What was your first encounter with drugs like?
“I was 14 and one of my friends gave me a bottle of cough syrup. One of the older gang members whom I hung out with was peddling it so it was conveniently available to me. The first time I took it, I felt numb and light. I also felt at that time that getting high together with my friends made me closer to them, like it’d help me to fit in.”
How long were you taking drugs for?
“I was regularly taking drugs such as anti-depressants, and occasionally party drugs for about seven to eight years, even after I had started my cooking career. I had tried quitting after getting arrested at the age of 17. However, because I was still hanging out with my old friends, I found it very difficult to quit. The need to quit only started to sink in when I started my business, when I became responsible for my partners and staff.
There was one night when I went partying with some of my old gang friends, the night before the grand opening of my new stall. My friends got into a fight, and even though I wasn’t involved, the police also arrested and detained me for 24 hours. During that time, the police took our urine samples and two of my friends tested positive.
Fortunately, I didn’t. I remember after being released, I immediately rushed to my new stall and realised that two of my staff, together with my mum, had gone on to open the stall despite my not being present. They were struggling to cope with the crowd, and I felt that I had really let down not only my own business, but the people involved in it as well. I decided from that point that I had to turn my life around.”
“I tried quitting after getting arrested. However, because I was still hanging out with my old friends, I found it very difficult.”
How did you come to realise that running your own business was something you had to do?
“After national service, I was introduced to a French restaurant by my one of my campmates. I started working there part-time, and the chef and owner of the restaurant asked me to come on full-time and even gave me a recommendation to culinary school, which I had been rejected from twice when applying on my own. With this, I felt that there were people who recognised me for my talent, and started working much harder and taking my career more seriously. Later, after getting an insurance payout from an accident, I decided to try my hand at owning and running my own business.”
So how do you feed your ambition as an F&B entrepreneur?
“First of all, I make sure that I’m always surrounding myself with positive people, most of them fellow entrepreneurs. By doing that, the topics are usually centred around business and entrepreneurship. Sharing ideas and insights is how I keep myself up-to-date with the markets and emerging trends. I also make sure I surround myself with people who are successful and whom I can pace myself with. I think reading biographies of revolutionary people such as Lee Ka Shing, Richard Branson and Jack Ma inspires me to go up against the odds and challenge myself.”