Branded Content, Character & Soul, Entrepreneurship, Self-Improvement

The Story of This Restaurant Owner Will Surprise You – Vanessa Tai

Lena Sim, founder and CEO of Ministry of Food, has a story that is worthy of any bestselling novel. At Material World’s video shoot for Elizabeth Arden’s new UNTOLD Eau Legere fragrance, Vanessa Tai sat down with Lena to find out more about her fascinating journey.

Material World and Elizabeth Arden Presents Lena Sim’s UNTOLD Story


Perhaps one of the last things you’d associate with a restauranteur is a childhood marked by poverty and hunger. Abandoned by her parents as a baby, Lena and her grandmother were left to fend for themselves. Lena and her grandmother were sometimes too poor to buy food that they were forced to rummage through rubbish bins for leftovers.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

Behind the scenes of the Elizabeth Arden Untold Legere shoot.

After graduating from university, she had a high-paying job in the finance industry but she still felt something was missing. She quit her job to travel for a bit, and found herself in Taiwan where she first tried a delicious green tea dessert from an old Japanese dessert chain. From there, she travelled to Japan to convince the founders of the dessert chain to expand to Singapore. After a lot of time and effort, her tenacity once again paid off and Ministry of Food was born.

Today, there are over 50 restaurants in Singapore under the Ministry of Food brand, and plans are in the pipeline to expand the brand across the region. Of course, the entrepreneurial path is never always a smooth one. Lena shares with us what keeps her going.

Tell us about the challenges you face and how you overcome them.

“Each day is a challenge; there will always be problems to solve and fires to fight. Entrepreneurship is all about facing failure, crying, and then standing up again. I believe the moment you stop running is the moment your business will flop. You just have to persevere and never say die. Every business is like a marathon – you need a lot of patience, discipline, and perseverance.”

How do you cope with the pressure?

“When you are doing something you love, you will naturally have the energy to press on. When I first made the career switch into F&B, my peers used to think I was making a big mistake and would laugh at me. However, these same people who chose to follow their ‘brains’ are now unhappy and stressed out in their jobs, with some of them even facing very real possibilities of retrenchment. This is why I firmly believe in following your heart. I’m full of energy each day, and I rarely feel tired when I’m at work.”

Do you ever find time to unwind?

“I hardly unwind because I enjoy myself so much at work that I don’t find a need to unwind. However, I’ve recently discovered it’s actually very therapeutic to go grocery shopping!”

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!

Myself, Lena, and the videography team!


Tell us your very own UNTOLD story and you might just win an Elizabeth Arden hamper worth more than $400.

elizabeth arden prize

Tell us your very own personal story of overcoming the obstacles Life placed in your way. The best story not only gets to be featured on Material World, it will also win an Elizabeth Arden product hamper! Each hamper contains a UNTOLD Eau Légère 100ml (worth $117), Beautiful Color Moisturizing Lipstick #Red Door Red (worth $34), and a Prevage® AM Regimen Starter Kit (worth $248).

For details on how you can win one, remember to watch the entire video.

Score an exclusive sample of UNTOLD Eau Légère! Simply be among the first 150 readers to visit Elizabeth Arden counter at Robinsons Raffles City from NOW and quote “Material World” to earn your sample fragrance vial.

This is the first of 3 videos Material World has produced in collaboration with Elizabeth Arden. Elizabeth Arden worked with Material World to produce a series of videos featuring Singaporean women, each with their own inspiring tale to share. The women featured are not spokespeople of Elizabeth Arden and they were not remunerated for their participation in this project.