A GRAIN OF TRUTH

Teo Ser Lee is a familiar face to most Singaporeans. She was crowned beauty queen at not one but three pageants in the 80s. Not only is the 56 year old drop-dead gorgeous, she is also highly intelligent and talented. An auditor by training, Ser Lee, who doesn’t look a day past 30, also acts, hosts her own Chinese radio programme on Capital 95.8 FM, and is the Founder and Principal Trainer at Protocol Academy, where she tailors and conducts training programmes in the areas of diplomacy, protocol and etiquette for corporates and individuals. Her academy is so popular that pre-pandemic, she flies to multiple countries in the region regularly to train her clients.

In addition to all her professional accomplishments, she is also a domestic goddess. For you see, Ser Lee is also a home chef, where she whips up one of the most highly sought after glutinous rice in Singapore.

She started learning how to make the quintessential hawker dish from scratch 20 years ago for her mother, the late Mdm Yeong Kim Moi, who loved glutinous rice. Column Editor, Angela May Tan was stoked to be able to interview the multi-talented Ser Lee, to find out the story behind her bespoke cottage-core business, Si Glutinous Rice.

SGLS: Tell us the story behind Si Glutinous Rice. 

Ser Lee: My journey started 20 years ago. My late mother loved glutinous rice and would often buy it from hawkers. The store-bought glutinous rice were usually very oily, with very few ingredients and overall, unhealthy. As I love my late mum very much, I decided to learn how to make this dish from scratch, so I could whip up a healthier version for her. Therefore, I asked my mum’s friend, who made glutinous rice for a living to show me the ropes. Over the years, I’d modified the dish multiple times, always asking for feedback until it was perfect.

Subsequently, family and friends who have tried my glutinous rice suggested I sell it and Si Glutinous Rice was born. “Si” (思) is my middle name in Chinese and my busiest seasons are Chinese New Year (as glutinous rice is a lucky dish), baby showers and birthdays. The star ingredients I use include Lup Cheong (Chinese sausage), Chinese Mushrooms, Pork Belly and Peanuts.

Si Glutinous Rice

SGLS: You are a woman of many talents; you are a pageant queen, you act, you host a radio show, you are a home chef and also a successful etiquette consultant. Which of these roles do you most identify with? 

Ser Lee: I identify with them all as they are all part of my life journey. During my last corporate role as General Manager of Corporate Communications at Samsung, I decided to take a career break and enrolled in a protocol and etiquette school in the US to pursue my interest. My interest has become my day job; I am now a certified trainer in international protocol, corporate etiquette, dining etiquette and professional image.

In addition to acting, I am also a radio host; I have been hosting a food programme on Mediacorp Radio’s 95.8 for more than a decade. To sum it up, training is my bread and butter whilst acting and hosting are my true passion.

Teo Ser Lee’s Glutinous Rice is a hot favourite during Chinese New Year

SGLS: Looking at your social media, you are obviously a foodie. How do you stay in shape? What’s the secret behind your good looks and figure?

Ser Lee: Everything comes with a price. When I am not hosting food programmes, I am mindful of what I eat; I steam, poach, grill my meals and steer clear of deep fried food. I also jog 8km four times a week, sometimes coupled with 500 sit-ups per session. I am pleased to say that I can still fit into clothes that I wore in my 20s.

SGLS: You were an accountancy graduate. How did you end up starting Protocol Academy? 

Ser Lee: I started my professional life as an auditor before I switched to work in hospitality, where I stayed for 14 years.

However the dream of studying and teaching protocol and etiquette was always in my heart and hence, I did a lot of research and finally decided on a school in the US as there wasn’t any credible schools in Asia. Upon my return from the US, I started Protocol Academy to bridge the gap. Over the years, my client base grew as many who took my courses liked them and recommended Protocol Academy to their colleagues and friends. My clients hail from all walks of life; from multinationals to government organisations and also educational institutes. Prior to the pandemic, I would also travel with my team of trainers to various countries in Southeast Asia and China to conduct training. When the pandemic hit, we swiftly moved our training online. It’s definitely a different experience but we are all hopeful for the day where we can conduct in-person training again. I have faith that the day is coming soon.

SGLS: Who inspires you in life?

Ser Lee: My late mum. My family wasn’t well off and my late mother was a seamstress. She taught me to work hard to achieve my goals. For example, she made my brother (Ser Luck) and me help her with simple chores such as sewing buttons, zips, hemming, etc. We’d get rewarded with extra pocket money, which we’d save up to buy stationery and things we want, such as books. She still inspires me every time I think of her, especially when I make Si Glutinous Rice!

Ser Lee and her late mother, Mdm Yeong Kim Moi

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Place your orders for Si Glutinous Rice via email to serleeglutinousrice@gmail.com or send a message to (65) 98176717.

Find out more about Protocol Academy at www.protocolacademy.com.sg

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Interview by Angela May Tan, Column Editor & Writer.

Email hello@sglifestyle.sg for content partnership.

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