“I’m studying in CIA.”
Gen told me when I first asked her what she was doing now. I did a double take. “C..IA?” I repeated in shock. She laughed as she explained “It stands for The Culinary Institute of America.”
The 21-year-old is a down-to-earth, joyful girl who is wise beyond her years. She was spun into fame when she participated in Masterchef Singapore, and is now making good use of her time to give back to the society. I met her at Ground-Up Initiative where she’s working on an upcoming charity event combating food wastage. It’s a cause she feels strongly about, especially because she is aware of the prominence of food wastage as an issue in the food industry. “I can’t do anything about it in my school, so I want to at least do something about it outside.” she says.
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It was a PRETTY UGLY LUNCH. This was by far the most interesting and meaningful cook I've had! Teaming up with @sowmiya.venkatesan.sg and @tinkerfun (why u no in group photo😭). We had one mission, to turn a bunch of food waste into an ATAS 3 course kampong styled meal. A lesson I learnt, is to be flexible as a Chef. We only got to know what kind of produce we had 2 days before the event😱 due to the nature of it, definitly something I'm not used to! A big thank you to all of the volunteers in the kitchen today, if anything you showed me immense team spirit and kindness. I hope it has been as fun for you guys as it was for me. #kampongspirit #thefoodproducer #uglyfood #vegan #onthepass #sgfood
Gen highly recommends freezing bananas and mangoes before letting them go to waste! They make really good blended smoothies and dessert. She also enjoys doing the same for blueberries even though they make not work as well!
“The Girl Who Cooks”
When asked about what she does apart from cook, she pondered for a while before confessing to me that she found the question tough. “My whole life, I was always seen as the ‘girl who cooks’” she chuckled.
“You shouldn’t do what others tell you to do”
In fact, she actually took Biomedical Science in polytechnic and wanted to be a doctor in the future. Jumping into the culinary arts was a leap of faith for her despite her friends’ and families’ concern.
She shares with me how she has no regrets because cooking truly gives her pure happiness.
Advocate for Healthy Living
“I was quite uncomfortable with myself in the past”
Gen confessed as she talked about her bad experiences with her body. She was badly bullied in the past, and she eventually resorted to starving herself. “I was obsessed with how much weight I could lose.” she added. The turning point came when she nearly fainted in class one day. It was a point where she realised she needed to stop harming herself.
She started learning about what you put in your body – food, and still strongly believes in the importance of nutritional education for everyone.
Gen is also a fitness enthusiast, a fact about her that is quite unbeknownst. “People are usually quite surprised by how much I know about gymming!” she added. To her, it’s an important way of life and she’s hoping to catch up with the exercise she missed out on from being too busy recently.
At the young age of 16, she went knocking on doors and cafes to sell her food and ideas – a truly admirable act of working hard to get what you want. Despite healthy foods being a blossoming trend now, it was a niche market back then and she was one of the few people who drove the concept. This was what helped her sell her foods, by intelligently targeting a market which people hadn’t realised they needed!
This eventually gave her the opportunities to lead classes, host private dinners and collaborate with various restaurants despite her young age.
“Family comes first.”
“I think I’m a pretty good daughter?” Gen laughs before telling me “Family definitely comes first.” because she believes that sometimes life can get us down and no matter what, our family will always be there for us.
“Our generation often takes family for granted, and think that parents do things for us because they should without realising they’re only doing it out of love.”
She elaborates, as she tells me how she would have never achieved so much without the selfless support her family gave her. From her sibling providing photography support to her parents helping her prepare foods or transporting her between places when it gets busy, she will never forget to be grateful and be the best daughter/sister she can be.
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Spent two weekends working with this talented young chef @plate_to_palate , watching her create smacking healthier versions of both western and Asian cuisines. From Lei Cha and Chicken Rice to paleo almond butter bread, Hi-Protein waffles to açai froyo sandwich! Many people sell health bentos and meals out there. But not many sell fit food that actually taste good! . She's not even 20 yet. Keep your creativity flowing babe! . . . #nutrientdense #eatwholefoods #passion
Gen also didn’t forget to mention someone who has helped her greatly through her life – Kareen Lai (or as Gen fondly calls her, Aunt Kareen), who is an entrepreneur herself who founded Nuts About Butter. Gen recalls how Aunt Kareen supported her the whole time, exposing her to important contacts and inspiring her consistently. “I really look up to her.” Gen says excitedly.
So who is Genevieve Lee?
Gen is an inspirational, spirited chef (although she would humbly tell me she’s still a ‘student’) who brings her different identities as a daughter, fitness advocate and many other meaningful life experiences into her passion for foods. Getting to know her truly warmed my heart and if there’s anything to take away from her story, it’s that hard work and courage will get you where you want to be.
“You can be anything you want to be, and do whatever you see fit.”
Genevieve Lee is managed by The Food Producer