Yeoh Siew Hoon meets Christopher Tung who's gone from making serious dough to making dough of a different kind.
What's a half Swedish, quarter Chinese and quarter Japanese former investment banker doing in Tuscany, running a small hotel and giving cooking classes?
Well, that was what Christopher Tung (pictured left) did for seven years until last year when he relocated to Singapore where he is now giving Tuscan cooking classes and has put together personally-guided culinary trips to his old stomping ground.
When you meet Tung, you sense he's a man of adventure. He has to be to have done what he did in 2001.
That year, he decided he had had enough of an investment banker's life in New York.
He and his then-girlfriend-now-wife discussed what they could do together. "I hated what I did, she loved it but we agreed if we went somewhere, we wanted a clean slate, a place where we both hadn't been and where we both had to start from scratch."
He had always had a passion for cooking. Neither spoke Italian, neither had been to Tuscany before. It seemed like a good thing to do. "I suppose we were young and stupid then and it was a bit of dare between ourselves. Could we do it?"
So they moved to Tuscany, he took cooking classes, they bought a small place in a village in Monterongriffoli, they converted it into a four-room hotel and called it the Ankhura and from there, they built a successful business with a steady following of guests. Ankhura ((below)
"Five of the seven years were exciting – we worked hard, ran the business, had three children. We loved living in Tuscany, it's so beautiful, and we fell in love with the house.
"But I think we plateaued a bit and were looking for the next adventure. We have many friends who have retired in Tuscany and I think most of them are bored, they were always asking us round for drinks and dinner while we were busy running the business."
Out of the blue, last year, his wife got a call from her former employer, a major bank, which asked her if she wanted to rejoin the company and relocate to Singapore.
"We thought this was a great opportunity to do something new. She had been away seven years from banking and here she was, being offered a chance to get back," said Tung.
So the Tungs moved to Singapore where he now gives Tuscan cooking classes at Palate Sensations, three times a week. His students are mainly young Singapore professionals and housewives.
And in a twist that only real life can hand us, the former banker now finds himself making dough of a different kind.
"I am surprised by how much people love bread here, and so I have become a bit of a bread specialist. In Singapore, the majority of people seem to like the soft bread but I see a second trend coming – that of artisan European breads, chewy and crusty," said Tung.
He's also put together trips to Tuscany which he will personally guide and guests will stay at his hotel, Ankhura. "I want to show people my Tuscany, drive them round places, teach them how to cook and enjoy the Tuscan cuisine."
The first is from May 16-23. Each group will have a maximum of eight people. Cost is S$3,000 per person, inclusive of everything except flights.Read more about Tung and his adventures and trips at his blog, Seven Years in Tuscany: www.sevenyearsintuscany.com Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com
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