So who is going to cook our naan?

Naan and chicken tikka

The Human Resources Ministry wants all restaurants in the country to only recruit locals as cooks from July 1 – and this came as a shocker to many.

Its minister M. Kula Segaran said operators would be given up to the end of the year to ensure only local cooks work in their restaurants and that the regulation only permit locals as cooks in all restaurants effective Jan 1 2019.

This announcement raises more questions as restaurant operators scramble to find a way out over the new ruling.

The current regulation states foreigners are only allowed to be cooks or help out in the kitchen. They are not allowed to be frontliners. Given Kula’s announcement, would this mean there will be zero foreigners in restaurants?

What about high-end restaurants that spend top Ringgit bringing in the best chefs and cooks from around the world? If they are exempted, wouldn’t this be seen as double standard? If qualifications are the main ingredient – then who will be setting the standards? Are there standards, if any, to begin with?

It is believed Kula is zeroing in on the regular eateries which have been in the news in recent times for the not so palatable reasons – from finding maggots in meals to washing metal plates in puddles of water.

Just visit any of these eateries and you will see how hygiene is severely compromised. Patrons, however, don’t seem to be bothered eating under such circumstance for the sake of a quick and cheap meal.

Will an all local cast do the trick? That too remains to be seen as:

  • Not all locals upkeep the highest hygiene standards.
  • Malaysians, despite being offered high salaries, shy away from working in restaurants – either as cook or frontlines.

The previous government, had in the past, promised to come down hard on restaurants that hire foreigners who worked as frontliners. Yet, the likes of Myanmar nationals, Filipinos, Bangladeshis and Indians continue to take down orders and even man the cashier.

Operators have warned their businesses will take a huge beating – and many forced to fold up – if the ministry goes ahead with its plan.

But here’s food for thought – patrons will not know if foreigners working in the kitchens entered the country legally or obtained the relevant immunisations.

As such, the locals will be exposed to a series of diseases – thus explaining why tuberculosis remains a serious problem in the country as evident in the steady increase in the number of cases and deaths recorded over the past 10 years.

And these people are responsible for preparing our meals!

Strict enforcement is the best way forward. Granted, proper enforcement will mean more officers involved in operations, but that’s the best way to not only ensure the right people are involved in the food business but to see if these eateries and maintaining hygiene.

To lure Malaysians into the scene would mean to change the mindsets. Kula’s ministry will need assistance from the stakeholders to make cooking into a cool occupation – just like how Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar will need all the help she can get to convince youngsters and their parents why technical and vocational education training (TVET) is the way forward.

Till then, many will still rely on a someone from Lahore to make their naans, as they would of an Indian from Kochi making their veetu thosai or a Japanese chef in an award-winning restaurant when you say “omakase!”