Cooking up help for other troubled youth

Mr Enoch Teo who started his European cuisine restaurant in 2013.

By the age of 14, he was already abusing several different drugs.

His downward spiral started after he quit school in 2006. He spent his days with a gang, getting into trouble with petty crime.

The turning point for Mr Enoch Teo was when he was arrested at 16 for breaking into a car and stealing a laptop and CashCards.

A drug test showed he had also taken codeine and aramine.

“If I had been slightly older, I would have gone straight to Changi Prison,” he said.

Instead he was put under the Streetwise Programme, a voluntary rehabilitation scheme for non-offending wayward youth.

When he came out a year later, in 2007, his mother convinced him to apply for a job at a Japanese restaurant.

“I enjoyed working in the kitchen but that wasn’t enough to keep me off the streets and away from the bad stuff. The temptation was always there,” Mr Teo said.

So he checked himself into halfway house The Hiding Place, where he was put on a programme for young people.

“I looked at my mother and saw how she never gave up on me. I knew that I had to do something to get my life in order,” he said.

After a year there, he pursued his passion in the restaurant business and attended the At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.

Six months after graduating, he had a motorbike accident, which left him immobile for four months when his right leg was badly injured.

But there was silver lining.

The insurance compensation, which he declined to reveal, allowed him to start his own business, a European cuisine restaurant, which he opened in 2013.

Now Enoch’s European, which is at East Coast Road, is doing well and sees a good flow of customers, especially at dinner time.

Mr Teo also hires troubled youth to help run his eatery with the help of YouthReach, a centre that helps at-risk youth develop their skills.

“I feel like I was given an opportunity in the past to turn over a new leaf. After what I went through, I feel it’s easier for me to connect with other youths.

“After everything, nobody gave up on me, why should I give up on them?”

This article was first published on June 16, 2015.
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