Taking the Leap, from a Full-time Job to Fulfilment – How Maureen Ow Found her Passion in Food Writing
Passion Made Possible!
The noodles soaking the rich prawn stock, the whiff of wok hei in the air, the spicy sambal belachan at the side… That’s what you’ll find at Xiao Di Fried Prawn Noodle.
I arrived at a coffee shop in Serangoon, and there I saw 28-year-old Terence Chee hard at work in the kitchen – he is at times accompanied by his wife, who gave up her full-time job to help him at the stall. Every day, he arrives at his stall bright and early to prepare the ingredients. He peels the prawns and cooks the stock so that he can prepare to open for business at 11 am.
From the outside looking in, things always seem different than they are. “The reality is that everything about the work is hard. I stand on my feet all day long to fry and my wrist is always aching,” he says.
Terence has pursued his calling since he was 18 years old. After he finished his army, he helped out at his friend’s Hokkien Mee stall. Guided by several hawkers, he experimented with recipes and cooking techniques, aspiring to cook the best Hokkien Mee in Singapore and finally gained the confidence to start out on his own in 2012. Last year, he was even invited to Melbourne to take part in Singapore Day.
“Food has also been my passion. I enjoy what I am doing and it gives me great satisfaction when customers love my Hokkien Mee,” he told me over a lunch of steaming Hokkien Mee fresh off the wok.
I felt a sense of affinity with what Terence said. Doing what you love for a living is more complex than just working for a paying job. There is a lot of careful planning and networking that goes hand in hand with every type of work.
I had that realisation in my late twenties – if I waited until I felt ready to do something, it will be too late. That was why I left my job as a journalist to pursue my passion for food. No, I didn’t go into the kitchen like Terence. Instead, I worked on my little food blog ‘Miss Tam Chiak’ which I started in 2007 and turned it into an online food website. Today, the website clocks close to 1 million page views a month and I supervise a team of six writers who run the site.
Our day-to-day activities vary. Some days, we are busy creating mouth-watering images for restaurants. Other days, we run around the island, on the hunt for good food worth recommending to our readers. And some days, I get to play tour guide and take tourists on a local food tour!
To be honest, it’s hard to draw the line where my job ends and my life starts, not because I work too many hours, but because they blend together so beautifully. If you’re doing the work you love, it isn’t work – you’re just simply being you.
I had a great career after my graduation. My bosses and colleagues were wonderful and I was given a lot of opportunities in the company. I still remembered on the very last day, I was crying so badly while packing my things. There was this unknown fear in me and I wondered if it was the right choice.
Leaving your comfort zone is always the hardest. But once you are out there on your own, you will realise that it is actually very easy to lead an extraordinary life. You just need to be willing to do the things that others are not. The things that are a little too hard, take a little too long, or seem a little too uncertain.
My years in journalism taught me the skills I needed to churn out good content for Miss Tam Chiak. My love for photography gave me the chance to produce many enticing photos for restaurants. Most importantly, I can show my love for Singapore and her unique street food culture after taking up the professional tourist guide license.
When passion becomes a profession, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. The only regret I have? I wished I had taken that leap of faith sooner. There is never a right timing. You will never have the right amount of money, knowledge, or connections to start something comfortably. But if you have the grit it will be the most rewarding journey you will ever experience.
Do you have a passion? Don’t wait anymore. Begin your adventure, Passion made possible!
Watch my story here.