Interview: Willin Low

I once colored my hair three shades of blue—baby blue, bright electric blue and dark blue—then went bungee jumping at the River Thames. It took a total of six hours at this avant garde salon, because they weren’t used to dealing with Asian hair at all. They all clapped when I left.
I was a real terror as a child. My mom would have canes hidden all over the house. She only needed to stick her arm out and there’d be a cane handy. So my mission was to hunt down the canes and destroy them. Of course, I got in trouble for that.
If we can make life better for others, we should. I always think, one day, I could be in that position. And if I was, I’d like to think there’d be someone who’d help out because they could although they didn’t have to. So it might be cliché, but treat others how you want to be treated.
Back in the UK, whenever one of us decided to do something at the spur of the moment that was totally random and crazy, they used to say, “You’re doing a Willin.” Some people definitely thought I was crazy when I decided to not only quit law to be a chef, but also open up my own place. Those were the ones who didn’t know me.
I was a fussy eater, I still am. Although I’ve had whale semen, horse sashimi and fried scorpions.
I used to get sent straight to my room without any dinner because I’d complain about my mom’s food. I’d store Calbee prawn crackers in my room, just so I’d have something to eat. The food in England was so bad that I actually missed army food.
I think I’m a terrible Christian. Although I will say that I believe in divine intervention.
My parents were a great couple, and after being married for over twenty five years, they got a divorce.
I was in my final year of law school when it happened and my family didn’t want to tell me about it in case it would affect me. I’d never even seen them quarrel and I guess I took for granted they’d always be together.
The home I left was completely different from the one I came back to. I left Singapore as a boy, but when I came back, I became the man of the house.
I’ve become a bit cynical and don’t believe in the institution anymore. I look around me and most relationships don’t seem to last beyond five to eight years. There really are no guarantees in life.
The worst advice I’ve ever been given was from my best friend. A few years ago, he told me to buy shares in this company, so I did. There isn’t a happy ending, the share price dropped to a tenth of the value that I’d bought it for. He made a huge loss too; that was rough. We’re still friends, ever since 1999. In fact, I’m his son’s godfather.
I’m inspired by people who do things at great personal sacrifice to pursue something that’s bigger than themselves. It’s not courageous to do what I do.
I have a security blanket that I play with when I go to bed at night. It’s in such a bad state it’s shameful. The only time I didn’t have it with me was when I was in the army. Let’s just say I didn’t want to get bullied.
Durians are my one real weakness. I lie awake at night thinking of them. After a long day of work, even if I’m completely exhausted, I’ll occasionally stop by Geylang and eat a mountain of durians by myself.