How did you get into the sweet life? 'When I turned 16 I decided to skip university and attended the Singapore national culinary school for two years. Then I worked hard to save S$10,000 to pay for [further] education, taking art courses at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, learning air brushing, painting, sculpture, window displays. I worked and received art training simultaneously. I started kitchen training in 1985 and discovered that my petite frame prevented me from carrying out heavy kitchen tasks. The turning point came in 1989, when I asked to do cross-training in the pastry section and found my passion. Pastry making is an artistic, three-dimensional skill.' Have you incorporated any Singaporean elements into your pastries? 'In London I have added Singaporean ingredients such as pandan leaves, lemongrass, lime and coconut. I am fond of Chinese sweet dessert soups (tong shui) and I serve snow fungus and other tong shui for Westerners to sample. I enjoy explaining our Chinese desserts to diners in London.' Do you still participate in international culinary competitions? 'I have won 25 medals, including 18 golds, at international competitions such as the International Culinary Olympics. Although I am very competitive, I decided to retire from competitions. My main objective now is training young pastry chefs. I don't keep my recipes a secret - anyone in my kitchen can browse through my recipe book. I treat my [chefs] fairly and they stay with me for years, studying new techniques together. This generates loyalty and we're more productive as a team. Even if someone has my recipes, it doesn't mean they can create the same tastes and textures as I can. They need to also understand the science.' What brought you to London? 'I have been living in London for 11 years. I moved here with my husband. Before that I was training in the United States and Paris [France]. Singapore will always be where I grew up, but now I'm happy living in Kent, about 90 minutes from London, meaning I commute three hours a day. I adore the tranquillity and outdoor activities there: Sunday picnics, horse riding, hiking, strawberry picking. I'm surrounded by local farmers and have access to local produce, reducing my carbon footprint.' Can you tell us about your afternoon tea set that won the 2010 Tea Guild award? 'The pastries and cakes in the prize-winning 'Bijoux' afternoon tea set were inspired by haute couture jewellery houses such as Cartier, Bulgari and Asprey. The 'Chanel pearl' was decorated with mother-of-pearl icing on top of candy and British shortbread as a base. The 'Asprey diamonds' were inspired by the celebrated Asprey diamond ring. We were the first to apply diamond dust powder to cakes. There were also sandwiches such as foie gras and truffle parfait and duck egg mayonnaise with mustard cress, and scones with raisins soaked in Louis Roederer champagne.' What qualities should a world-class pastry chef possess? 'The key is being unique. I don't mind if other pastry chefs copy me, but I'd never do that. Other great chefs inspire me, but I don't follow their trends - I set trends. It's also important to be passionate and willing to work hard. They should also be willing to share their knowledge, listen to customer feedback and keep an open mind in the face of creative criticism.' Would you like to have your own cooking show on television? 'Only if it was educational and enabled me to help the less fortunate. It would have to benefit others, not just give me fame and status. I'm also interested in educating people to use less-appealing ingredients in fundamental pastry making. We often throw away relatively unattractive ingredients, but they are still edible. I teach my staff how to strip off the less-attractive parts and preserve what's left. They need to know how to use everything, as much as possible. People still die of hunger these days.'