Says Abbyshayne Lim, who at 33, wears multiple hats as co-owner of Symmetry restaurant and bar.
"Not only did I have to be a chef, I had to become a barista, bartender, photographer, food stylist, leader, mentor, counsellor and entrepreneur." For her, it's perspiration before passion. "Passion doesn't drive me. Passion is overrated; it ebbs and flows."
She recalls her first encounters with the kitchen as a childhood romance. "It began with my mother. She and her siblings were - and still are - great cooks. I was always a 'helper' from a really young age, acting as a sort of sous chef, flipping eggs and preparing ingredients." Later, that love led to commitment. She enrolled in the Australian culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, and after graduating, interned at a couple of restaurants in Australia, before joining a Singapore outlet for a year.
By 25, she accepted a proposal...
To be head chef here, at CMPB restaurant. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Her then-boss later became her business partner in 2012 when she set up her own restaurant.
She credits her family and friends as pillars of strength in her journey.
"My dad, together with my partner, backed me up financially whenever I needed the help," she says.
"Although my dad might never quite comprehend why I prefer cooking in the kitchen and serving guests to being served, I could never have made it without him and my family."
Now, Symmetry is finally at a point that she is starting to see all that effort pay off. "I invested all of my savings in Symmetry and fortunately, we broke even within the second year."
A long-term relationship takes...
More than a dash of innovation. "When I started this business, I knew I had to make it," she says. "I tell myself to always persevere and just keep swimming." That balance of\npragmatism and passion, a recipe for keeping alive the dream she made come true.
"Witnessing my team go for new, almost crazy ideas with the potential for success gets my heart and creativity pumping," she says. "The unwavering desire for more in cooking, and the constant hunger to surpass myself. The obsession of wanting to do better in my craft drives me crazy - in a very good way."
It calls for guts, a plan, and prudence to face an industry forecast of razor-thin profits, showers in some areas, and rising costs of rents and changes in labour laws.
"Restaurants are at the mercy of the weather. You would be fortunate to even survive the first year," she says. "I've learnt to manage my finances. The importance of saving, especially as a business-owner, is often understated. Spending and saving is all relative, after all; how much you earn is far less important than how much you save."
That, and building a hedge for herself. "I am growing my money via endowment savings plans and a couple of unit trusts as I don't have time to monitor the markets. I will be engaging a financial planner to help better plan my personal finances.
"Life is good. I'm happy to be doing what I do. I eat food, cook food, read food, think food and dream food. Cooking is the only thing I want to be doing," she says.