Social work adds spice to Nepalese chef's busy life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am

It's surprising that Sapkota Prem still looks youthful given that his eight years in Hong Kong have been a whirl of non-stop activity.

Born near Kathmandu in Nepal, he came here to work as an Indian chef at the Peak Cafe. He still works for the same restaurant group, cooking tandoori dishes at Cafe Deco in the Peak Galleria. But the enterprising 29-year-old also owns and runs two Indian restaurants with his brother - one in Kowloon City, the other in Sai Wan Ho.

In 1992, he set up the first support organisation for Nepalese living in Hong Kong, the Nepalese Alien Association. Mr Sapkota works as the association's chief adviser, helping members of the Nepalese community with their day-to-day problems.

What's on your mind? I have a business idea in my mind for the future. An import-export garment business. It's something I want to do with a friend.

How do you condense your chef/businessman/social worker roles into a working day? It is very difficult. For nine hours, I have to take care of my restaurant work. I do association work in the morning or in the evening. I only get five to six hours sleep each night.

How did you come to set up the Nepalese Alien Association? When I came to Hong Kong I saw there were associations for all the other nationalities here. I thought: why not start a Nepalese association to help Nepalese people? I don't know the exact data, but there are thousands of Nepalese living in Hong Kong. We have links with Gurkha ex-soldiers, Nepalese born here and others who are here as contract workers.

How do you help them? Some have immigration problems, some are domestic helpers and have problems with their employers. We try to help them settle in. The association also gets involved in cultural programmes and religious festivals. We make seven or eight programmes a year. We also want to establish relationships with other countries' associations here.

Do you still enjoy working as a chef? Yes, I still enjoy it. I talk to many customers, they ask me many questions about Indian food.

Why do you think Indian food is so popular outside India? There are many different kinds of foods and tastes. Chinese people like it milder [than Europeans]. They don't like the spiciest dishes so much.

Do you think you will spend the rest of your life in Hong Kong? Maybe, I'm not sure because I am still young.