Immanuel on Enoch

Chef Enoch Teo, the rebel who turned his life around

Mr Enoch Teo turned his life around after going through a drug rehabilitation programme and completing his national service.
Mr Enoch Teo turned his life around after going through a drug rehabilitation programme and completing his national service.

Chef Enoch Teo may be a savvy businessman and skilled cook, but he can also be a little muddle-headed at times.

His business partner, Mr Immanuel Tee, says he needed a lot of guidance in 2011, when they were line cooks at the fine-dining Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh.

One time, he was sent to collect razor clams from the chiller, but dropped everything when the sleeve of his chef's jacket got caught by the storage shelf.

Mr Tee says: "There was a loud crash, a few seconds of silence, then screaming and shouting at Enoch."

He says Mr Teo also used to have poor discipline, but he does not elaborate as he does not want to put his partner in a spot.

Mr Teo, however, is not afraid to admit that he used to be involved in gangs and drugs.

 

He says: "I would come to work after drinking until 5am. That razor clam incident was probably after one of those days."

He was a rebellious youth and had fallen into the wrong crowd as a teenager.

However, he sobered up after going through a drug rehabilitation programme and, after national service, he was determined to turn his life around.

He was working at French restaurant Absinthe when he got into a motorcycle accident and had to undergo six operations. He stayed in hospital for three months.

He says: "The accident got me thinking about how long I can work. It made me value life more."

Concerned that he would not get another job easily with his chequered past, Mr Teo, an At- Sunrice GlobalChef Academy alumnus, decided to be his own boss.

With his compensation from the accident, he opened his first outlet, Le Petit Paradis, at the Alibabar coffee shop in Katong, in 2012. It had just a stove, portable oven and a small deep-fryer.

He says: "It was plug and play."

It was around this time that he reconnected with Mr Tee at a food trade show and the latter saw him in a new light.

Mr Tee says: "It was a 180-degree turn. Enoch was more confident and business-savvy as he was already running a stall and I would seek advice from him."

Today, the business includes his Thai-born wife, Ms Dream Sagulchakhon, 27, who works as a cashier. They have no children.

His mother, Madam Linda Hoe, 53, handles administrative matters for the business.

His father, Mr Brandon Teo, 56, is an insurance agent and his younger sister, Esther, 23, is a photographer.

On being one-half of a business, he says: "It took some time to shift from the mindset of being a sole proprietor to having a co-owner.

"As your own boss, you can do whatever you want. There's no one to answer to except yourself and your staff."

Mr Tee says: "It's about give and take. There are times when we have intense WhatsApp conversations at 2am.

"But by the next day, everything is settled."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Rebel who turned his life around'. Print Edition | Subscribe