This short interview is part of a series on writers who took the leap of faith to pursue a career outside of the legal industry.
After graduating from the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore in 1999, Shalu spent a few years in legal practice before starting cooking studio and food consultancy Little Green Kitchen in 2011. Combining the secret family recipes gained from the kitchens of her childhood and her modern take on vegetarian cuisine, Little Green Kitchen offers mouthwatering and healthy vegetarian food spanning a variety of flavours, from Asian street food to contemporary Western cuisine. Down-to-earth good food is her motto and eating clean her passion. Shalu holds a prestigious diploma from the U.K.’s leading vegetarian culinary school, Cordon Vert, has worked with celebrity chef Bobby Chinn, and cooked for Dr. Jane Goodall. Her expertise in Asian cuisine has also had her featured in the Lonely Planet 2012.
Letters of the Law (LOTL): Tell us a bit about yourself.
Shalu (S): I’ve always lived my life exactly the way I wanted to, and tried to never have regrets. As long as I don’t hurt anyone, I’m always focused on realizing my own dreams and not on other people’s opinions. I’ve also always been very health-conscious and had a passion for cooking tasty, healthy food.
LOTL: Was studying and practising law something you always wanted to do?
S: I was encouraged in that direction by my father, as it had been his unrealized dream. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time so it seemed a viable option and I grew to really enjoy my work, especially when I started working in-house.
LOTL: When did you first think of professional cooking as a viable career switch for you? What was that thought process like?
S: I have always been open to trying new things. When the opportunity arose to self-reflect and review my skills and opportunities, I discovered an underlying passion for cooking and, combined with my love of healthy eating, I founded Little Green Kitchen.
LOTL: What was the process of starting Little Green Kitchen like?
S: I started running cooking courses on a part-time basis while living in Beijing. I worked for different cooking schools in China and Singapore for around 3 years before setting up my own school.
LOTL: Were the people around you supportive of the switch?
S: Most people were; some thought I was wasting my legal skills! I never really base my decisions on what people think though, as personal happiness has always been more important to me.
LOTL: Was there anything in particular that worried you about starting Little Green Kitchen?
S: Finances. I was worried about how I would make a living teaching people how to cook and whether there was a market for healthy vegetarian food.
LOTL: What’s one thing you miss and one thing you don’t about legal practice?
S: I miss the nature of the work; it’s actually very interesting and stimulating. I do not miss the high stress levels and tight deadlines obviously! But running your own business does come with a different kind of stress.
LOTL: Are there any similarities between your work with Little Green Kitchen and legal practice? Are there any skills you picked up in law school or legal practice that translated particularly well?
S: I like to think that I use the skills I picked up in my first career in everyday aspects of running my business - from time management, negotiating contracts, being very organized, writing promotional material etc. At the end of the day, an education provides training for the mind, and it’s up to you how you use it to your advantage afterwards.
LOTL: What gets you up every morning in your new job?
S: My students. I love them. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn new things, open-minded, fun and come from all walks of life which makes my job very interesting!
LOTL: Looking back, would you do anything differently?
S: Not really. I’m happy with where I am and what I’ve done.
LOTL: What words of advice do you have for your younger self in law school?
S: How you do anything is how you do everything. Don’t do things halfway. Put in your all in every venture you undertake and you are bound to see the results.
LOTL: What’s next for Little Green Kitchen?
S: We are expanding our consulting services this year, by moving into nutrition-based meal plans for individuals to help people achieve their specific health goals and also menu planning for restaurants and catering companies.