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Meet the Team: ANZA Joint Sports Coordinator Marnie Watson

Current role: CEO Pathways, UP Education

Years in Singapore: 8

Why did you want to join the ANZA Exec? I love being involved in events which foster a welcoming environment and help people find networks. As I have relocated multiple times in Asia over the last 20 years, I understand the positive and powerful impact a warm community welcome can make to the expat experience.

What would you like to achieve for ANZA? I look forward to providing more support to the amazing ANZA office team and continue raising the profile of ANZA to gain increased membership and volunteers for our groups.

For more info on ANZA’s Executive Comittee roles go to anza.org.sg/executive-committee-positions

How to Insure your Jewellery & Valuables

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Whether it’s a wedding ring, a luxury handbag, or a family heirloom, everyone has prized possessions. Often, their value is more symbolic than financial. For example, it’s the memory of a surprise proposal at your favorite restaurant or a gorgeous painting you fell in love with at first sight. It’s natural to want to protect these valuable possessions and safeguard them against losses or damage. The experts at Pacific Prime Singapore offer some tips on jewellery and valuable insurance options in Singapore and beyond.

What does jewellery insurance cover?

Jewellery insurance, such as the Jewel Plus policy from Pacific Prime Singapore and Chubb Singapore, protects your treasures from a variety of losses, including;

  • All-inclusive coverage: From gemstones to watches to sculptures, jewellery insurance covers a wide spectrum of valuables.
  • ‘All risks’ coverage: Protects you against thefts, losses, damages, disappearances, fire, and natural disasters.
  • Worldwide coverage: Misplaced your necklace on a trip to France? You’re covered.
  • Coverage for new items: Shop to your heart’s content knowing that whatever new piece you buy will be automatically covered up to 25% of the sum insured.
  • High replacement value: Replacement value covered is up to 125% of jewellery value.
  • Sets and pairs coverage: Lost only one item in a set? You’ll get full coverage anyway.

How to evaluate and insure jewellery

Your premiums depend on your valuables. Usually, an insurer will ask you for the estimate or appraisal of your items. You may need to hire a specialist to evaluate family heirlooms and art pieces. Alternatively, you can provide purchase invoices to determine the insurable value. Don’t have any of these available? Jewel Plus offers a free appraisal through its partners.

Secure jewellery insurance with a trusted insurance broker

Reputable insurance brokers, such as Pacific Prime Singapore offer a free, personalised quote. Feel free to contact them for impartial advice, and answers to any insurance questions you have. Jewel Plus is also exclusively distributed by Pacific Prime. Interested to learn more? Check out their guide to jewellery insurance.

Aside from jewellery insurance, they also offer a wide variety of insurance products, such as private health insurance, and business insurance.

Meet the Chef – Oliver-Truesdale Jutras, OFC

Oliver and wife Phoebe

What drew you to Singapore?
My partner Phoebe (who is also in the kitchen at OFC) and I have always dreamed of having a garden/farm located on restaurant grounds. Cynthia Chua, founder of Spa Esprit Group, came to eat at a pop-up we were running in France and we got to chatting. Long story short and a few flights later, we loved the spot which had a lot of untapped potential. Here we are, three years later.

What does your current role involve?
The core of my work involves interpreting and executing the concept of the restaurant, which is to provide a vision of what food could look like if it was responsibly curated. The most important part of my role has been reaching out to a diverse array of local suppliers for interesting products, and connecting with the most responsible international operations for a supply of ethical products to fill any gaps. We also try to interpret traditional ingredients in innovative ways and offer a new take on what it means to be a sustainable restaurant. We’re not fully there yet, but incremental improvements all the time is the only way to achieve something resembling sustainability in the long run.

Where did you learn to cook?
My father is a retired chef and my mother is an accomplished vegetarian cook. I didn’t necessarily train with them but there was always interesting food around and after I broke out of my youthful fussy palate there was plenty to keep me engaged. Formally, my culinary education was at The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island in Vancouver. I am also a voracious reader of cookbooks, so the learning doesn’t ever really finish.

What do you offer at OFC?
A unique blend of food that is creative, responsibly sourced, and tasty. We have positive collaborations with responsible farms; we support a few organic farms within Singapore and many more in Southeast Asia. And we have committed to have any meats we import be carbon neutral, which is a huge step in footprint reduction. Protein sources tend to be the highest impact goods that restaurants deal in, so it’s a massive move towards sustainability just to commit to that. We also support local fish farmers and crustacean suppliers to keep the local economy vibrant and we’re trying to encourage them to do their best in terms of responsible farming as well.

How did COVID-19 impact OFC?
Like many others, we went to a delivery system. But we also wanted to support and promote local farms, so we set up a small grocery. Initially at OFC, but we expanded for a short time to Tiong Bahru Bakery’s Eng Hoon flagship for a wider audience. We were very lucky to have people coming out to support the grocery, buying pasta kits, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bags, and our homemade pickles. It was really an honour to feel the genuine care and warmth so many people had for the restaurant.

How has the past year affected you personally?
Personally, it was morale. My team was great, stalwart and loyal, but I really suffered from not having people in the restaurant. I feed off the energy of having people in the restaurant and I think a big part of the reason I’m in hospitality is because of the direct engagement I have with guests. My team and Phoebe were amazing at keeping my spirits up. I focused a lot on eating healthy food and lost some weight that I’ve been struggling to jettison with my day-to-day chef lifestyle. I hit the books again, which I haven’t done for a few years, and we conceptualised a lot of things for the future here at OFC which we’re very excited about.

What’s next?
We are hoping to keep forging ahead with plans for an in-soil farm beside the restaurant and to engage our guests even more deeply on the concept of getting to know your food.

openfarmcommunity.com
shop.openfarmcommunity.com

Writing a Children’s Book in Singapore

Photo: Karen Lucas

“Walking is my favourite way to explore a destination. During my first months in Singapore, as soon as the kids were in school, I would take a bus or MRT, get off somewhere new and spend the morning walking. Every walk would be different, another culture was only a few stops away. On days when I needed nature, I would head to one of the nature reserves or Bukit Brown Cemetery.
One of the most intriguing things I noticed on my walks in residential areas were the offerings – little collages of food, joss sticks and candles – on the pavement. In August, when the Hungry Ghost Festival month began, the number of offerings increased and old oil drums with ash from burnt paper effigies appeared. I wanted to know why they were there? Why the ghosts were hungry?

Hungry Ghost festival offering of burnt paper money

I discovered that there are various beliefs around the hungry ghosts throughout China and South East Asia, but in essence these ghosts are spirits that are not at rest. They are unsatisfied, hungry, because of the way their lives ended or because they were forgotten by their descendants. One month every year, the seventh month in the Chinese calendar, they are on holiday from the realm of the dead and roam the streets, seeking nourishment. In addition to the offerings of food and burnt paper effigies, live stage performances, called getai, are held to entertain both the living and the dead.
I thought a lot about these ghosts, especially on my hikes in the wilderness of Bukit Brown among crumbling gravestones. The idea for The Hungry Ghost sparked, when I asked myself: “What if a girl who had just moved to Singapore met a hungry ghost who needed her help?”
This caused an explosion of other questions: Who is this ghost? Who is the girl? Why does the ghost seek out this particular girl? How can the girl help the ghost? Are they somehow related?
The hungry ghosts are often perceived to be vicious and vengeful, but I mainly felt sad for the ones that had been forgotten by their loved ones. And so, the importance of remembering those we have lost, and how that impacts our way of dealing with grief, became a key aspect of the story.
Aware that I was writing about a culture that isn’t my own and a place where I was only a resident for four years, I anchored the book in the perspective of someone with my own background. Therefore, the main character, Freja, comes from Denmark. This made it more difficult to find a family connection between Freja and the ghost, but it enabled me to describe Singapore from an outsider’s fresh viewpoint.
It took a couple of years, but eventually I found answers to all my questions (and about a thousand more) and finished writing the book.
Many of my specific questions around superstitions, local folklore, and how to scare ghosts away (by jangling a large bundle of keys, in case you are wondering) were answered by my Singaporean writer friends.
Connecting with the local chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a worldwide organisation with more than 20,000 members) was the first thing I did when I moved to Singapore. The group is a good mix of expats and locals, illustrators and writers – of everything from picture books to middle grade and young adult novels – and it became my tribe in Singapore. The monthly meetups are valuable both for the themed presentations and the informal discussions and camaraderie. The critique sub-groups were immensely helpful to get feedback on my manuscript from people who were writing with a similar audience in mind, and I learnt just as much from critiquing my peers. Find out more about the groups at singapore.scbwi.org.
The Singapore SCBWI members also led me to the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content), an annual international conference for writers and illustrators arranged by the National Library Board of Singapore. At the festivals, I connected with writers from Asia, Australia, and Europe, and this was also where I first met my London-based publisher and launched my debut novel, The Missing Barbegazi.
These events took place in the National Library and made this favourite spot even more special to me. It’s no surprise that the library plays a role in how Freja solves the mystery in the book.
There is also food for the living in The Hungry Ghost. Freja’s friends introduce her to chicken rice, roti prata, carrot cake, kueh pie tee, popiah and many other Singaporean dishes that I hunger for on a daily basis. When I return to Singapore, my first walk will definitely be to the nearest hawker centre.”

The Hungry Ghost is released on 24 September

The Hungry Ghost
Freja arrives in Singapore during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, when spirits are said to roam the streets. She’s struggling to settle into her dad’s new, ‘happy’ family, and dreams only of escaping home and leaving this hot, unfamiliar city.
Then one night, a mysterious girl in a white dress appears in the garden. Freja follows this figure to lush, secretive corners of the city, seeking to understand the girl’s identity. Her search will lead her to an old family mystery – one that must be unravelled before the month is over, to allow both girls to be freed from the secrets of the past.
The Hungry Ghost is an adventure story for middle-grade readers, set in the real world with fantasy elements. At its heart is a mystery and a deep love of family – both the living and those we have lost. The Hungry Ghost is released on 24 September and is available to preorder or buy at local children’s book outlet Closetful of Books closetfulofbooks.com/products/the-hungry-ghost

About the author:
H. S. Norup is the author of The Hungry Ghost and The Missing Barbegazi—a Sunday Times Book of the Year in 2018. Originally from Denmark, she has lived in six different countries and now resides in Switzerland with her husband and two teenage sons. When not writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors either skiing, hiking, walking, golfing or taking photos. Find out more on hsnorup.com or @hsnorup on Twitter / Instagram.

Celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival!

Lanterns are a tradition during this lunar festival

Held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is a modern-day celebration of a centuries-old harvest ritual, which has been going since the early Tang dynasty (618–907) From Korea to Vietnam, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, the Mid-Autumn festival is marked by various customs and festivities.  In Singapore we associate the festival with lanterns, mooncakes, a full moon, and dragons.

Mooncakes come in all sort of flavours and colours, but baked is traditional

Marvellous mooncakes

It’s impossible to live in Singapore and not have tasted or been gifted with a mooncake, which are sold over the Mid-Autumn Festival season. This traditional snack is believed to have originated from Yuan-dynasty revolutionaries (1271–1368), who used the pastries to pass secret messages between each other.

Traditionally, mooncakes are golden pastries filled with salty egg yolks and a sweet paste made from lotus seeds or beans. Today there are lots of different fillings and wild flavours including durian, truffle, milk tea, chocolate and more. Silky snowskin casings are as popular as ever, and come in all colours of the rainbow.

Try your hand at making mooncakes at home. We did!

Janice Wong has gone DIY with her Snowskin Mooncake DIY Kit ($65) The kit includes snowskin premix, a flower mould, gorgeous tin for gifting, and Praline Chocolate Milo, Red bean Tea, Lychee Rose and Peanut fillings. We tried it here at ANZA and it’s a super fun activity for families, and pretty easy to master!

Lanterns

The Mid-Autumn festival is also known for bright, festive lanterns. The traditional variety are fashioned from simple paper and lit by wax candles, but today there are elaborate colourful wire structures which can be shaped into animals, cartoon characters and more.

How you can celebrate
Since the Mid-Autumn Festival is about lunar gazing and lighting lanterns, save your celebrations until after the sun has set. And COVID-19 hasn’t manage to rain on this parade. There’s still plenty going on, even if this year will be a little different…

Garden’s by the Bay are  keeping the festive spirit alive with both virtual and on site offerings from 18 September to 4 October. With strict social distances measures in place, lantern sets will be lighted up at the outdoor gardens from 7pm to 10pm. More info here 

Chinatown won’t be hosting nightly stage shows, dragon dancing or the festive bazaar but you can still wander down and check out the street light up and join the festivities online. There will be an Online Escape Room with a customised Mid-Autumn Festival storyline, on Online Lantern Painting Competition on Facebook, a 360 Virtual Tour of the street light up and more!

Singapore’s Best Walking Trails

 

1. Chestnut Nature Park
Chestnut Ave, 679514
Split into North and South regions, Chestnut Nature Park is Singapore’s largest nature park, spanning 81 hectares. Hiking trails are clearly marked, with a 2.1km track in the South and 3.5km in the North. Wander through majestic ficus trees, durian trees and ferns. Get a glimpse into the past, with remnants of old kampong dwellings. Look out for endangered bird species and reptiles. There’s also an 8.2km mountain bike track, if you prefer to whizz through the landscape on two wheels.

2. Coney Island
Beside Punggol Promenade Nature Walk
Coney Island, or Pulau Serangoon, is a 133-hectare island, located off the northeastern coast of Singapore. The island has lots of signposted walking trails and a newly built boardwalk. Explore a wide variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves, and casuarina woodlands. There are also 80 species of birds, pretty butterflies, and other wildlife.

3. Labrador Nature Reserve
Labrador Villa Rd, 119187
The Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk takes you through three main areas: Alexandra Garden Trail, Berlayer Creek and the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk. Birdlife is thriving in the reserve, which was also an important World War II site. Check out a machine gun post and artillery pieces or take a guided heritage tour. Tamarind Hill restaurant is set in a historic colonial bungalow within the reserve, offering the perfect hilltop escape to enjoy a cool drink or Thai-Burmese meal.

4. Bukit Brown Cemetery
A cemetery might seem an odd place to take a hike, but Bukit Brown is no ordinary burial ground. Located in a 200-hectare tropical forest bordering Lornie Road and parts of the Pan-Island Expressway, it was established as a public burial ground for the Chinese in 1922. The Wayfinder is a self-guided walking trail along 25 culturally significant tombs, all with a fascinating history. For more information go to singaporeheritage.org/bukitbrownwayfinder

5. Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve
301 Neo Tiew Cres, 718925
The Sungei Buloh Wetlands are a biodiversity wonder, with 202 hectares of mangrove swamps, mudflats, ponds and forests. Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park boasts a variety of hiking trails, up to 3km long. Discover 140 species of birds, and other native inhabitants like mudskippers, crabs, shellfish, water snakes, spiders, monitor lizards, and otters. Take a spot at observation hides or rent binoculars to bird-watch. Spot mudskippers, monkeys and climbing crabs on the mangrove boardwalks.

6. Pulau Ubin
Board a bumboat at Changi Point Ferry Terminal
This lush, granite island boasts abundant greenery and wildlife and is one of Singapore’s last surviving 1960s style kampongs. At 1,020 hectares, there is no shortage of hiking trails, including the Tree Trail – which winds through old coconut and rubber plantations, as well as banyan, banana, cocoa, jackfruit, and durian trees. Ubin is also home to Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems – where you can get up close with mangroves and a coastal forest ecosystem. Need a heart starter? Hike 75m up Puaka Hill for a breathtaking panoramic view.

7. Kranji Marshes
11 Neo Tiew Lane 2, 718814
Home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies and 33 different kinds of dragonflies, this 57 hectare freshwater marshland is home to unique biodiversity. Take a short stroll in the 1km public area or book a 3km (two-hour) guided tour in the core conservation area, via NParks website. Look out for birds and reptiles, such as woodpeckers and monitor lizards.

8. Coast-to-Coast trail
Up for a challenge? The 36km Coast-to-Coast (C2C) Trail cuts across the island and links Coney Island in the northeast to Jurong Lake Gardens in the west. Walk through quarry lakes, rustic forests, and some of the best parks and nature reserves in Singapore, including Bukit Batok Nature Park, MacRitchie Reservoir, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and the Botanic Gardens. You’ll have to use roadside paths and park connectors to get there, it’ll take at least seven hours, and you’ll need plenty of water and snacks!

For information on all the walks mentioned, go to nparks.gov.sg

Meet the Team: Committee Member, Christo Fangupo

Current role: General Manager – SongDivision Asia

Years in Singapore? 4

Why did you want to join the ANZA Exec? To really get amongst the community and give back.

What skills or experience do you bring to the committee? I bring a creative and entrepreneurial skill set to the team. I am an ideas person, and will enthusiastically bring these to the table for the betterment of the community. I’ve been working in the Arts/Music Industry for the last 20 years as a performer and composer. I’ve also been involved in the MICE (Meetings. Incentives, Conferencing & Events) industry for the last 12 years, both here and in Australia. My expertise is in the design and delivery of small to large scale events, and the facilitation of music-based team building for corporate clientele.

What would you like to achieve for ANZA? I would like to help build an arts-focused movement within the association. We have thriving sports programs, which are amazing, and I think that adding this new element would really create more value for our members.

For more info on ANZA’s Executive Comittee roles go to anza.org.sg/executive-committee-positions

Host a Petite Pink event in October

Casual Coffee’s annual ANZA Wear Pink Casual Coffee Morning has been disrupted due to COVID-19 restrictions, so the Casual Coffee team is inviting you to host your own Petite Pink event in support of Breast Cancer Foundation.

Invite a maximum four of your friends to participate (or five if you are hosting at home), decide on a theme and a donation amount. You might like to host a petite Pink High Tea, Pink Picnic, Pink High Tea, Pink Walk, Paddle or Ride, Pink Pungs (for the Mahjong crowd!) or even Pink Bubbles by the pool (yes, please!). Have fun by dressing up in all shades of blush, rose and neon pink. There is also the option of purchasing pins for your group from the ANZA office for $50 – with all proceeds going to BCF.

Keen to hold a Petite Pink Event? Register your interest here  info@anza.org.sg

More info:

Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) is a non-profit organisation with the mission to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. BCF Singapore is dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness, promoting early detection, and providing support to people affected by the disease. All donations are gratefully accepted, and they also train volunteers to work in their support programmes.  For more info go to their website

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BCF is encouraging all women to take charge of their own breast health with regular screening and self-exams.  Learn more about breast health here

JCU: Stay Ahead in the Business World

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Today’s business students need to be prepared and stay ahead of the curve

The world is changing rapidly, spurring significant shifts in the way we work and learn, as well as in the way businesses behave. For those of us interested in pursuing business education, it can feel increasingly difficult to grasp the turbulent climate and deal with things confidently. What’s more, with the current threat of the COVID-19 pandemic lurking around every corner, these are uncertain times indeed. So, how can we be prepared and stay ahead of the curve?

Making impactful changes
To prepare graduates for the challenges of such a complex world, James Cook University (JCU) is quick to adapt to change. Professor Abhishek Bhati, Campus Dean and Head of Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement at James Cook University in Singapore, says; “In this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, we have to ensure that JCU graduates are equipped with relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes to deliver desirable outcomes in their professional field. We constantly review and update our MBA (Master of Business Administration) to ensure that it retains its cutting edge.”

This year, the Singapore campus has refreshed its Master of Business Administration program to add a suite of six new majors that students can choose to specialise in – Analytics and Business Solutions; Creative Marketing; Entrepreneurship; Finance; Global Talent Management; and MICE, Tourism and Hospitality. These specialisations are a key asset in a tough job market. In fact, according to Professor Bhati; “market intelligence shows that employers are looking for specific skillsets in management executives.” With these options, students will have greater support in pursuing their desired career paths and can tailor their learning and skills to fit their preferences.

Finding the right major
Figuring out which major is the right one can be a difficult task. The MBA refresh is designed to deliver foundation management skills in all graduates, along with a deeper layer of specialised skills in specific management disciplines in order to excel in the workplace. Would-be students should think about their career ambitions and whether the major will help them to get ahead in the role that they want.

With the rise of big data, businesses increasingly need managers who can quickly analyse and understand the implications of a huge amount of information. The Analytics and Business Solutions major gives students’ state-of-the-art tools and techniques to sort and analyse data, and make valuable organisational impact based on the data. As such, those with degrees in these fields can impact a number of areas of business – including finance, marketing, supply chain, and more.

Meanwhile, the Creative Marketing major places data-driven creativity at its core and combines marketing knowledge with advanced management and analytical skills. Students taking up this major will be equipped with data-driven approaches to understand markets, competitors, and portfolios of product offerings.

Budding entrepreneurs may consider the Entrepreneurship major, which is designed for prospective students who are keen on creating new businesses. Here, students will be exposed to the latest trends, tools, techniques, theories and practices to identify, refine, incubate and grow their new business ideas.

Interested in a career in finance instead? The Finance major offers an in-depth exploration of the subject – including financial planning and analysis, foreign exchange risk management, fund positioning and budgeting, international financial management, navigating IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) and mergers and acquisitions, and financial derivatives.

On the other hand, the Global Talent Management major welcomes those interested in the field of human resources (HR). It equips students with HR professional knowledge and practical tools, HR ethics and social responsibility, global vision, and team building and problem-solving abilities.

Finally, the major in MICE, Tourism and Hospitality provides students with an international vision of the tourism industry, the analytical tools and creative solutions for executives in tourism and hotel companies, and the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector.

The potential for more diverse MBA students from JCU presents an extraordinary opportunity for these future leaders to lead and mould a new business landscape, and for businesses to grow in more interesting directions.

Reflecting a rich history
James Cook University has a rich history of carrying out ground-breaking research and delivering world-class education, across both its Australian and Singaporean bases. 2020 marks the University’s 50th anniversary – an accomplishment that signifies its dedication to grow with the times and help students realise their immense potential.

The way education is delivered has changed over the past 50 years. By continuing to evolve and grow, JCU ensures that its graduates are equipped with vital skills to take on the challenges and complexities of the world.

However, one thing that will not change is the University’s commitment to a brighter future: one in which students can study in world-class facilities, be taught by high-quality and engaged academics, and connect with global experts. James Cook University will remain a place where practical learning and self-development is valued. After all, how else can we make a difference, and ensure that the world becomes a better place for everyone to live in and find success?

Learn more about Master of Business Administration program offered at the Singapore campus of James Cook University.

Sandwich Generation

Sarnies creator Ben Lee and his mini-me!

Ben Lee’s concept for a simple hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop has grown into the well-known Sarnies brand. As well as expanding the café into Bangkok, the Sarnies group run a local micro roastery coffee business, Pimp My Salad in ParsaBella, and have plans for a sourdough bakery, bar, and online ice-cream brand. Originally from Sydney, Ben moved to Singapore in 2009 and hasn’t called Australia home for 17 years. “It feels more like a holiday when I go back,” he says. “Since 2017 I’ve been moving between Singapore and Bangkok, so both places feel like home.”
A former banker, Ben was originally planning a move to Colombia, South America, where his wife is from, when Singapore stepped in. “Just as we were about to move there, I received a call from a friend who offered me a job at a bank in Singapore, so we decided to take up the offer.”

Searching for a Sarnie
Working in the CBD, Ben craved a quick sandwich or ‘sarnie’ for lunch but found his options in Singapore lacking. “I wanted to set up a takeaway sandwich shop to serve my own needs. I figured other people would be into it too, if I made them good enough.” After mulling it over for six months, Ben found the perfect location and made the leap to small business owner.
“I found a spot on Telok Ayer street and decided to do it. It was close enough to the CBD for people to walk to but in a much more quaint shophouse area, although it was mostly KTV bars back in those days. The space was a little too big to be just for takeaway sandwiches, so we added seats, a coffee machine, and put other things on the menu.”
Initially the café focused on the plate, rather than the cup. “Before Sarnies, the early specialty cafes in Singapore were all about the coffee, and food options were mostly pastries in a window. So, we modelled Sarnies on Australian cafes, which are food-forward.” Despite their original business model, Sarnies is known for excellent coffee, along with creative sandwiches, zingy salads, and Australian style brunch favourites. “We roast our coffee fresh ourselves and I think it’s damn good!” says Ben.

Brunch faves at Sarnies

A steep learning curve
Ben’s background in finance didn’t prepare him for the rigours of running a café. “Being able to function in a highly structured banking environment made me pretty naïve on how under prepared I was at starting a business,” he laughs. “The difficulty and competitiveness of running a restaurant means the learning curve is steeper than most other things!” Ben says his lessons in the F&B industry would “fill a thick book” but he wouldn’t trade it for the world. “The most important thing for me is to have a great team involved. Ultimately any success we’ve had is because of the incredible people at Sarnies and our extended family of businesses.”

Trying Thailand
With the success of Sarnies in Singapore, Ben saw an opportunity to try the brand in Thailand’s capital city. “I was consulting on a restaurant in Bangkok, so I learnt a bit about the city through that. Café hopping is a national pastime and the city is growing rapidly, so we decided to dig further and eventually opened a shop.” Sarnies Bangkok quickly became the place to be seen, drawing in A-list customers. “It’s been popular so far and has even turned into a bit of a celebrity hangout!” says Ben. “Again, we focused a lot on the quality of the food first and coffee second, which has made the place unique. We are particular about sourcing local produce and the mix of Thai and western flavours has been a hit.”
Ben is always on the lookout for new business opportunities – both here and in Bangkok. “We have a coffee roasting business that distributes to offices and other cafes in Singapore and Thailand,” he says. “We are also behind Pimp My Salad Singapore, and have just launched this brand in Bangkok. We’re opening a sourdough bakery near our Sarnies outlet in Bangkok and also recently signed a lease on a very cool old building in the same area we think we’ll turn into a wine bar. And there might be an online ice-cream brand on the way soon too!”

Sarnies has become a landmark in Telok Ayer

COVID curveball
Like many in the F&B industry, Ben was caught “totally off guard” by this year’s pandemic. “We were planning on becoming more online-savvy pre-COVID but when it was forced upon us, the team went into overdrive and created more online channels for people to reach us. Our friends at Chow Social, the agency that runs our social media, were awesome in helping us do this.” COVID-19 presented personal and professional challenges to the Sarnies team, but they decided to face them with a positive attitude. “As scary as it was, we made the decision to go on the offensive rather than the defensive,” says Ben. “Keeping that mindset while sales slowed to almost nothing was the challenging part. Our survival is thanks to the positive-minded team of people we have in both Singapore and Bangkok.”

sarnies.com

Ben’s Faves!

Favourite sarnie? Chicken schnitzel

Favourite place for a drink? If it’s not out the front of Sarnies it would be the rooftop at Potato Head in Keong Saik Road.

Food or drink you miss most from Australia? Mum’s mac and cheese

Late night snack? Whatever leftovers are in the fridge, pan fried.

Favourite hawker dish? Black carrot cake

Favourite fine diner? Burnt Ends