I came from a really humble family where wines were never top in the list of drinks I’ll get to taste. To a certain extend, coming from a Hainanese family, my staple drink was probably teh-si with my dad’s famous Ah Tong kaya toast… years went by, and I’ve always been the teh-si ah gor (uncle) in my family which my cousins, aunties and uncles always call me.
There came a time when I was 15 years old and I started to think, shit! What am I going to do with my life?! I’m the eldest son and I need to do something in order to help in my family expenses, to probably save up for my future family and maybe get something I like… so well, since I love to talk to people and enjoy good food, maybe I should start with the Food and Beverage industry. However, at 15, coming from a neighbourhood school in Pasir Ris and being in Normal Academic stream, how on Earth am I going to get into Temasek Poytechnic’s Hospitality and Tourism course that requires my L1R4 to be of a JC standard?!
That was until I met 1 teacher and now, a friend of mine, Mr Daniel Yong… the man who marked me down on the subject I love the most, always telling me that with the way I write in my geog essays, I’ll definitely not do well in my O’Levels, but because of him, I made myself practice even more, handed in more than what I was told to (which he gave up making), but I just held on my faith that it’ll be better. Many years passed, he has seen me grown in my life as a uniform group ssgt to a vice – head prefect and now, managing a few restaurants. I’m proud to say that we still keep in contact regularly for supper, coffee or bowling and I’m definitely going to keep it going!
Finally, after 2 years of buying my own assessment books and the then 10 year series to prepare myself for O’ Levels, it’s judgement day… 2004, my results came out, it was better than I expected it to be, but still, not good enough for me to enter into TP’s HTM… disappointed as I am, I was thick skin enough to apply for the Direct Admission Enrolment which changed my life!
I remember very clearly, my interviewer, Mr Goh Hock Quee, today, a friend of mine i hold close to my heart, he opened the doors for me to and finally, i got into TP’s HTM…
As I embarked my journey in TP, I was still lost at what areas I should focus… Kitchen or Service? so a bulk of my time in TP, I was working part-time as both a cook and service at a few restaurants, trying my hands at what I would be more interested in. Then it came the time for many of us, INTERNSHIP!!
Here, my wine journey began when I was with the then Director of FnB and Executive Chef, Maitre d and the Banquet sales Manager choosing the wine of the month for Swiss Club that made me fall in love with wines which I never turned back.
3 years passed in TP and I’ve got just too many lecturers to thank who are now, I’m proud to say have became friends with me.
In 2008, like every Singaporean son, I had to go into army… and in March 2010, two months before I ORD, the Director of wines in Les Amis asked me on Facebook if I was keen to join them as a wine trainee. Without much hesitation, I agreed. However, as much as I’ve gotten a job, I told myself that as the eldest son of my family, in a family full of Degree holders, i had to fulfill my parents dream of seeing their son graduate out of University.
Thus, as much as I would love to enjoy myself after ORD, I enrolled myself to a part-time degree programme which started on the day I ORD… I still remember how shitty I felt going straight to school after collecting my pink IC…
Here, my next journey in Life began… 2 years, I worked more then 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with an off day which I had to attend lessons in school… I could still remember how many times I was so close to crying…
but I’m glad to have the support of my Family, my girlfriend, friends and colleagues, I finally held on to my goals and got my Bachelors and slowly, achieving more in the Les Amis Group.
10 years passed, today I’m glad that I’m still the Joel who is in love with the Food and Beverage scene and of course wines:)
To my family, dad, mum, sisters thank you for holding my hands and loving me. To my Girlfriend, Michelle, thank you for spending countless nights waiting for me, supporting me through all these years. To my friends (too many to name, but you know who you are ) thanks for the encouragements and fun times together. To my Lecturers, thank you for guiding me and laying the foundation. Lastly, to my past and present colleagues, thank you for trusting and holding on with me through thick and thin.
I’ve spent 10 years preparing myself and up till today, I’m still learning. I hope this humble story of my life could inspire the next generation of passionate Singaporeans to join me.
last but not last, I’ll like to leave with a sentence for you to think about, “dreams are dreams if you don’t start working on it, and if you have the passion, are you ready to put in the effort to turn it into a reality? ”