Robb Report Singapore
Meet The Orientalist
Growing up, F&B veteran Michel Lu had the opportunity to become a professional swimmer or a lawyer. Instead, the intrepid entrepreneur now runs the world’s first truly pan-Asian spirits company.
HELMING THE WORLD’S first pan-Asian craft spirits company may sound like a strange business proposition, but founder of The Orientalist Spirits Michel Lu was determined that the idea would take flight one day. Armed with business acumen gained from decades of experience running some of the city’s most successful F&B establishments and clubs (including Privé), Lu now sources botanicals from some of Asia’s most prized treasure troves for the craft spirits company that he runs in Singapore.
Lu’s range of spirits includes Origins Vodka, Gunpowder Gin and Dragon Whisky, all of which are sculpted using time-tested distillation methodologies. Organic longan honey from Thailand, Tibetan highland barley and Siberian ginseng are just a few of the premium elements that form the base of these spirits.
“I’ve reached that point in my life where it’s time to sit down and think about curating a legacy – hence the reason for The Orientalist Spirits. I love creation and could easily create a new restaurant, but at the end of the day, it’s about running the entire business. It’s hard work. For instance, if you have 300 staff working for you, you technically have 300 families to be responsible for. On top of that, there are customers to think about too.
The biggest misconception people have towards the line of business I’m in is that the job simply involves eating, drinking and waking up late. It’s nowhere near that. It’s not a party-all-day business at all. You have to come up with ideas for marketing and you’re in charge of your staff’s payroll too.
The worst advice I’ve received is to follow your heart. That’s really not the best advice you can give someone. Follow your brain, perhaps, is slightly better. I used to run modelling competitions and everyone would say “Everyone’s a winner”. We know that’s not true too. Listen to your heart and balance it with the logical side of things – that is much better advice.
If everyone could take a chill pill, the world would be a better place. We should all take a couple of steps back at times to relax. In a city like Singapore, we often leave home and head to work feeling stressful. It’s really important to take a step back and take a breather sometimes.”