‘God is everywhere, including a commercial F&B business’: An Interview with Koh Choon Chye, a Café Entrepreneur 

As a restaurateur steering his business through challenging times, or a father who had to face the loss of a child, Koh Choon Chye constantly finds direction in his faith in balancing his multiple roles and responsibilities. Read on for inspiration on how his faith in God fuels his life, his sense of resilience, and faith-driven leadership. Choon Chye currently serves in the worship team of Wesley Methodist Church’s Mandarin Service. 

Please share your story with us – your family, education, and career background. 
I was raised in a family that prayed to idols. As a young boy, my aunt brought me to the funfair at Toa Payoh Methodist Church, where I believe the seed of faith was planted in me. It wasn’t until 2013 that I accepted Christ, but I struggled to find a church where I felt at home. In 2014, I tragically lost my baby girl, Anna Jane, just two weeks after her birth. I found solace and experienced God’s love through Wesley Methodist Church during that incredibly difficult time. My wife Olivia and two daughters Sarah Jane and Charis Joy, currently worship at Wesley alongside me.  

Restaurateur Choon Chye and his wife Olivia standing proudly outside their eatery

Before my journey in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, I was in IT Management for 20 years. I went from holding the mouse at work to holding pots and pans. I now run a restaurant called Old School Delights at the Esplanade. The dishes on the menu are all cooked by my staff and me. 

What made you decide to enter the F&B industry? 
Entering the F&B industry was not a planned move for me. It wasn’t a deliberate decision but a journey I found myself on. It all began when my wife was prescribed six months of bed rest during her pregnancy. I took on the responsibility of caring for her, preparing daily meals from breakfast to supper, and bringing them to her bedside. Over six months, I searched for recipes, did groceries, and cooked every day. After our baby was born, I initially anticipated returning to the corporate world. However, a worship team member invited me to join a culinary course together, which I attended. Subsequently, an opportunity to start a café presented itself, culminating in the launch of my café and marking the beginning of a new chapter in F&B. 

Do you have any stories of perseverance in your life that point to the reality of God in the valley-low moments? 
My journey as a F&B business owner has been marked by resilience, as operating in Singapore’s restaurant industry can be tough. Financial challenges peaked with the closure of an outlet and difficulties during the pandemic. Yet, it was during these low moments that my faith deepened, supported by the Mandarin Ministry’s love and encouragement. 

In 2020, a divine message to ‘Be Still’ prompted me to pause, rather than pivot to e-commerce hastily. This rest led to a menu revamp that boosted sales once dine-in resumed. My café has since become more than a business; it’s a platform for outreach and witnessing God’s glory. 

On a personal note, my wife and I faced the profound loss of our second child a decade ago, and we currently face the challenges of raising a special needs child. But these experiences have fortified our journey of faith in Jesus, teaching us trust and perseverance. 

What are some of the challenges you face in the F&B industry? 
The F&B sector continues to grapple with rising costs and staffing shortages. The younger generation show a greater inclination towards Western cuisine, and adapting to their preferences adds another layer of complexity. Since the start of 2024, foot traffic has declined by 30 percent, while costs have continued to rise. I remain proactive in attracting customers. As a business owner, I must constantly do my own research and analysis, and find ways to draw foot traffic to my humble eatery. However, looking on the brighter side, being a business owner allows me more freedom to volunteer and serve in the Mandarin Ministry. 

How do you share your faith in your workplace? 
I display a cross and Christian plaques in my restaurant. I also sing or listen to Christian songs in the kitchen and encourage my staff by sharing my faith and life journey. I like to share with them how my faith has shaped me and my life. When given opportunities, I also pray with them. 

(R-L) Choon Chye, Olivia and the two staff members at their café, Old School Delights

Can you share how you can make a difference as a Christian business owner in the workplace? Is there a place for Christianity in your industry? 
Leading by example through demonstrating integrity, honesty, and kindness in all my dealings with staff, customers, and suppliers. It can be challenging when dealing with demanding customers, and I always pray for patience and wisdom in handling them. 

With regards to my staff, I intentionally seek to create a positive working environment. This includes showing genuine love, care and concern for their well-being, as well as encouraging open communication and empathy among employees. Praying for and with staff when they are at their lowest. Be willing to share our faith when appropriate, but with humility and sensitivity. 

Can you give examples of how you can apply Christian principles in your job?   How do you integrate your faith into your career or at the workplace? 
We encounter individuals from diverse backgrounds and walks of life in the F&B industry. In a way, this serves as a conducive environment to embody Christian principles. For instance, we can extend kindness to those in need and share our faith. My wife once offered a meal blessing to a customer who had lost his job and was distressed. She took the chance to share the gospel with him, and he has since become a believer, even inviting his church friends to dine at our café. Recently, we noticed a customer in tears during her meal. We approached her, offered support, and eventually prayed together with her. 

What are your views on work and rest? How do you keep your Sabbath and find rest in God as you labour hard in your work? Can you even rest? 
Previously, I was accustomed to working seven days a week, which was physically exhausting and made it challenging to attend Sunday service. However, with some designated time off now, I can attend the Mandarin service at 2.30pm on Sundays. It brings me great joy to find rest in God on Sundays and to serve Him by leading worship in the Mandarin Ministry. Interestingly, many church meetings end up falling on Tuesdays, my designated day off. 

Where can you find God in the mundane and ordinary?   
God is everywhere in all seasons of our lives. He can be found in everyday moments, in acts of kindness, in the beauty of nature, and the love of friends, family and church. God is everywhere, including in a profit-driven commercial F&B business. It is often in the small, seemingly mundane experiences that we can find God.  

Choon Chye is a master chef, known for his precision in the kitchen and his consistent delivery of remarkable dishes

What are your thoughts about God and profits? How can capitalism and Christianity align in today’s world? 
God and profits are a very tough question. The relationship between God and profits is profoundly personal, and varies depending on beliefs, values, and interpretations of religious teachings. Some may see wealth as a blessing from a divine source, while others may see it as a responsibility to use resources for the greater good.  

What’s important is how profits are obtained and utilised. Running a business with integrity, honesty, and a commitment to ethical principles ensures that profits are generated in a way that aligns with spiritual values, and that these profits contribute positively to the well-being of individuals and communities. Surrendering the business to God and recognising that He is the one leading it — He is the CEO, and we are His employees — can help build a strong foundation. Consulting with spiritual leaders can offer guidance and perspective on ethical decision-making in challenging situations. I often speak to and consult Pastor Michael Tan for guidance. 

Do you, as a Christian, face different expectations from your colleagues or customers?
Yes, certainly, and even to our customers, as they can see the Christian plaques and displays in our cafe. We can sense certain expectations for what we say or do. We are not perfect, but we try to be sincere and authentic.

How have you seen God work in your life so far? 
Looking back, I see God’s hand in my life even before I knew Him. My journey to faith in Jesus Christ has shifted my focus from material success to spiritual fulfillment. Despite the challenges in my business and struggles in my family life, my life is now enriched with peace, joy, and purpose that surpasses all worldly achievements. 

Read also: ‘I’ve spent my entire career helping the rich get richer. It is a nice change to be able to help the ones who have less get richer’: An Interview with Lam Poh Min, Former Hedge Fund Manager ; ‘I am a Gatekeeper for My CEO, but God is My Life Gatekeeper’: An Interview with Carol Ling, a Full Time Working Mother and Small Group Leader

Everyday Christianity: Faith@Work is an interview series with Wesleyans from diverse age groups and walks of life. In this series, published in conjunction with our Church’s theme for 2024 – Directions 2024: Discipleship in the Workplace , we hope to discover more about the perspectives of Wesleyans in different vocations on how they live out their faith every day, specifically in their workplace, homes, or communities they serve. More than just stories of success in victory, we also want to hear their stories of perseverance that point to the reality that our Father is a living God who is ever present in the mountain peaks and valley lows of our everyday lives. For more on Workplace Conversations, please listen to our podcasts by Rev Raymond Fong at Wesley Podcast • A podcast on Spotify for Podcasters .

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