From chef to assistant V-P of operations

WITH an Electronics, Computer & Communications Engineering Diploma from Nanyang Polytechnic, Mr Tan Boon Lock could have got a job in the well-paying engineering field.

But he realised early on that engineering was not his passion and that he "would not last" in the industry. And salary was never his top priority, he said.

Mr Tan, 33, had worked as a part-time cook while studying at the polytechnic. After his graduation and national service, he found a job as an assistant chef at Japanese restaurant chain Nihon Mura in 2006.

There, he clocked 12-hour days, six days a week.

Not deterred by hardship, Mr Tan pushed on, keenly aware that as "not many Singaporeans wanted to join the F&B industry", he stood a better chance of succeeding.

And he did, rising from an assistant chef to restaurant chef to operations manager in just four years. Mr Tan is now Nihon Mura's assistant vice-president of operations.

The firm, which opened in 2002, has 70 full-time employees, of which 40 per cent are Singaporeans. About 45 per cent of its staff have been around for at least five years. About 8.5 per cent have been there for over 10 years.

Mr Tan said the camaraderie keeps him "very attached" to the company.

For example, he has regular friendly culinary skills challenges with fellow chefs to motivate each other to improve on speed and quality.

"There are not many obstacles in life, unless you stop yourself from succeeding," he said.