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Yen Yakiniku co-founder Thomas Kong finds calm in boxing

This restaurateur balances out a good Japanese barbecue by throwing punches.

Having to operate at a high level of mental alertness throughout the day can be exhausting, but forex trader Thomas Kong has found a way to release tension – the Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao way, in fact.

Bored of his usual gym routine, Kong, who also co-founded F&B company The Yen Group, picked up boxing 18 months back after having followed it as a spectator. The sport is a good way to disengage from work, as for 90 minutes, Kong stops running numbers and marketing plans and focuses on one thing only – landing his punches.

“I’d pick a sport over working out in the gym any day.”

– Thomas Kong

“With (boxing) gloves on, checking my phone is no longer an option,” says Kong, who trains three to four times a week with a competitive Thai boxer at the 24/7 gym in One Farrer Hotel & Spa. During these one-to-one sessions, Kong methodically weaves through different combinations of moves designed by his trainer. “It’s very engaging and requires my full concentration,” says Kong.


Landing and blocking punches is a good way for Thomas Kong to train his ability to focus.

Since picking up the sport, the 32-year-old has developed greater endurance, which he correlates with running a restaurant: “Improvement in boxing comes when the body is fatigued but is still able to execute combinations; likewise, a good restaurant must provide a consistent dining experience even when operating at full capacity.”

Kong spent four years wooing Taiwanese chef Jones Chen to Singapore from Taipei, to helm Yen Yakiniku on Ann Siang Road. Chen, formerly head of Da Wan Yakiniku in Taipei, finally hopped over last year.

(RELATED: Restaurant of the Week: Yen Yakiniku on Ann Siang brings smoke-free Japanese BBQ to Singapore.)

“I have notoriously high standards for food, especially my beef, so when a friend introduced Jones [to me] as the man who can deliver better yakiniku than the best in Tokyo, I knew I was either in for a real treat or a massive disappointment,” says Kong.
It’s evident what he thinks of Chen’s barbecuing skills. These days, Kong drops by the restaurant from time to time to tuck into well-marbled A5 Miyazaki rib-eye.

Thank goodness the massive foodie has boxing to help him keep in shape. “It’s a great full-body workout, plus there’s so much skill and technique involved, which keeps it fun,” he says. “I’d pick a sport over working out in the gym any day.”