Kevin Chandra – The Consummate Professional Bartender


By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

His memory is phenomenal and his ability to single handedly manage the drinks station at large parties is legendary. That is why Kevin Chandra is always in demand at private dinner parties, large weddings, special functions and in fact any occasion where bartending is required.

I was impressed by Kevin the first time I met him at a private dinner when I first arrived in Ipoh many years ago. Not only did he remember my name the next time I was at a function but he remembered my drink and how I like to have it as well. And subsequently whenever Kevin was at a function I attended, I could rest assured that my glass was always replenished and in the right proportion of scotch to water.

This wasn’t just partiality on his part towards me but a service attitude which he applied to all of the people who are often on the social scene. Today whenever I am giving a large dinner party at home, Kevin is the first person I call for service. And I can relax for the rest of the evening playing hostess to my guests, leaving Kevin to take care of serving the food and the drinks.

And he is in great demand. Not only does he hold down a full time job at the Ipoh Swimming Club where he has been since 1979 and has worked himself up from waiter to his current position of Head Supervisor in charge of Food and Beverage, but he finds time to serve at all the functions where his polished bartending is much appreciated.

Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah is particularly fond of Kevin and he is always requested to serve His Royal Highness whenever there is a public function. The Perak Turf Club where the Sultan is a patron, has engaged Kevin so often that he has now been made an ordinary member by Chairman Tan Sri Jeyaratnam.

Kevin is also very proud of the fact that he was awarded the Pingat Jasa Kebaktian (PJK) in 2006, a medal given to anyone who has made a contribution to the state other than heroic deed.

Kevin began his career as a waiter in training at the then stately Station Hotel where he spent his four years observing and learning to serve. Honing his skills at the Swimming Club over the past 30 something years, Kevin is the consummate professional, akin to some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of being served by in Europe and with much less hauteur.

He’s chatty to guests and yet never misses filling an empty glass or clearing away an empty plate. “I always take leave when I accept private functions and sometimes I have to decline as my commitments at the Swimming Club come first before I accept outside assignments,” he said in response to my query about finding the time and coping with his popularity. “I also have a small share in a wine supply business but that doesn’t really take up too much of my time. I just take orders when I’m at functions and deliver them when I am free.”

So having spent so many years serving and bartending, I posed the question to Kevin about his future plans or if he has a dream that is yet to be fulfilled. “I want to own my own business and a restaurant is my dream. I just need to find an investor who will partner with me and I know that with my knowledge in the Food and Beverage business it will be very successful.”

With his drive, energy and determination, I am confident that Kevin will succeed in his restaurant. However, many people in Ipoh will be at a loss as to whom to engage for their functions when his restaurant becomes a reality.

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See Foon

SeeFoon Chan-Koppen has been writing a food column called Musings on Food in the Ipoh Echo since 2009. It is widely read both in print as well as online which receives more than 1 million hits a month. Her forte is in communications, having honed her skills after graduating from the University of Singapore where she worked for the Straits Times Group and was a food critic for the New Nation. Her knowledge of food and cooking come from more than 30 years in the hotel industry based in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and subsequently Kuala Lumpur. During this time, she has travelled all over the world and eaten at the best and worst restaurants. She is totally intimate with the subtleties and nuances of most cuisines of the world having been involved in opening over 50 hotels throughout the Asia/Pacific region and China where she helped to conceptualize Food and Beverage themes and critiqued on food quality. SeeFoon calls herself a global citizen and now chooses the serenity and friendliness of Ipoh to the bright lights of the many cities she has lived in. She also loves the food in Ipoh and is passionate about telling the world about it.

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