Episode 6 – Rafie Chua, Craftsman/Owner of Plane & Bevel

When I first started coming to Singapore about 10 years ago, my initial impression of the city was probably typical of what most tourists saw: gleaming office towers, bustling malls, and a thoroughly modern city built on international finance and trade. Other than the delicious food from the hawkers, it never occurred to me that anything is produced locally. Whether it’s fresh produce, designer clothes, or outrageously expensive cars, everything appeared to be imported.

But having lived here for three years now, I have come to recognize that despite the modern veneer, there is a small, but thriving community of craftsmen in Singapore—men and women who are driven by their passion to make a living by doing what they love. As someone who is not particularly handy, I respect their craftsmanship. But even more so, I admire the dedication that they have to their craft.

Rafie Chua is one such individual. He runs Plane & Bevel, a furniture studio known for custom pieces, mostly handcrafted out of natural wood, for commercial and residential clients. Not yet thirty years of age, Rafie has been running his own business practically since he graduated from university. He was soft spoken during our conversation. But if you listen carefully, I do think there are ideas that speak volumes about happiness and success—perhaps lessons for you and me.

Episode 5 – Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, Religious Leader of Singapore’s Jewish Community

When you think of the most widely practiced religions in the world, you may think of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  And you may also think of Judaism, which is considered one of the oldest monotheistic religions, or religions believing in one god. Judaism is practiced by about 14 million people in the world.  Most Jews today live in Israel, the United States, and Canada, but the Jewish diaspora is spread throughout the world, including Singapore.  In fact, if you were to look into it, there have been prominent Jews in Singapore since the early days of her history.

Rabbi Mordechai Abergel is the religious leader of the small and thriving Jewish community here in Singapore. Since his arrival 23 years ago, along with his wife, Rabbi Abergel has helped to enrich a Jewish community that is not only vibrant, but also deeply integrated into the greater Singaporean society.  In our wide-ranging conversation, Rabbi Abergel talked about his life, his devotion to the pastoral tradition of his religion, the many contributions Jews have made in Singapore and the religious diversity and tolerance here.

Episode 4 – iNCH Chua, Singer/Songwriter/Artist

It is not easy to pin down iNCH Chua.  Starting as a singer/songwriter in her teen years in Singapore, she has since branched out and tried on other roles, including: producer, actress and artist.  As I found out in talking to her, she doesn’t care much for labels.  For the past 10 years, she has been a steady presence on the Singaporean indie music scene.  She first gained mainstream recognition in 2009, when she digitally distributed her first solo recording, The Bedroom, over the Internet.  Later, iNCH became the first Singaporean solo artist ever invited to play at a major US festival, South by Southwest at Austin, Texas in 2010.   All of this happened while she was still in school, barely 20 years of age.

For me, starting out as a podcaster, doing something out of interest and passion, I saw a bit of myself as iNCH tells her story…

Episode 3 – André Chiang, Chef & Restauranteur

Chef André Chiang grew up in Taiwan and Japan, but left for France at the age of 15 to study French cuisine.  What was to be a 2 to 3 year apprenticeship became a stay of ten plus years.  After working at some of the most renowned restaurants in France, Chef André moved to Singapore in 2008.  His restaurant here, Restaurant André, has collected numerous accolades over the years.  New York Times has called it one of “ten restaurants [in the world] worth a plane ride.”  Most recently, in 2017, Restaurant André was ranked #14 of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World and #2 in Asia.  And it all started with a young André deciding to learn cooking to help his mother, who was running a Chinese restaurant in Japan.

This conversation was recorded just a month before Chef André made the surprise announcement in early October 2017 that he will close Restaurant André the following year, on 14 February.  As you will hear on this episode, this is not the first time that Chef André has abruptly moved on from one triumph only to scale further heights.

Episode 2 – Danelle Woo, Fashion Designer & Founder of Aijek

Danelle Woo is the designer and owner of the Singaporean fashion label, Aijek.  Although not trained as a fashion designer, Danelle has nevertheless built a brand known for its use of intricate laces in luxurious, yet affordable, dresses.

Danelle founded her company in 2011 while living in Shanghai, shortly after she gave birth.  Starting with a small collection, Danelle has since steadily grown her business around the region and is now building a presence globally.  I caught up with her right after she returned from visiting her showroom in New York.  Her story is one of perseverance.  And that trait was evident even at a young age…

Episode 1 – Intro to “Profiles of Singapore” (or How It Came to Be?)

This is the introductory episode of “Profiles of Singapore,” the podcast series featuring the personal stories of the Doers, Makers, and Influencers of Singapore.  What are their stories?  What drives them?  What can we learn from them in how they have made an impact?  If you are curious about how they are making a difference, and learn, perhaps, how we can all make a bigger impact with our lives, then keep listening.