Why would a successful banking lawyer from Wall Street own a kitchenware store in Singapore?
Elizabeth Wilson typifies the highly mobile woman of the 21st century with a consuming zest for life… and a dash of passion for cooking.
Originated from Connecticut, raised in New England, schooled in Boston, worked in New York and owns her own financial consulting firm in Hong Kong, she also runs a kitchenware store in Singapore and Shanghai.
Recalling what anchored her in the East, she says, “I was posted to Hong Kong in 2000 by the New York law firm I was working for. A few years later – in 2004, I incorporated my own firm and I have been operating out of Hong Kong since. I am an information agent, specifically related to bond restructuring – from planning to settlement.”
Of her long-time interest in food and cooking, she explains, “I put myself through college and law school by waiting tables and bartending. The F&B experience came in handy as there is a lot of entertaining going on in the corporate world. When I worked in New York, I organized parties and events for my law firm and helped with fund raisers for charities. I just love food and cooking. Whenever I arrive in Holland Village, I head straight for Katong Laksa over at Lorong Liput. Do you know the recipe for Peranakan Laksa?”
This unpretentious and smart lady, who patiently and lovingly cooks for her guests, is no pushover. She is an accomplished competitive yacht (51-footer) sailor and has crewed several regattas a year around Asia since 2003.
Reflecting on her passion for cooking, she says, “I am from Connecticut, which is in New England – a place with beautiful beaches and mountains. It’s a great place for boating, scuba diving and fishing. We have lots of fresh seafood, including lobsters, clams, oysters and mussels. We have all types of wild berries too – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. We are surrounded by an abundance of natural and fresh food. As a teenager, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen baking cookies and cakes. Then I starting cooking and entertaining in college – you know, pastas, fish, salads and pretty much what I find healthy and nutritious. My grandmother taught me to always use fresh ingredients, so I never cook or bake anything from a mix. Cooking has always been part of my life.”
It was in Hong Kong in 2006, when Elizabeth was searching for a cookbook (a lucky draw item) for a dog rescue project that she stumbled upon the kitchen ware store, Pantry Magic. “I immediately related to it and I realized that this could be my store. I was considering an investment option and it was timely. So, through a franchise arrangement, I opened the Holland Village store in 2007 under the same name. Earlier this year, I terminated the franchise agreement and rebranded as Lemon Zest. Our focus is more on “culinary lifestyle” rather than “tools”. So, you will see a better range of goods in the months ahead from Lemon Zest. We will continue to sell more of cooking ware than serving ware. But it will certainly be better.”
Elizabeth, who is also board member and director of the International Women Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC), describes her customer type and business philosophy, “We are serving the modern woman who is passionate about cooking and living well. She is a successful woman whether as a home maker or a professional, or both. She knows what she wants. Our goal cannot be other than to make sure our customers get what they want and need. If a customer cannot find what she is looking for, we will discuss with the customer her exact needs and proceed to recommend a suitable substitute. If we do not have the exact product, we try to source it. So, our goods are always changing and evolving – as a result of new demand.”
Elizabeth says, “Cooking and serving food is putting love on a plate. I don’t know of any more gratifying way to show people I care about them. It’s an effort of love. It makes me feel complete.”
In the words of American author, Barbara Costikyan:
“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom.”
And helping its customers create this happy vision is what Lemon Zest is about.
So, why should it be hard to imagine a successful banking lawyer from Wall Street being anything else other than a real human being – especially if she is a passionate cook and sells you kitchenware in Holland Village?
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