By Benjamin Tan
GEORGE Quek can best be described as an accidental businessman.
His first love, after all, is art. His foray into the F&B business was more a stumble than a calculated move.
In 1981, life threw him a curve ball when financial difficulties compelled him to terminate his fine art degree in Taiwan.
'I didn't think of going into the F&B industry. I wanted to be an artist because I love painting and drawing,' he says.
His belief that food can be art spurred him to take a course on how to make dragon beard candy, which he decided to sell to make a livelihood in Taiwan.
Though his masterful kneading, painstaking stretching and nimble weaving of the dough served as a visual treat to onlookers who were asked to sample the sweet snack, the Taiwanese didn't bite the bait, and he was forced to move his candy stand from place to place.
Third time's the charm as they say, and it was when he moved to his third location in Taiwan that sales finally took off. His perseverance then served him well as it does now.
'I'm a very determined person. When I'm faced with a problem, I will tackle it head on. I look for the root of the problem and develop solutions to resolve it,' he says in Mandarin.
His never-say-die attitude is accompanied by a fearlessness to challenge conventional wisdom. Unfazed by naysayers who told him that the bakery business was a sunset one, Mr Quek set about building a food empire that would redefine not just the taste buds of consumers but transform the erstwhile mundane experience of buying bread and eating at a food court, and opened the first BreadTalk outlet at Bugis Junction in 2000.