In August, Heatwave partnered acclaimed lingerie label PerkbyKate to put the spotlight on six inspiring women from all walks of life. A truly local collaboration, this intimate photography series features each woman's favourite location in Singapore and provides meaningful insight into their challenges, dreams and goals for the future. In this piece, we speak to highly accomplished entrepreneur and food author Ms Tan Su Lyn.
What would your completely honest personal profile say?
I’m a communications specialist but ironically, I’m terrible at talking about myself. Mostly because I believe that one of the indications my team and I have successfully helped people and brands tell their stories well, is when we’ve helped them to find an authentic voice that is their own. When we do a good job, it renders us invisible.
It isn’t easy to make it feel effortless, as if they did it themselves, but we strive to do that. Our aim is to leave them with a distinct and genuine language that fortifies their position in the marketplace. And with it, to then strategically build engaging, long lasting relationships with their audiences.
Talking about myself also bores me. I am much more interested in helping brands, businesses and people to more effectively talk about themselves.
Among many other things, I used to work closely with chefs to write their cookbooks, and to capture their speech cadences, personalities, philosophies and life lessons in words that were honest to who they were. I guess over the decades, I’ve taken my own skills as a journalist and ghostwriter and transposed them—with the help of the diverse skills of a team—into a methodology for brand communications and content strategy.
Writing a press release, making a video, capturing a stunning picture for social media—these are all things pretty much anyone can do today. Throw a stone and you’ll hit someone who says they can do it and do it cheaply.
But taking a brand and helping to breathe life into it as a multi-faceted experience, then fleshing out a sustainable communications eco-system for it, is much, much more than that. And it takes the combined experience of a team of skilled people to pull it off.
In a former life, I made a living writing about food, restaurants, chefs and travel. Today, I cook and share meals as an expression of love for the people around me. Travel is a means of gathering new inspirations and acquiring new perspectives. But writing and photography remain my greatest creative outlets. I blog about food and travel, and document my journey as a working mom and food lover on Instagram.
I am a conflicted mother of two who is in a constant race against time. As a full-time entrepreneur, I struggle and strive to make the best use of the 24 hours I’m given each day.
I care deeply, weep easily, and am an obsessive proofreader.
Your home is your sanctuary. Apart from the kitchen, where else in the home do you seek respite?
I am fortunate in that my home offers respite in many forms. Our home office is appallingly cluttered and I do no work in it. But I do occasionally dip into my archive of communications & media theory, cultural studies, philosophy, and culinary history books here. It helps me to exercise areas of knowledge that lie dormant in my brain. I find it revitalising and it ultimately aids problem-solving at work. On rare occasions, I put my tabletop letterpress printing machine to use here. The detail oriented handwork can be extremely therapeutic.
If you could share a meal with anyone in the world… It would be…
With the late Julia Child, who didn't arrive at her career in food immediately. But she left an indelible mark on generations of home cooks, and helped define many industry benchmarks, be they in food, publishing or broadcasting. Most of all, I am intrigued by her drive to communicate, share and continue to learn throughout her lifetime. It took her a decade to write the seminal first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was her first book.
She was incredibly meticulous in her efforts at communicating her recipes clearly. I've read that she would watch her editor cook following her recipe to understand how she might better rework her recipe instructions and explanations!
What’s one thing you would really like to accomplish by the end of the year?
I'd like to be a better mother. One who is more present in my children's lives. I feel that I am constantly compromising on the quality of their upbringing.
What do your love/miss most from the Singapore you grew up in?
What I probably miss most are the old school European and American dishes that used to be served at “Western” restaurants in the ‘80s. Particularly sole meunière, a dish I might've obsessively ordered as a child (and incidentally a recipe I mastered as an adult by reading Julia Child), a well-constructed club sandwich, chicken a la King served with buttered rice, and a good banana split. They transport me to a time when the ritual of dining out first left its impression on me.