A Fine Balance: Chef Zor Tan

by Portfolio Magazine
06 Nov 2023

With long working hours, an endless list of tasks, and families to care for, we can’t help but be in awe of these individuals who make juggling responsibilities seem so effortless. But is it really as easy as it seems to be? We find out their secrets to doing it all and how they know when enough is enough.

Tell us about yourself, what you do, and what keeps you busy outside of work.
I’m the Chef-Owner of Restaurant Born. Opened in June 2022, Born is my inaugural restaurant that is located along Neil Road, in the historic Jinrikisha Station. Here we celebrate the Circle of Life, a philosophy that embraces my childhood memories, professional journey, and personal ideals. This is expressed through contemporary cuisine, which marries my French training with Chinese heritage.

As a father and chef, I seldom get to spend quality time with my family, so whenever I do have the time, the day is dedicated to them. On my rest days, my wife and I will plan an activity like visiting museums or playgrounds with my 4-year-old daughter 19-month-old son. But even if it is just an hour or so, I relish the moments with them – I enjoy nurturing a connection by talking to them and finding out what they did during the day or in school.

As an accomplished chef and family man, I’m sure exhaustion gets to you. What are the signs that tell you, “it’s time to take a break”? What helps you get back on track?
There is no greater sign than falling very sick. It’s my body telling me that I need to stop, rest, and recharge. The upside though, is that I get to be at home with my family and my daughter is happy to see more of me. Complete rest while knowing that my team also needs me at the restaurant helps me get back on track.

After recently clinching a Michelin star, as well as being named one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, I’m sure work has been busier than ever. How do you make time for yourself and how do you spend the few precious hours you have to yourself?
The only time I have for myself is during my commute to and from work. I’ll use this time to close my eyes and take a quick nap, catch up on social media, or just simply block out all thoughts to rest my mind.

(Related: A Fine Balance - Olivia Lee)

What lessons have you learned from the past that prove to be helpful in this age of “hustle culture”? What words of advice do you have for this new generation of professionals?
My wife constantly reminds me that although we work hard for ourselves and the family, we can’t be everywhere all the time. So I learnt the importance of taking a break once in a while to gain clarity of mind, which helps me to be more focused. My words of advice would be to commit in staying focused on the end goal.

As the year draws to a close, we tend to look back on what has happened, what we’ve accomplished, and what we could have done better. What are some of your realizations as you reflect on the year that was?
Each year passes faster than the year before, so I realized that time is truly of the essence. It has been a very eventful year for me and now I think of how amidst the busyness, there should always be a balance between work and family, and even the need to carve out time for myself. If I can strike a better balance, I can also be a better me.