EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Kevin Cheng’s valu­a­tion of the finer things in life goes be­yond pomp and cir­cum­stance.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents - TEXT KI’ERN TAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY DAR­REN CHANG ART DI­REC­TION FAZLIE HASHIM

Kevin Cheng’s valu­a­tion of the finer things in life goes be­yond pomp and cir­cum­stance.

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.”

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.”

RARE BOT­TLING La Terre stocks whiskies such as this 48-yearold Karuizawa, which went un­der the hammer at Bon­hams ear­lier this year for $53,694.

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