hygge life

October 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

“For an introvert, you really make an effort to seek for a community.”, he said.

I protest of course. How could an introvert who spends most of her time finding ways to be alone with thoughts and the sun or a book, wants to be around people? How could someone who enjoy her own company more than sharing with awkward strangers enjoy big dinners or crowds?


Meeting Pamela today from @Hyggesg put my partner’s words into perspectives. Pamela and I connected via Instagram, even though we already know some mutual friends before hand, it didn’t change the fact that I initiated a meet up via a portal with a perfect stranger. It is odd that for someone who craves space and get energised by spending time alone would want to stretch her social circle. I cherish silence wholeheartedly yet I spend my weekends either working out with a group of high active trainers or stretching out on a mat in a yoga room filled with new comers/regulars yogi practitioners, and look forward to having beers every Sunday evening with my kitchen crew. Plus, if I have the time, I would search for exercise events or community meditation/yoga classes and spend an hour or two surrounded with, new faces.

Some of my radical life events happen because of these meet-ups or initiating a conversation. Writing a cookbook, getting a job at a vegan bakery etc.. Nevertheless, I simply could not put it his words into my head.

Foremost, an introvert isn’t one who avoid social events. Misunderstood. We like people, if they are to our likings. Second, I usually spend the next two days hiding after a big party. All my energy has been drained on one occasion and if I may warn you, I will spend the next couple of hours getting agitated on anything that doesn’t seek interest to me or resonate to my heart. In another words, if I don’t reply you, wait; if I flare up at you, give me space (or dark chocolate, whichever is more convenient). Thirdly, we actually like meeting new people. Because I have so little in common with the other folks, when I find someone who share the same ideology or philosophy there is no turning back in conversations! You are literally in my books, for life!

Back to Pamelia and Hyggesg. She isn’t a coffee person, so we opted for a common ground where I thought would be resonate with her approach in cooking. Simple ingredients, cosy atmosphere, friendly service and quality. She walked comfortably into the dining room and we sat down in welcoming brown sofa. We shared our kitchen experiences: a fair amount of standing in front of sterilised stainless steel tables, cooking standardised food, surrounding ourselves with males/a testosterone filled environment and, unconsciously affecting our daily lives.

“I’m a home cook at heart”, as she takes the pillow from her back and starts to hug it in front of her chest.

We both are. The cookbook and this blog kept my sanity in check while I go through the daily grind. For her, it’s Hyggesg. Feeding people because deep down, beyond the french brigade, sous vide machines, and cling wraps; we cook because we enjoy watching people dive into flakey croissants that makes a new tie old or bite into a thick juicy burger that  oozes cheese out of their mouth and into their cheeks so that their partner/date can wipe it for them. Creating moments that hold a special spirit or a new ritual for a couple.

“For someone who’s been in the industry for ten years, how do you cope with juggling a balanced life?”, she wonders.

Unintentionally, we share the same impatience or quick temperament. The kitchen to us, is a very time constraint and precise environment. We are getting nagged and scolded all day long by our chefs. “Turn it off now”; “place the garnish on”; “that’s wrong, do it again “. If you watched Burnt the movie, the scene with Sienna Millar throwing the raw fish to her fish boy isn’t a joke, it’s just another day. A calm day is when there are no praises, just quiet cooking and the sounds of burners going on and off.

“Why are you so slow?”

I certainly did not anticipate for us to question that. In a commercial kitchen, we watch each other’s movements and dance in sync. So if one person slows down, the whole crew slows down and there is really no time for someone to slack off. But as time flies, you build a layer of skin that gets numb to yelling, shouting and physical pain. You desensitises yourself and become less human. A control freak.

Remember how Kat Kinsman spoke about Chefs with Issues at MADFEED? Cooks who work so much suffer with unspoken anxiety issues, alcohol abuse, depression etc…. It’s funny to think of how many of us spent hours in a confined space that strives for perfection become out of whack? Is it really worth it?

img_2114I have my first taste of bitterness when I skipped on a reunion dinner for  Lunar New Year. It was the very last meal I could have had with a close cousin, whom I lost to a heart attack.  I had to service to run. I fed families who spent their holidays together but couldn’t do that for my own. The years that followed had more of these empty chairs moments around the dining table. Birthdays dinner get postponed, no more lunch dates with friends (who eventually gave up texting me), family visits were off my calendars, holidays were packed with churning out extra cakes for customers, you get the idea.

Her current boss lost his girlfriend for five years because he was too focus on his job. Sure it got them a one star, but the sacrifice was his and if I could dig more, I am sure it was the crew as well. We do our fair share of sacrifices, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

As she sipped a cup of hot chocolate made with coconut water, she frowned upon knowing this might possibly be her future.

I reassured her that it is a choice.

The awareness you put into your daily life to differentiate what is personal, work and social becomes natural only if you decide to take an action to it. Many lose touch because they consume or get caught in the pursuit of perfection that they forget the imperfections of nature. Some can’t even remember why they even started cook at all.

Writing Kitchen Stories: being in touch with our feelings/moods and relating it closely to cooking; feeding the crew/my family; working out and meditating, are all steps to keep myself in check. Putting myself out there in the open waters, to be vulnerable and allow vulnerability. Gather a community or be part of one that strives on good causes.

While as introverted as we may be, we take time to express ourselves. To pause for a moment before talking and rather do the walks. Because we all know too well that less, is always more.


*film photographs were taken in Burma earlier this year.




July 23, 2015 § 1 Comment

Hello there! How are you doing? I’ve been sitting on this thought for a while now. The thought of writing here again. I haven’t found the courage nor feel like I have the ability to write. The last few months have been a subset of unconfident, poor time management and low self esteem.

During the period of time, I have done some traveling, meditating and more mindful yoga. But the fact remains that I am still fearful of being judged or pointed at for my wrongs more than my rights. That feeling has created a big gap between me and everyone who seemingly wants to encourage good growth. So how can this two ironic terms of “fear” and “encourage” can come together?


Well, let’s start with this. Mother Teresa’s famous quote “If you judge a person you have no time to love them”. The industry I work in is filled with judgmental folks who will criticize you even before you step into the door. The car you drive, the way you wear your pants, the bag you carry, the type of coffee you order, the way you leave your food unattended and to the very last minute we greet you goodbye. It doesn’t stop there, we will still continues to come out with ideas of who you are and what you do.

But that is just how it is. We don’t have time to love our customers if they don’t fall into our check list of yay, and instead of having an open mind we just cross it off, well most of the time at least. Because between the mad rush of services, the demands you want us to fulfill and answering to our bosses/family members and so on…. We just don’t have the time or energy…

And time, as I had learnt, can be an illusion. The past and future come far between what is happening in the Moment. We cannot experience the past, we can remember it, it isn’t happening Now. We cannot predict or feel the future for sure, it is how the mind “projects” it to be. So that leaves us with, the present. Right at that moment when we can and should be fully committed to our values, philosophies to life and our best. But so often fall short in doing so….

The other negative side of thoughts come from the mind. The mind which lives in the past and future, not the moment. It feeds on it to tell us that we need to survive. The past experiences which taught us what to do and not to do. How we got yelled at and so we will not do it again. How we’ve been brought up, our childhood playtime.. How we felt loved and know how to return to that simple experience so to feel loved again. How we choose to walk away from people because the past is more significantly remembered and we don’t want that in the future.

I can hear your thoughts, well Denise isn’t that what all human beings go through? That is entirely right but that is how I’ve learnt that there will always be missed opportunities, no forgiveness and ultimately, no love.

I had concluded that somehow in a rat race society, humans demand more under pressure. We yearn for more because when under that intense energy to fulfill a task or race through the finishing line. Our heartbeats go faster, we breathe deeper, we are more desperate, more stressed, and in the end demand more from everyone or everything because after or during the stress period, we wear ourselves out emotionally,mentally and physically. Find coping mechanism to fill in this gap. We demand from our families, loved ones, the next person we meet and maybe even to the stray cat outside the office.

This is how breakups, divorce, violence, wars and etc starts.

The best healthy way to cope with it? Anything that brings more awareness to your thoughts and doings. With that being said, it is very different from being self absorbed, which is insensitive and ignorant. To be aware is to have a very simple open mind, clear away the negativity, listen attentively, respond with kindness and stray away from the old pattern of conditioned thinking.


I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. It is perhaps one of the most mind blowing yet simple and truthful book I’ve ever read. It focuses on the moment entirely and how one should be more self aware/mindful.

If you go, “yes I do that everyday”, but why are you still at a crossroad? Then perhaps it is just a conditioned mind pattern that you are in and cannot get out off. After all, everything is a matter of perspectives.

Today something really odd hit me. I’ve been thinking of my late cousin again and how little time we spent before his death. How when he first left, I felt a painful regret and grieve, that util today I cannot forgive myself for not spending the last reunion dinner with him. Simply because I was too busy buzzing tables and serving customers. I bought some sunflowers, his favourite, and recalled the happy times we had with his wife and dog.

At the same times, some friends came for advices about people going to leave their lives. It felt like a fortunate event, ironically, that they know the timeline. Even though it is vague, the “knowing” is all there is needed. Because when one “knows”, one becomes aware and present to that matter. They could choose to spend more time with each other and be completely mindful to each other’s thoughts/feelings/actions.

The past will wear my sprit down, the future with my cousin is tarnished. But what I can always do in any present moment is to know that we shared happy memories and in many ways, he has influenced my writings and thoughts. In that moment, is all that really matters.


I doubt I can ever achieve being present to every moment. But that would be a lifelong goal to fulfill. Be positively aware and conscious of the Now. Not let other’s egoic mind or my own be in between the space of love, joy and happiness. To surround myself with the same like-minded people, plant a good thought into seeds and watch it grow into beautiful trees.

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life


January 25, 2014 § 4 Comments

Our dinner celebrated the pre-launch of Nourish. After months of contemplation, we finally have a name for it! We had prepared food using recipes from the cookbook, shared how we met, our inspirations and how we got to this point. The book entails food stories and mood recipes. It illustrates an interconnected relationship between food/mood every human being should understand and appreciate.


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We cannot be more thankful for all the help we’ve got to make the evening so memorable. A big gratitude to Hjgher, the ladies from Ate, Triceratops for the gorgeous flower arrangements, Books Actually, Siew & Yang, Todd Belz, Kitt Santos & your amigas, the journalists, our beloved guests and loved ones.

This is just the beginning of something remarkably beautiful and we are so happy that you are part of it.

The images here are taken from the tags and friends. Do send us more pictures or tag #jovialgathering!

a little goes a long way, grapefruit olive oil cake, brioche and amongst other things

June 28, 2013 § 3 Comments


Another post in three days? I think this must be a personal record. I have not felt like writing so much in a long time. While there has been so many things going on, I can only focus on a few things in my head. Right now, it’s brioche, food writing topics & being honest. I have been obsessed with brioche recipes since we introduced it. The Santa Monica restaurant I used to work in, had the best homemade foolproof recipe which I foolishly left it there. Now I can only recollect memories of the crew helping me knead the buttery dough after it proofed. So I have been researching countless recipes in hope to find the right one.

Lately, I have been exploring the creative side of food writing. Reaching out to different forms of writing style, techniques and topics. Keeping a notebook beside me is much like a best friend listen to your inner thoughts. The most unexpected emotions and moods surface at unruly times, but that is the beauty I find intriguing and keeps me going. Though, I wish it happens more often when I am sitting in front of the computer at six in the morning. It is not the best time to churn out some alphabets before getting ready for work, but a habit I have been wanting to achieve since it’s the only quiet time I have during the day. A clear stream of thoughts reflects the honest self and what is truly important to me.

Of late, it has been trying. While writing silences the sounds in my head and surroundings, I have been facing some hard truth. After looking at the films from my London trip in January, I had realized how much I wanted to start the year with a clean slate. To be treated differently, to be honest with the self, to be kind, to be generous, to stay true and learn. It has not been the same. There were judgements, there were harsh words, there were tough times. Once told that I “shouldn’t be too much of being myself”, I have been trying to project the individual society accepted. Only to realize, how awkward it was and how exhausting it can be.

The very essentials of openness is to accept shame. Shame in any form, like a failed brioche recipe, tried tested tasted and now, moving on. Being fully aware of it, and not being fully afraid of admitting it. It is then, I found the little joys of failing. The hard crusts turn into croutons, old cookies become breakfast dunked in milk for hours, leftover pasta becomes a lunch treat. The unexpected happens.

I had pushed school aside to focus on the surprises. The people, the place and the thoughts. C’est la vie.
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The point isn’t to live without any regret. It is to not hate ourselves for having them – Kathryn Schulz.

hong kong 2013

June 26, 2013 § 2 Comments



Here I am recovering from a massive headache & cold after traveling for two weeks. It is not so much of the inconsistent weather but monosodium glutamate in food & alcohol that resulted in this weak body.We had noodle soups almost everyday, sometimes several times a day. It is very difficult to resist a classic steaming hot soup with thin bouncy noodles, along with dumplings and vegetables. The umami taste is pleasantly soothing even when you are sharing tables with strangers in a dining room packed after 2 minutes of opening. But that is the beauty of the city that never sleeps or cease to stop changing.

My usual tong sui (chinese dessert soup) store in Causeway Bay moved and childhood memories of dining there disappeared. Just like that. But I found new comforts in 18grams coffee and Mana. A year later, Mana still makes the best raw chocolate cake I’d ever had.


We were there for the sweetest wedding at Repulse Bay. Champagne, Ladurée macaroons, local band 53A flew in from Singapore, party bus to Central and supper at 4am. Weddings have a way with making your heart melt with lavishing decorations, handsome lads, gorgeous ladies, romantic stories and even the kindest bartenders. Two individuals coming together as family, embracing flaws and vulnerabilities making their days count with happiness. I used to think they were overrated, but this time it was different.

I saw truth beyond needs and understanding beyond time. An unspoken but subtile feeling of contentment in love.

Finally got the films developed on Stanley Street. A friend called me an international film photographer, capturing images around the globe, collecting rolls of films and develop them in Hong Kong. It’s always a treat.
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in the midst of hectic thoughts and being on tenterhooks

May 9, 2013 § 5 Comments

be neighbourly,
by sharing coffee beans and making jars of cashew butter, while snacking on apple crumble tart


find comfort in lost images

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What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Jack Kerouac, On The Road.

one with soul || Melbourne revisited

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Melbourne revisited in film

We walk along the river, close to midnight with the moonlight reflecting the shallow water. Hands brushed against one another’s and smiling at light conversations, though they inherit some honest eloquence.

He said, “I didn’t become a musician, my mum didn’t allow me.”

“To be a true musician, you need to live a full life, one with soul”

I thought about and nodded,

About being a writer, telling stories and reliving in them. I needed to go out and live a full life and meet people. People with stories, yet to be told.

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