Today, we have an interview with Priya Menon. I started leaning about Priya on Linkedin and was happy to learn more about her. Discover how she became a chef and healthcare travel facilitator. Most of my own writing is about food, wine and travel, so it is nice to be able to gain some insight on Priya’s food experience, culture and medical tourism. It has become a growing aspect of the economy as worldwide travel is more prevalent and hospital standards have improved.
Maralyn: Could you tell us about yourself and how you came to be a Chef and Healthcare Travel Facilitator?
Priya: My induction into cooking started when I was 12. Coming from an orthodox Hindu family, there was this perceived notion among the elders in our family, that all female born would learn to cook.
I enjoyed it, as I was always fascinated with the rows of spices that my mum had on her kitchen shelf. Glistening glass bottles, exhibiting the contents of multi shaped and colored spices all sitting proudly on the shelf.
Like an alchemist, my mum would blend this spices, using only her fingers and the palm of her hands as a measuring tool. A practice, I am afraid, I inherited!
I became a chef, out of necessity. My husband’s first posting as a doctor was to a rural village in the east coast of Kelantan. We both were from the city and when we discovered the nearest town for a good decent restaurant or grocery store of any kind was 3 hours drive away in Kota Bahru, I knew we were doomed. This situation and the nostalgia for city food got me investing in recipes books. My stint in my childhood kitchen gave the needed foundation for my spice passion, with my mum as my mentor. That was the beginning. This was in 1979; things have changed now in Kelantan.
In 2002, I decided it was time to put down in words , my family recipes, for my 3 daughters and it was during this break, that a friend, from overseas requested of me an introduction with a cosmetic surgeon, that I would trust with performing a breast augmentation on her.
She was a good friend and I wanted her to have the best surgeon and that’s how it all started .The whole trip was so organized, and I really did enjoy assisting her with her recovery. She went home and couldn’t stop talking of her experience and started recommending me to her friends. That’s how it all started.
Our service is very exclusive but affordable. We thrive on personal recommendations. We are well known by the top hospitals as we take our patients/clients travel very seriously. Their travel should be a hassle free memorable positive experience.
What happened to my recipe book? It is still waiting to see the light of day!
Maralyn: As a Medical Tourism Advisor/Facilitator, what is your main focus?
Priya: The main focus is connecting the healthcare traveler with the right surgeon and hospital for their intended medical treatment. We assist travelers with their surgeon, hospital and hotel selection.
Our Destination Concierge services, allows patients to focus on their recuperation, while we handle their entire destination travel itinerary.
We assist patient companions with their tours, ensuring that they do enjoy some recreational activities, while the patient is recuperating. This helps the patient from feeling guilty for their travel companions.
Maralyn: You use of English is excellent, and I’m sure it is necessary to communicate with potential clients. Is it difficult to put them at ease about traveling to Malaysia for medical treatment?
Priya: English is used widely in the service industry in Malaysia. In fact, it’s the first language used in the service industry.
Our clients are met on arrival by a designated Destination Assistant, who will do a friendly briefing, in route to their hotel. This eases any reservations they might have had about being in a foreign country.
We assist with their check in and then, I come into the picture, explaining the protocols for their intended treatments and over coffee I answer any questions they might have, to dispel any lingering fears with regards to their intended procedures.
Maralyn: What’s the most difficult part of your job as a Destination Facilitator?
Priya: The difficult part would be when clients, especially the young travelers, do not adhere to surgical protocols. We have to make doubly sure that they heed the surgeon’s advice while recuperating. We have had many instances, where clients have been know to go shopping or clubbing while still recuperating.
There have also been cases where clients have been left stranded at the airport by their travel planners from their country of origin. As some of it is internet based business, there is always a possibility for untoward incidents of this sort occurring.
Maralyn: I know you are going to talk to us today about Malaysia’s national breakfast dish Nasi Lemak, I believe I’ve had this once when I visited in 1989. Please provide us with some background history?
Priya: The Nasi Lemak is the Malaysian all time favourite breakfast and some have it for lunch and dinner too.
The dish got its name from the rice which is cooked in coconut milk/cream. There are many versions of the dish, but the basic is rice cooked in coconut milk and served with a variety of accompaniments.
The original version of it was rice served with a spicy anchovy sambal or spicy sauce, slices of cucumber, half a hard boiled egg, fried peanuts and anchovies.
Over the years it has evolved and now the additional accompaniments have expanded. The new additions are sambals made from squid or prawns, fried chicken and fish crackers.
It is found everywhere, from a stall under a tree in any neighbourhood, along roadsides and to top restaurants and hotels. There are multiple versions of the nasi lemak and it is purely preference.
Every household has its own recipe and I will share mine with you in my next article.
From a poor mans dish, served in conical shaped folded banana leaf, it has leaped frogged to be Malaysias favourite breakfast, enjoyed by all Malaysians and travelers. Checkout Wikepaedia for more details on Nasi Lemak.
Maralyn: Priya, how did you get interested in learning about the history of the traditional food?
Priya: I was fortunate to have friends from different ethnic backgrounds. We used to visit each other after school and coming from a small neighbourhood, our mums were always exchanging dishes and recipes via their kitchen windows! It was a norm then to share your dishes with your neighbours. We had Chinese, Malay and Eurasian neighbours, and they all shared their customs and cuisines with us. As the only Indian resident in the community, my mum shared all of her recipes with her neighbourhood friends.
There was no barrier getting from one house to the other, and that will always be a sweet memory for me.
Its different today, where we are all fenced in or walled in creating perimeters to safe guard our privacy.
Maralyn: Do you use social networking to promote your blog/website? If so, which ones work best for you?
Priya: I don’t have a website and I am not an avid blogger, however ,I do use linkedin for my business purposes. This is where I network and almost 95% of our clients are from my linkedIn network.
Maralyn: Have you considered writing a book? If so, could you tell us about the subject and any titles you may have already?
Priya: I have been toying with that idea for a long time. I have written down my own recipes which I created.
Title: Fun With Food, My Kitchen To Yours
Another is a healthcare travel handbook/guide for medical tourism travelers Malaysia. It will be a guide of all the things one would want to know about travel to Malaysia.
This will give all individual travelers what to expect and the stages they have to encounter while contemplating surgery in Malaysia. It will contain all necessary information, from choosing the right travel planner in their home country to arriving at destination country. The steps will all be explained in simple easy to understand terms.
For companions, they are will also be included in my book as they do have an important role to play while assisting patients with their recuperating process.
Title: Health Travel Malaysia, Medical Travel Malaysia.
Time permitting a book of my poems.
Title: Messages of the Soul
I am seeking advices and suggestions on the steps required for publication.
Maralyn: What has been your biggest Ahha moment?
Priya: I get stumped everytime I am asked for measurements as my fingers are my measuring tools!
Maralyn: Where can readers learn more about you?
Priya: To know more about me,please visit facebook, linkedIn and I will soon be contributing articles on food to www.kuali.com as a regular contributor for recipes and cooking techniques and also you can check out my recent interview for www.iElixir.com recently on healthcare tourism on my destination, Malaysia.
I also do look forward to working with internet based ezines as a regular contributor on Malaysian healthcare travel and food related articles.
Thank you Priya, as this was most enjoyable. My own experience with a Malaysian hospital was in 1989 while visiting a friend’s daughter who was interning who later became a cardiologist. I’m delighted to learn about the current trends.
If you would like to be featured with an interview, please contact me at email@example.com.
Maralyn D. Hill, President
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success With Writing Where & What in the World
Member: Society of Professional Journalists