Married for more than 20 years with two children, James Quan and Winnie Chan founded Bynd Artisan, a retail concept that specialises in personalised notebooks and stationery as well as bespoke gifts and leather goods, in 2014. It now has four ateliers in Singapore and a shop-in‑shop at Pedder on Scotts.
Not one to rest on their laurels, the couple are currently working on Re-Bynd, a special collection made from recycled leather. “We’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability and I believe this collection will change how people see recycled leather products for gifting,” James says. Other plans in the pipeline include “strengthening our e-commerce capabilities, working on digital marketing and also engaging with consultants to make better use of our data via Artificial Intelligence (AI).”
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With so much going on, how do the couple strike the perfect work-life balance?
“We don’t think too much about it — we just do it,” James laughs. “When we go for holidays, we usually leave our hotel room at noon — after we’ve finished replying emails and made calls to clients/suppliers etc.
“We also go for jogs or walks in the morning at Botanic Gardens and chat while exercising. Otherwise, after a particularly tiring day at work, we look forward to a home-cooked meal and then a glass of good whisky, and let’s not forget Winnie’s latest weakness — Läderach chocolates!”
Food obviously plays an important part in the couple’s lives. “Winnie enjoys everything vegetables and tofu and I like everything barbecue,” James shares. “Has anyone combined these two offerings under one roof yet?
Even though they don’t have suppers regularly, James and Winnie have a favourite go-to spot when craving hits.“We are firm believers that suppers are for people who can never put on weight,” James says. “But if we do [have supper], it’s usually at Newton Circus.”
What are your earliest memories of food?
It has to be my mom’s cooking. My parents worked long hours and my mom would steam rice in the cooker and place a dish on top of the rice before leaving for the office. Some days it would be minced pork and salted egg, some days it would be chicken and lap cheong. Life was a lot simpler then but my sisters and I looked forward to the nice surprise every day after school.
Are there any foods that you didn’t like as a child that you now appreciate?
I didn’t like fruits and vegetables in general. However, Winnie introduced me to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, San Francisco and it changed everything for me — it’s all farm to table. I never knew vegetables tasted so fresh and delicious.
What are some of your favourite supper haunts in Singapore?
Newton Circus because we like the vibe there and we love Heng’s oyster omelette, as well as the black and white fried carrot cake; the BBQ chicken wings there are great too. Mr Prata at Evans Road, just because it’s near our home and Haidilao, when nothing’s opened at 3am.
Is it usually a family affair, or do you spend couple time during supper?
We usually spend couple time for supper but it’s always a bonus if our children join us.
What was the best supper you ate?
It has to be my first meal in Saudi Arabia. We had just arrived, it was midnight and I was nodding off. According to our hosts, midnight was when they ate dinner. The sumptuous Iranian feast literally kept me awake from jet lag.
What did you have the last time you had supper?
We had some friends over and chatted late into the night over cheese and wine. You can bring your cheese board to Culina Market at Como Dempsey’s, select the cold cuts and cheese and they would slice your selections fresh and fill up the board beautifully.
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Do you have a funny story about food?
I hated bitter gourd as a kid. My mom would then only cook bitter gourd. Ultimately, I had to eat it and it became my favourite vegetable. Her strategy worked.