary training. I handled more of service, purchase, and deliveries. Thanks to GPS I never lost my way doing deliveries being new in Dubai. From there, I slowly got promoted to the cash counter, and I had also started doing digital marketing by then for the restaurant.
Although I used to help in the kitchen, I was not that comfortable getting involved too much with cooking since I did not know the right way to do things as per the industry standards. That is when I thought about getting professionally trained and did my culinary education at ICCA Dubai.
How did ICCA happen to you?
I came to know about ICCA through random Google search and decided to do a short course before I got into a long-term professional course. So, I did a 3-day Artisan Bread Making course to learn the traditional way of bread making as I like bread a lot. I totally loved the course which eventually led to the professional program.
How did your experience at ICCA Dubai help you after graduation?
ICCA gave me a proper insight into the culinary world. Even when I was doing my course in the evening, I used to get back to the restaurant and try to apply things that I was learning from school. After finishing the school, I was able to keep my kitchen in a much more organized way. Now when we do outdoor catering, I am confident about taking up orders for international dishes which I was not comfortable doing earlier. Also, we have one more branch opened up in Al Nahda. And, moreover, all my batch mates and most of the Chefs from school have enjoyed the food at my restaurant.
What did you enjoy the most about studying at ICCA Dubai?
It was always the kitchen that I enjoyed the most at ICCA. Its massive, and I loved working & cooking in that environment getting some real industry exposure.
What do you like the most working in the hospitality industry?
As I said before, I have always enjoyed being an engineer, but when it comes to the culinary world, I feel this industry is more about giving which is highly gratifying. I am not just applying my knowledge here, but I am getting the chance to impart my knowledge to my staff too.
What is your signature dish? Is there any story behind it?
I will have to say my signature dish is still under construction.(smiling)
How much are you in touch with your ICCA alumni network?
Everyone is busy with their own lives but we all try to stay connected through our class WhatsApp group.
What are your future plans?
I want to concentrate more on being in the kitchen and managing both our branches well. I believe good food should be affordable to everyone; it shouldn’t be something overly priced and served only in restaurants, so I am working on a plan to start a mobile food truck too. And, hopefully down the line, I want to open a branch back home.