Tan Wei Shan’s resume is peppered with a long list of culinary awards. The 26-year-old is the owner and chef of Mixsense Private Dining, Sin & Savage Bakehouse.
The Republic Polytechnic graduate is not only a restaurateur, but also a full-time student at the Culinary Institute of America. To him this is important as it will take the service and quality of his restaurant/bakery to the next level.
Looking at his success now, one might assume that he cruised through school and had no hiccups. Truth be told, Wei Shan has dyslexia – a learning disorder that makes it difficult for him to read.
How did he overcome the difficulties and what did it take to rise above the challenges?
“It requires me to read 5 times more than a normal student,” explained Wei Shan when asked about his challenges along his academic journey.
THE RP JOURNEY
Wei Shan credits his time at Republic Polytechnic as formative to his journey in becoming a restaurateur. He enrolled in the Diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations in 2015. In school, he joined the Canoe Sprint Interest Group and evolved into a serious competitor in the sport.
He had to be disciplined and kept to a strict schedule during school term to train and lead multiple sportsmen and women in the sport.
However, things took a turn for the worse when he suffered an injury a mere 2 weeks away from his Polytechnic-ITE (POLITE) games. However, he pushed himself and clinched a gold medal. That was the last time he played the sport and decided to hang up his paddle.
That led him to focus on his cooking.
He said: “That was when I had the chance to really focus on my cooking. As they say when one door closes another opens.”
At the School of Hospitality (SOH), he met Mr Derrick Lau, an experienced lecturer and chef from the hotel industry. Wei Shan did not just learn culinary skills from Mr Lau but more importantly, he learnt valuable life lessons as well.
“(I) guess it was fate that we met. I guess we went a long way together from him being a teacher, mentor, and even a father figure to me,” said Wei Shan.
The environment and the way classes are taught in RP instilled valuable lessons in him.
“It taught me the basic necessity of survival, and also the core values. You have to be a team player, responsible, hardworking and outgoing in order to excel,” he added.
After graduating from RP in 2017, he created a project called Mixsense Private Dining, a dining concept that allows him to curate a menu for customers to enjoy meals in the comfort of their homes.
“It started off as a charity event, where we raised funds for the Dyslexia Association of Singapore as I’m a dyslexic myself, ‘’explained Wei Shan.
But as the project took off, it garnered support from patrons and soon, it became a business venture. The dining experience typically starts with homemade artisanal bread and snacks before a six-course meal.
Chefs while serving, explain the origins of each individual dish and how they were prepared.
Why Mixsense? There is also a story behind the name and logo of the business.
“Mixsense is named after the word ‘Make Sense’ where it makes sense. Also, it means the mix of senses (that the guests experience) throughout the dining experience with us. On our logo, the “e” is flipped backward, as a kid with dyslexia would have read it backward, ” explained Wei Shan emphatically.
Apart from Mixsense, he also regularly comes back to RP for sharing sessions, photoshoots, and cooking demonstrations. He gives back because he believes that his experience can help aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs.
“Well, I was once like you guys, didn’t have much exposure to jobs or even the world. Having a senior or someone ahead of you sharing means a lot. You get to hear the first-hand experience, prepare yourself better, and make fewer mistakes,’’ he said.
His message to the RP community: “Believe in yourself and don’t just dream, make those dreams a reality!’’