Having a love for food from a young age, it’s no wonder Edmund Goh made it his career. Wafuken is shaking up the health food industry in Singapore.
What’s your story
Food has always been one of my first loves, besides my love for art. I still remember vividly the sense of satisfaction I felt when I first made something more advanced than peanut butter jelly sandwich pizza bread, which was amateurishly made with Gardenia bread, ketchup and Kraft cheese slice topped with dried rosemary. I enjoyed home economics classes in secondary school (except the sewing module) and against all odds, I managed to convince my parents that I didn’t choose the chef life but the chef life chose me. I enrolled in the Singapore Hospitality and Tourism Education Centre (SHATEC) Culinary Arts course where I learned the foundations of cooking. I’ve even had a career with SIA as a Cabin Crew where I ate my way all around the world. This really broadened my knowledge of food and gave me huge insights and ideas for the F&B business.
What excites you most about your industry?
Food is everlasting! We all have to eat, three meals a day at the very least. Eating is truly one of life’s greatest pleasure and undoubtedly, a sin! That is what sparked the idea of Wafuken, a novelty concept where we provide modern cuisine that is not only good for your taste buds but also for your body. Bringing the concept alive was just as exciting as conceptualising the business. It’s still surreal to see hordes of people flocking to join our queues and even more so to have most of them returning every day for some delicious, healthy grub. To me, that is exciting.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a Lion City boy born and raised in the little red dot, Singapore. A city that I truly feel is home. Not only because of our local food, which is to die for or, which I would die without. But also because this is a safe haven, a country where you can see children from different races play football together. Despite modernisation and a strong western influence in Asia, we stay true to our roots and traditions, which is what I love about our unique Singapore. At Wafuken, we serve up western Japanese food also known as Wafu Cuisine.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. Our government provides a wide array of grants that provides young entrepreneurs an additional boost to jump start a business. Without them starting a business would seem more intimidating. Our economic stability allows for peace of mind for businesses as well.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Use what I have around me. When I was trying to start this business, I ran into many roadblocks. Problems like lacking capital, inexperience, being clueless about so many things. I almost thought that those problems meant that it was not the right time to start my business. Fortunately one day I met a friend who changed my perspective. If I don’t have something, I have to find it and what better way than to seek it from people around me? Also, I’ve read somewhere and learned that if you plan a Plan B, you are planning to fail. Someone once asked me when I decided to quit my comfortable flying career with SIA to start this business, what is my back-up plan? I said I didn’t plan one and she argued that I should, as F&B business failure rate is morbidly high. I replied saying; I do not intend to fail.
Who inspires you?
There are many inspiring people on the planet, from missionaries, celebrities, millionaires, activist, all of whom inspire me in their own ways. Even my humble colleague who washes dishes in the shop inspires me with his positive attitude towards life. Ultimately, my parents are my biggest inspiration. They have accomplished so much; working on their careers, feeding the family and raising my sister and I, was surely no easy feat. I am ever grateful for the love and support they have given me.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How powerful the mind really is. There are countless times where you would doubt yourself and even have fleeting thoughts of throwing the towel in after being knocked down time and time again, but ultimately it’s your mental strength that keeps you going. So just when you think you can’t take anymore, believe me when I say there’s a lot more in you.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Everyone has regrets and most would turn back the clock if they had Dr Strange’s powers. I would have made better use of my time, as time is priceless, worked more as experience pays, saved more, as money should be well spent.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy going to the movies, hitting the gym, indulging in a good meal or just hanging out with my friends whenever I can. I used to unwind by cooking and experimenting at home which I still do but not as often. Now after a long day it’s nice to unwind with a can of beer.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand! A holiday that is friendly on the wallet and there are plenty of beautiful islands where you can relax on the beach with a coconut. But the main reason is my love for Thai food because of its bold, vibrant flavours. I’m especially fond of the street food too, with the exception of fried tarantulas. Eat, massage, shop, repeat. What’s not to love!
Everyone in business should read this book:
Coming from the hospitality industry previously, a book I can definitely relate to is ‘”Setting the Table” by Danny Meyer. It’s a business book not only for F&B businesses but also for other types of businesses. One of the most important concepts in this book is hospitality. Hospitality is the foundation of his business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. According to Danny Meyer, service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel about the transaction. I also love this book because of all the “foodporn” images Meyer paints with his words. Truly a delicious read.
Shameless plug for your business:
We have a fully customisable healthy menu where you can craft your own meals according to your diet needs. Wafuken is the first concept that makes cooked sous vide food available and affordable to the masses. By specialising in sous vide cooking; you can expect moist and flavourful meats, which would change your perspective on boring, dry and distasteful healthy food in the market. We dare say our game is strong and yes, we have definitely shaken up the health food industry here in Singapore. Stay tuned for more from us.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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