SOCIAL-ism EPISODE 03: VINCENT PAUL YONG
VINCENT PAUL YONG IS A SELF-TAUGHT PHOTOGRAPHER, WHO FOUND HIS PASSION EARLY ON AND HOLD ON TO IT. NOW HE IS THE FOUNDER OF STUDIO VERVE, AN ART AND DESIGN PRODUCTION STUDIO IN KUALA LUMPUR AND HAVING WORKED WITH THE WHO'S WHO OF THE INDUSTRY, THIS TALENTED & LOCAL-GROWN GUY, REMAINS A HUMBLE FIGURE. HE IS ALSO VERY WELL-CONVERSED IN BAHASA, A MOVIE LOVER & A FAN OF NEW BALANCE.
1.Can you share with us your MCO experiences? What you have been doing from the 1st MCO until now, and are there any changes to your daily routines?
Looking back, personally, it was sort of like a blessing in disguise. The beginning of the First MCO was quite erratic, i must admit, it
was right after a festive mood of welcoming the new year and new beginnings... not knowing for many of us, like it or not, will literally
have - new beginnings. The Studio had to close, and I have fully embraced the notion of "working from home" right now. However I
still work, I love the work, therefore I shall continue working, so yeah instead of having a studio, i am quite mobile right now but it
was a bitter sweet decision nevertheless.
Like many, we took to our confined spaces at home to do new things, some took up yoga, some home work-out routines, clearing out the wardrobe, and many other therapeutic endeavours, the beginning first few weeks was kind of casual for me and i took it as calm as I could, thinking that this would be only a short period of wilderness. Packing and moving out items from the studio was one of the main projects during this time, I had time to reflect on things I need and things I don't, on what I need and what I want and to bid farewell to possessions that don't spark joy anymore.
I started to refresh myself on old skills I had, to redesign my website, with that, to consolidate all archival materials of my work. I started picking up cooking again which is another passion I have, as during this time, many eateries and f&b outlets were forced to halt operations. I have this side project of mine on instagram called @_chapfan which was sort of a food journal, where i travel around to sample economy rice (or 雜飯 in Cantonese or nasi campur in Malay) and note down the price of that meal and rate them, and during MCO, I started sharing my cooking skills there, mainly to show people that cooking wasn't that hard, and anyone can cook up a storm at home.
Then, reality hit, the reality and revelation that this MCO would not be ending so soon began to sip in, slowly one by one we felt it, either directly or indirectly, many of my clients begin to announce budget cuts, some even announced permanent closure. Feeling the pinch and realising the need to re-strategise, i had to scale down my photography business and even at one point, to put it at the backburner temporarily. It wasn't easy, imagine after 16 years of doing what I love and suddenly everything comes to a halt. But I had to move on and embrace the inevitable while thinking positively on the future.
2 Back during the Bersih 1.0 and 2.0 era, you were one of those individuals that was very vocal in fighting for fair election and together with the masses, demanding for a 'cleaner' government. What are your views on our current situation?
Yes, and I still do. Looking at the current political situation right now... all I can say is, when there is chaos, there will be balance. Justice will prevail.
3. Currently you are busy with your side project - Hakkaseng. Care to share with us more on the project and how it started?
Hakkaseng was born out of my time cooking at home for @_chapfan, after trying to replicate over 40 chap fan dishes, I thought I
should be cooking something else instead in order to keep this passion burning.
Thinking that MCO would be extended indefinitely, I self reflected on the need to return to my roots, to relearn and refresh myself on my Hakka roots - the food, the language and the culture. There I tried to replicate one of my favourite dishes since childhood - Hakka Noodles, specifically Seremban Hakka Noodles (which I have been craving since MCO was enforced)
After a few tries of hit and misses while navigating the kitchen blindly and trusting only my taste memory, eventually I managed to fine tune the recipe and shared it on Social Media, not knowing that there were many out there who were craving the same thing as I had, I began to send them out to friends to try and many gave good comments and constructive feedbacks.
One thing led to another with a little push from my fiancee and some encouragement from friends, we began to sell it as a means to an end - to put food on the table and to pay bills. It wasn't easy, as we had to start from square one, from product design to branding to marketing to production and distribution with zero experience and knowledge in the F&B business. We took it on nevertheless as cooking for people and seeing them enjoying the food is one of my love languages.
Fast forward to 2021, Hakkaseng has grown from a single dish outfit to an offering of 12 dishes on our menu rotation. I've always loved Japanese cuisine, and Hakkaseng is very heavily inspired by it, some might take it as fusion food, but I would like to express here that Hakkaseng is very much Hakka. (check us out over at instagram @Hakkaseng )
We had achieved some little milestones along the way, from being able to participate in a virtual street food festival organised by Tiger Beer, to being featured on U Mobile to running a pop-up at Royal Selangor. These little proud moments are fuel to keep us innovating and offering new dishes while improving on the old.
Speaking about innovation, one of our proudest dishes ever created from our tiny little home kitchen is the HakkaPOW. I will leave it here for you to imagine what that is and one should try it if they have the chance. One is never enough. *Smiles*
4. If music is a soundtrack of your life, what song you see playing at your funeral?
It has and will always be, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve. That's where The Studio got its name.
5. During the 1st MCO, we watched the Shakespeare inspired Ran by Akira Kurosawa. Can you recommend any other movie with a similar theme?
"There Will be Blood" by Paul Thomas Anderson is one that crosses my mind.
6. We know you as a New Balance fan. What model do you consider your favourite and why?
Yes I am! There's a few, but my all time favourite would be the 1300 series.
Every pair of NB are notoriously comfortable, but the 1300s are the most I must confess.
They are the best travel buddy!
7. Lastly, any particular quote that you live by?
"Do what you Love and Love what you Do"
Interview: Jem | Translation: Khalisa Johari | Photography: Vincent Paul Yong | Graphic: Vincent Tan
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