Try running a Google search on Kevin Cheng and you’ll likely get hits of the Hong Kong actor instead. The Kevin Cheng before us today at La Terre, a multi-award winning wine and whisky bar he co-founded in the heart of Boat Quay, is happy to stay low profile. Which is ironic since he has left some pretty big digital footprints in cyberspace.
“I used to own I-Vibes, one the largest online vinyl record shops in the world at the time,” Cheng, who launched the portal in 1999, tells us. He was only 19. “I grew up in the UK, and went clubbing a lot. I used to hang out with guys like Paul Van Dyk and Paul Oakenfold. I still have turntables at home.”
Today, it is not strobe lights and trance music that captures the attention of the 37-year-old. Instead, the director at Parallax Capital Management has honed his appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
For starters, Cheng has over 30 pairs of shoes in his closet, half of which are customised. “It’s a little secret, but I have very thin heels. I need bespoke shoes,” says Kevin in defence.
“Few things have such a long history. Shoemaking dates back to Roman times. They are one of the things that represent who I am, which is understated. I appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that go into it.”
One of his sole mates is legendary Japanese shoemaker, Yohei Fukuda. “Yohei Fukuda makes five pairs of shoes a month and spends 150 hours on each,” he says. “I can’t think of anything I spent 150 hours on. The first time I met him, he took 50 measurements of my foot. If everyone took that much care in what they did, this world would be amazing.”
(RELATED: Tokyo’s bespoke shoemaker: Yohei Fukuda)
The same appreciation for detail is applied to what he imbibes. To be sure, Cheng is not one to knock back his whisky. He says: “I don’t like to drink to get drunk, but to discover something. I like to understand what happened when this thing was made, the history and legacy behind it.”
He ensures continual immersion in his passions by turning them into side businesses. He co-founded lifestyle restaurant group WWW Concepts that is behind cocktail bar Bartini in Singapore and started Wine&Whisky, which imports and distributes rare vintages. Last year, Cheng bought into Kaigai Shuhan, one of the oldest wine auction and distribution companies in Japan.
To counter his alcohol intake, Cheng cycles 150km around Singapore on his handmade Passoni road bike. “Otherwise, I will explode!” he jokes.
Naturally, in tune with his penchant to turn what he likes into a business, he co-founded Velo6, a high-end bicycle distributor.
“I love cycling. It’s the new golf. You wake up at 4am and head out with a group of 10. And no one is thinking about beating another person. It’s about getting to the finish line with everyone. I think that’s a nice philosophy.”
01 PRIME PALATE
“The Michelin Guide is a good reference for people who want a recommendation. But if you’ve had the opportunity to eat a lot, then you should be able to make your own decisions.”
02 LIQUID DRAMS
“I come from a trading background and I’d say that whisky is the best performing asset class ever – if you made the right choices and bought the right whisky early. The only thing that may have made more money is Bitcoin.”
03 TUNING OUT
“When the going gets tough, I read. The last book I read was Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. It reflects on life and society.”