Having transformed his body physically and emotionally, Jake Pang has been inspired to create healthy food which is also tasty. He now co-owns Wafuken an Asian fusion restaurant.
What’s your story?
I went through a transformation from over 90 kilos to 60 kilos. During this journey, it changed me both physically and more importantly, mentally. I grew up in a typical Chinese family wanting me to take the “comfortable” route in life. However, the change made me believe that nothing great comes from being in the comfort zone. So instead of going into the IT industry which I studied for half my life, I chose to follow my passion for food and cooking. Now I serve up food that has a positive impact on people’s lives.
What excites you most about your industry?
In Singapore, we have a vast food culture. New food trends from different countries as well as our own creations are popping up almost as fast as tech gadgets. Food is a universal language. You may not have a discerning palate to decipher the components in two different dishes, but you always know which dish you prefer. The opportunity to create something and letting the consumer judge for themselves is what excites me. Besides, food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. What’s not to be excited about?
What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is getting more westernised, but in that process, we are not forgetting our roots. We are finding a commonplace in between and ending up with something truly unique. Wafu cuisine is simply Western cuisine done Japanese style. Serving up high speed Asian fusion food in the CBD is pretty much as Asian as it gets, especially during the lunch rush where humans buzz around like the worker bees. Asia never seems to rest, nor does it slow down.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. Maybe we were brought up in the meritocracy system; maybe it is the high penalty for corruption and the crimes alike. Whatever it is, Singaporean businesses are not based on you or your family’s “connections.” While it is true that with connections you can get a head start, but surviving and actually making a profit would depend on your competency. Additionally, there are quite a lot of grants and schemes that are there to help the start-up companies. So to me it’s a level playing field based on your capabilities.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Probably the cliché of Singaporean or maybe most parents, “study hard!”
I guess the difference is that this advice changed along the years. As a kid you would take studying as doing your schoolwork and performing well in exams or tests. As an adult and looking at it on hindsight, it means to always be absorbing new information and honing your edge. That to me is gold; life being a constant learning experience.
Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from many individuals, both famous and everyday heroes, sometimes even the infamous! I would say Bruce Lee had a huge impact on how I viewed life. His philosophy in martial arts can be related in daily life, particularly the constant improvement and adaptability.
On the other hand and closer to my heart, it would be my parents. Both of them worked really hard in their younger days to provide a life for my brother and I. A life that is better than the hardships they endured.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
This is completely unrelated and random, but it has got me thinking a lot so I will just put this here. Dr Stephen Hawking actually commented that humanity has about 1,000 years, before we face total annihilation, unless we find a suitable planet to “migrate” to. This just made me think about the movie “Interstellar” and what the endeavour would be like.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Although I do not believe in the “reset” mentality, there are about a thousand things I can name now that I wished I could have done differently. However, provided that I possess the knowledge and experience that I have right now, I would have taken more time listening and perceiving during my schooling day, rather than talking. As for my business, I felt that I could have planned and covered more ground with more details. Of course at the time I thought I was doing my best, but in hindsight, I was not.
How do you unwind?
Martial arts have been a huge factor in my life. From discipline to being physically and mentally fit. I would not have come so far if it wasn’t for martial arts. Despite starting out in a traditional martial arts, I delved into the sweet science of boxing and have been in it ever since. Boxing provides me with the workout and the unwinding part of my life now. Other than that, I try to cook for people around me. That way I get to spend time with people who matter and to continue my hobby of cooking!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok, Thailand. Firstly, the practical reason that it isn’t costly. Secondly, you can find affordable foot massages or full body massages easily. Lastly and most importantly, the food culture in Thailand with its bold flavours and unique ways of using their herbs. I live to eat and when I travel, it’s all about the food. I would often try to find an ingredient or a flavour combination that I have never tried before. Yes, insects included.
Everyone in business should read this book:
To be completely honest, I don’t read a lot of books on business. However, I do have a recommendation which I think would help in every aspect of life, not limited to business. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr Spencer Johnson
Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a place that you can customise your meals to your diet needs or a place that doesn’t have bland tasting food because it’s “healthy”, then come on down and try it! This is especially so if you’ve never tried sous vide chicken breast before. It’s really going to change your perception on the humble ingredient.
How can people connect with you?
You could drop an e-mail to [email protected]
However, the best way is to come down to the shop, try the food and sit down for a chat.
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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