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Cool Dad Hangouts: Celebrity Chef Justin Quek on Parenting a Teen

Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life
ParentingPost Category - ParentingParenting - Post Category - Older KidsOlder Kids

Does the Dad in your life need some inspo on where to take your teen? We’ve talked to some of the coolest Dads in Singapore to get their tips on where to go and what to do with a teen in tow!

Homegrown celebrity Chef Justin Quek stopped school at the age of 13 and started his career in ships’ kitchens before working in some of the most feted Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Chef Quek has come a long way from helping out in his family fruit stall to crafting some of the best Asian-inspired French cuisine in Singapore. Since closing his restaurant Sky on 57, Chef Quek has been busy opening two new restaurants at Marina Bay Sands – casual all-day eatery JustIN, and fine-dining restaurant Chinoiserie. Backed by his experience, Chef Quek has been known to say that grit is more important than grades in achieving success. He has super interesting advice about navigating teen territory (hint: trust is key!). We catch up with Chef Quek to look back on his time parenting his 17-year-old teen.

Tell us something quirky about yourself?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel. My career has taken me all over the world, from France to Shanghai, Taiwan and Singapore where I’ve run restaurants. Aside from food, travelling is a passion of mine. What I love about travelling is exploring old towns, foodie markets, and discovering how people from other cultures enjoy a simple life. Some of my favourite places to travel to include Spain, Vietnam, France and Korea.

What’s your favourite outdoor spot to hang out with your teen?

Julien and I have spent a lot of quality time together when he was growing up traveling around the world experiencing new and interesting cultures. When we’re at home in Singapore, we like to do everyday father and son activities such as cycling or swimming.

What’s your favourite restaurant to bring your teen to in Singapore? 

Julien is like me and loves food. He enjoys eating at my new restaurant JustIN for Singaporean classics and another favourite is Aoki Restaurant. We love Japanese cuisine.

Given you cook all day at your restaurants do you do any cooking at home? If so what do you make?

Many people think that cooking is the last thing any chef wants to do when they get home. Even though I spend most days in the kitchen at JustIN and Chinoiserie, I still enjoy cooking at home. I love to go to the markets to pick up great produce to enjoy at home with my wife or when entertaining. I usually prepare cooked seafood, pasta dishes, or grilled steak. I like simple cooking with good ingredients. 

Did you teach your son to cook when he was younger? Does he have an interest in cooking now?

I like to think I have instilled some basic cooking techniques in my son! Julien really enjoys baking and is very good at it. At the moment, aside from baking, he doesn’t have any interest in cooking, only the eating part of it! I love cooking for my son so enjoy preparing dishes for him.

What aspirations do you have for your child?

As a father, I can only hope that Julien follows his dreams and does what really makes him happy, and studies well to achieve his aspiration. His happiness is really important to me.

We understand you found your way into cooking only by chance as a way to travel the world! What advice to do you give your child in finding his passion?

I worked really hard growing up and fell into my career while working on a ship before I spent my life savings on a year-long trip to France. It is here that I really found my passion for cooking. For my son, I only hope that he follows his passion and does what makes him happy. He will always have my full support whatever he chooses.

What is your son interested in career-wise?

Julien wants to be a classical flute player. He is currently playing in the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.

We understand you think grit is more important than grades in success- a philosophy that many subscribe to but one which may be harder to execute in Singapore.  Tell us more about how this has been relevant to you and your son?

I left school early and believe that gaining experience in your chosen field is very important to succeed. My hands-on experience in the culinary industry over the last 35 years has enabled me to be in the position I am in today. I share this philosophy with Julien, but he also realises the importance of achieving at school in today’s world and he has my full support.

We spoke to other parents recently about the common issues they face parenting teens (such as finding the balance between giving teens their freedom and monitoring them/curfews etc). Julien is older but do you have any advice for parents who are parenting a young teen?

As a dad to a teenager, my advice for other parents is to ensure they have a strong and trusting relationship with their child and give them the space to learn and make their own decisions, whether they are good or bad. The more we try and control our children, the more they will go against us.

When it comes to travel on their own, I see this as an opportunity for our children to develop and be independent. We can’t monitor their moves 24/7 and I trust my son and the decisions he makes when we’re not together.

What’s your favourite one-on-one activity with your son when your wife’s not around?

We love to have a meal together and catch up, or we’ll get some exercise in and go for a bike ride.

What are your favourite date night restaurants with your wife?

We both enjoy Japanese or Chinese food together, with a bottle of French wine of course!

Do you have a favourite shop? 

I love going to the wet markets, and this is something I do every day. When I’m overseas, I’ll always stop by kitchen equipment stores and will always grab something to bring home and use in Singapore.

Where do you like to train/exercise?

I’m a keen bike rider and enjoy taking my mountain bike for a spin, usually from the East part of Singapore to Marina Barrage.

Do you still holiday with your teen? If so what are your favourite family holiday destinations?

Julien and I have done a lot of travel in the past, but now that he is older, we don’t travel as much anymore. Some of our favourite holiday destinations we’ve been together are in Europe, always making sure to stop by France, or to Italy to see our friends.

Looking back on your parenting experience, what advice would you give your younger self as a new parent?

I’ve really enjoyed being a dad and all of the joy Julien brings to my life. I would say to my younger self to have a child earlier!

Thank you so much to Chef Quek and Julien  – we know you are super busy so we appreciate your time speaking to us! And many thanks to Irina Nilsson for the great snaps! 

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