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48 Singaporean Seconds: This chef shares the same birthday as Singapore

Published on Jul 12, 2013 8:34 PM

Singapore celebrates its 48th birthday on Aug 9, and to tie in with this,The Straits Times Photo Desk has put together 48 Singaporean Seconds, an audio-visual tribute to Singaporeans who have made this little red dot their home.

We are releasing their stories and videos in the next few weeks. In the fifth instalment of our series, we talk to Chef Ku Keong.

Ku Keong, 48, chef

Chef Ku Keong shares the same birthday as Singapore's National Day - Aug 9, 1965.

Chef Ku Keong, 48, shares the same birthday as Singapore's National Day - August 9, 1965 – an affinity that drew him to his new home country. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

It is a link the Hong Kong-born man believes drew him to his new home.

The executive Chinese chef at Conrad Centennial Singapore currently helms the award-winning Golden Peony restaurant, but his achievements did not come easy.

He had wanted to move to Singapore when he was 18. He was worried about the uncertainty surrounding the impending Hong Kong hand-over from Britain to China.

But his application for residency was turned away as he only had secondary-school qualifications. He was advised by officials at the Singapore embassy to learn a skill to improve his chances.

Driven by his love for food, he picked up cooking and worked his way up the culinary ladder. Over the next two decades, he worked in various hotels and restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia, honing his skills as a chef before joining Conrad Centennial in 2004.

Today, the 48-year-old father of an 11-year-old son lives in a four-room HDB flat in Sengkang and has been a Singapore citizen since 2010. He is married to a beautician, who is a Singapore permanent resident originally from Malaysia.

While he still makes the occasional trip back to Hong Kong to visit family and friends, he regards Singapore as his true home.

"Whenever I return from travels and the plane lands at Changi Airport, I'd think to myself: I'm truly back home," he says.

- Photos and videos by The Straits Times Picture Desk