Sabah holiday 2015. Food sculpture by Chef Pritchard

What happens when a pastry chef likes sculpture? You get a Harley Davidson cake.

Sabahan Chef Pritchard Ligadu has been making pastry sculptures and cakes for Sabah’s grandest occasions for 15 years.

The Harley was one of many birthday cakes for the head of state, Sabah’s TYT (Tuan Yang Terutama, or in English, His Excellency).

“I didn’t like catering school in the beginning,” Chef Pritchard said at the Sutera Harbour resort, where he is based.

“I found kitchen work so hard, I wanted to quit so many times. But my grandmother said I had to stick with it, so I kept trying.”

It wasn’t until Chef Pritchard saw sugar sculpture submitted by Chef Dinwari (who was from Tuaran, a district in Sabah) in a competition in Singapore, that his passion was fired up.

“When I heard that Chef Dinwari was going to work at the new Rasa Ria resort in Kota Kinabalu, I knew I had to work there. I didn’t care about the pay, I would have worked under him for nothing. It was difficult to travel there every day from Penampang, but I worked with him for four years.”

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Hendrix signature guitar cake by Chef Pritchard

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“I wanted to do things which symbolised us in Sabah, he said. In KL (Kuala Lumpur) the chefs at these big hotels were pulling sugar and copying the European sculpture design. I wanted to do something that represented us.”

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Sabah's Rafflesia flower by Chef Pritchard
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Hibiscus by Chef Pritchard Ligadu

“Chef Dinwari taught me how to plan, design, do paperwork. I learned to work with bread and our local sugar. My first big showpiece was an eagle to celebrate the grand opening of the Rasa Ria resort, which Dr. Mahathir and his wife were opening. It was the beginning for me.”

Here is his homage to Malaysian singer P. Ramlee and his famous song Getaran Jiwa.

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“I have to use a magnifying glass sometimes, to get the small details, like in the saxophone keys, or the motorbike engine.”

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These days, Chef Pritchard is giving back to the community.

“I’ve always been involved in charity work. Now, in my home, I have a small workshop. We make cheesecake, I teach some students. I give them instruction about catering, hygiene standards, expiry dates, important things you don’t always learn in the catering schools, even though you should. They have to pay to go to catering school, but with me, I say just pay what you can. It’s not so important. I teach them to be accurate. Cheesecake ingredients are expensive here, if you spoil the batch, it’s a lot of money!

When I was learning under a German chef at the Hyatt, I made a mistake and burnt all the ingredients. He made me pay. It was four hundred (Malaysian) dollars! So you learn fast. But when I left, he gave me the money back.

If the cheesecake is done properly, we can sell it, maintain our costs and give a bit to a charity. It’s all good.

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Time is a precious thing, I am very aware of what I do with my time. I know how long it takes me to walk from here to there. I can tell you how long this journey takes to drive, or how many minutes it takes to walk to the bathroom and back. In my mind, I always know the time!”

Chef Pritchard does good things with his time, good for him, his family and for Sabah.

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