We're celebrating Father's Day with a chat to two of the coolest Dads we know. How does being a dad to twins and a toddler inspire their careers as award winning bartenders at one of Singapore's most famous bars?
Being a dad comes with a lot of love, a new lease on life and feelings of responsibility, and a new in perspective. We often talk about balancing motherhood, career and self care, but less about the same challenges dads experience in fatherhood. Let’s be honest, parenting, while rewarding, can be a tough gig for everyone!
Add to this challenge if your day job often involves night shifts. We had a chat with the bartending team from Smoke and Mirrors to find out how they balance creating stunningly crafted cocktails at one of Singapore’s most renowned bars (and jetsetting to Europe for cocktail competitions!) with being dads to a toddler and twins. How has fatherhood changed and surprised them, and do their loved ones inspire their cocktail creations?
1. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with us! Please share a little about yourself and your family?
Wong Wee Siong (WWS): “Born and raised in Malaysia, my journey led me to Singapore eight years ago, where I embarked on a new chapter in my career. Interestingly, my wife and I have a unique connection as we used to work together in the past. Despite our career paths taking different directions, we remained in contact, and over time, our bond grew stronger. Today, we are proud parents of two wonderful boys.”
Mel John Chaves (MJC): “My wife and I both have a combined experience of 15 years in the F&B industry. We first crossed paths here in Singapore back in 2012 when she was residing with some of my college friends. It was during our conversations that I discovered an interesting coincidence. My first company in Singapore and her company were both situated in Dempsey Hill!”
2. What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a father? Is being a dad different to what you expected?
WWS: “The energy level of children has always been renowned, but experiencing it firsthand with not just one, but two little bundles of joy is an entirely different adventure. And while it can be quite a challenge to keep up with them, it is also a source of endless laughter and joy.”
MJC: “Becoming a father has truly opened my eyes – the responsibilities and commitments have multiplied, requiring me to dedicate more time and effort to my family, especially in caring for our baby. One of the most noticeable shifts is in my priorities. The luxury items or personal desires I once had to satisfy now take a back seat, as my family has become my utmost priority as a father.”
3. How has fatherhood changed you?
WWS: “Parenthood undoubtedly brings a higher level of responsibility into my life. This heightened sense of responsibility serves as a guiding force, reminding me to prioritise their welfare and make choices that will positively shape their future.”
MJC: “Becoming a father has had a significant impact on my personal growth, particularly in terms of my patience. I have noticed that my patience has increased significantly since having a baby. I find myself better able to remain calm and composed in various situations, even in moments that may have previously tested my patience. It’s a humorous realisation that my patience seems to have grown longer along with my new role as a father; I thought it would be the opposite!”
4. What’s been the most challenging thing about fatherhood?
WWS: “Balancing work and family life can indeed be a demanding task. This is especially true when working in a fast-paced bar environment while also caring for your children. Time management becomes crucial as I strive to fulfil both professional and parental responsibilities.”
MJC: “As a father, the challenge lies in shaping a brighter future for our little ones. It’s a journey of self-reflection as we strive to be role models and raise them to be compassionate, resilient, and morally upright individuals. The challenge is great, but the reward is even greater – watching our children grow into the best versions of themselves.”
5. How do you manage your time with your kids, working long hours as a bartender? What’s your favourite thing to do with your kids?
WWS: “On my off days, I make a conscious effort to disconnect from my phone and fully immerse myself in quality time with my family. Whether it’s engaging in simple activities, having heartfelt conversations, or simply enjoying each other’s company, every moment spent together holds immense value to me.”
MJC: “Being a bartender and a father simultaneously can indeed be quite challenging. In the mornings, I wake up early to spend quality time with my baby from 8am to 9:30 am, allowing my wife an additional 1.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep to rest and recharge. By 10am, it’s time for my baby to have breakfast, and I pass him over to my wife to take care of him. Whenever possible, I try to squeeze in another hour of sleep to replenish my energy. It’s a small window, but every bit counts! It may not always be easy, but the love and joy of being a father drive me to navigate these demanding schedules.”
6. What inspired you to take a career in hospitality, and specifically becoming a bartender? Have your kids or family inspired any of your cocktail creations?
WWS: “My journey in the world of bartending began during my schooling years when I was captivated by the art of flair bartending. Over time, my passion extended to mixology, and I found inspiration not only from the craft itself but also from my children and family. They have been instrumental in shaping many of my creations. One standout is “Heartstrings,” a drink that embodies my personal journey as a father.”
MJC: “The inspiration behind my journey in the hospitality industry stems from my uncle, who served as a head chef on a cruise ship. Initially, I had plans to follow in his footsteps – however, I vividly remember witnessing a student skillfully flipping bottles, showcasing the artistry and flair of bartending. This captivating display ignited a newfound passion within me, prompting me to shift my focus towards a career behind the bar. From that moment, I knew that mixology and crafting innovative drinks were my calling.
Throughout my bartending journey, I have also drawn inspiration from my wife and the baby. They serve as a wellspring of creativity, influencing my approach to drink creation and presentation. Each cocktail I craft becomes a testament to our shared journey and the love we have for one another.”
7. What are your plans for Father’s Day this year, and are there any gifts you’re hoping for?
WWS: “While it may be unfortunate that I won’t be able to celebrate Father’s Day with my family this year, I am grateful for the exciting opportunity that awaits me. I’ll be attending the Bartender Talent Academy (BTA) in France, an event that promises to enhance my skills and broaden my horizons in the world of bartending. The best gift would be to be crowned ‘BTA Global Champion!'”
MJC: “Last year, with our baby just two weeks old and the challenging circumstances of the covid-19 pandemic in the Philippines, our Father’s Day celebrations were subdued. But this year, we’re making up for it! We’re planning a special outing for just the three of us, followed by an extended celebration in beautiful Bali at the end of June. I find true happiness in the blessings I already have. When it comes to desires, there is only one gift I wish for: the gift of good health for myself, my family, and my dear friends.”
8. We can’t chat to bartenders without talking about drinks!
We asked the guys to share their go-to drinks for dads based on their personalities. So what drink or cocktail would they recommend for:
– The busy dad
We’d want to create something for this dad that he has to drink slowly and take time to savour. You can’t go wrong with a classic Gin & Tonic. We’d also suggest a Negroni. This is a straight-up drink that should be sipped slowly so he can enjoy the bittersweet flavours.
– The sporty dad
Try a Shandy or a Sbagliato. This one is really refreshing and great after a workout for a sporty dad.
– The musical dad
We can’t go past a cocktail that was inspired by music. Try ‘Heartstrings’ – a fruity cocktail that will be featured in our Vol III: Real Art of Drinking Menu, which Wong Wee Siong specially created for family. This drink was inspired by the timeless song “You are my Sunshine” and Wee Siong’s fatherhood journey (cue the tears!).
– The loving dad
For a dad that is always doing his best for his family, we’d grant him ‘A Wish’. This is a really refreshing cocktail on our new menu, and it tastes so good you can make a wish with every sip, even if it’s just for the taste to last longer! This dad might also enjoy a Punch Bowl.
– The sleepy dad
We’ve all been the sleepy dad! He could try an Espresso Martini to wake him up after another sleepless night with the kids. But we’d recommend the ‘Graveyard’. Let the dad sleep, he really needs it!
Thank you to Wong Wee Siong, Bar Supervisor and Mel John Chavez, Bar Manager in Training from Smoke & Mirrors, and Accela Communications for contributing to this feature.