Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Occasionally I am ashamed of my country because of the things I experience and news I read online.

At times, I am also very proud of us; again by what I experience and read online. This week I felt particularly patriotic because of what I found out.

Last Saturday, I had lunch with my friends at Hakkasan, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Mayfair. I had always wanted to dine in Hakkasan especially with all the rave reviews about it, however the prohibitive cost had always affected our collective decisions. I don't fancy dining in a posh restaurant on my own, so I must involve friends or at least a friend before I agree to do it. **Some joked if cost is our deciding factor, that means we still haven't made it in life!;)**


Hakkasan was the brainchild of Alan Yau. He's a Hong Kong restaurant entrepreneur who also opened Wagamama, Sake no Hana, Yauatcha and Princi Spirito di Milano. There are also the smaller fast casual restaurants like Busaba Eathai and ChaChaMoon. An impressive string of restaurants under his belt I must say. But this has changed. To-date, Wagamama is sold, Sake no Hana is sold, Yauatcha is sold...and you guessed it, Hakkasan is sold!

At one end of the spectrum, there is this person I so admire for his entrepreneur skills. Someone whose business is to build businesses and sell them for a profit; and at the other end, the jewels in the businesses themselves. For Hakkasan to keep its Michelin star, they have to be impeccable. Alan Yau isn't the one who maintains the star for his restaurants; it is the Head Chef and his team. Who are these people? Who is the Head Chef? So I find out.

Hakkasan's success is largely due to it's Head Chef, Mr Tong Chee Hwee, a Malaysian who alternated his career with Singapore and Kuala Lumpur before being headhunted by Alan Yau ten years ago. I wouldn't have thought the man behind all the rave reviews about the food happened to be a Malaysian. In fact I read that his great culinary skills were influenced by observing his mother and grandmother doing some serious Malaysian cooking in wooden stoves when he was young!

The Hakkasan experience spurred me on to look for the next Michelin-star restaurant to dine. I then found Kai, also at Mayfair. This is the first Chinese Restaurant that was awarded a Michelin star and guess what, it's run by Bernard Yeoh, a Malaysian. It's head chef, Alex Chow, is also another Malaysian.

So what's the big deal with the whole Malaysian thingy? Nothing. However these two examples gave meaning to an article I read in the weekend - the magic of diasporas; they also gave compelling evidence that my country is losing a lot of good people. And some of them are Michelin-starred people that the world now talks about but once neglected by it's own country.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Progress in Life

When I was studying here, I was careful with money. Even though there was no need to account for what I do with my money, I made sure my scholarship was always spent on important and necessary things only. In some ways, I made myself accountable for the "good" expected of me by my sponsors. For example, I'd rather pay £500** to fly back to Malaysia for my research than £90 for the wool coat that was selling at a bargain on Boxing Day sales.

I was a member of the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds Club. I had always wanted to get the club winter running gear but resisted the temptation. To me that was a "considered purchase", so I refrained from such "luxury". My free long sleeves were good enough and I wasn't too happy paying exorbitant sums only to soil the gear (we used to run in mud!)

This week I finally made a purchase of the club's hoodie in preparation for winter. Finally I can afford such "luxury". Not bad for some progress in life huh?;)

**That too didn't happen as I won a large grant for my research in the end! ....and I still didn't get the wool coat.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pain of November

Today I know how it feels for a mother to see her child dead upon birth.

After working hard on something for 11 months, sacrificing social life for weekends in the office, waking up in cold sweat in the middle of the night and poring through texts of hundreds of journals, what I got in the end was a dead "baby".

Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani.