Ai Peng, Entrepreneur and Restaurateur

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?

My first foray into the industry was opening The Red Beanbag, an Australian inspired cafe in Publika. At 21, I had no prior experience in F&B having pursued economics and finance at the University of Melbourne. After coming back to Malaysia in 2008 however, I felt there was a large gap that could be filled as cafes here simply didn’t offer the quality of food and coffee like the ones back in Melbourne.

After The Red Beanbag had stabilized its operations, I left to pursue a culinary course for a year at William Angliss Institute in Sydney.

As for now, I’m currently running Lou Shang Bar, a cozy cocktail bar located in Damansara Uptown with hubby, Manfred.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is having customers appreciate the food, drink and service. I am thoroughly happy when customers provide positive feedback because it is a form of validation; that the amount of care and passion our chefs, bartenders, baristas and service staff put into their jobs is respected and valued.

What’s your favourite meal/ drink Lou Shang Bar?

I love having anything that has a local flavour to it. My favourite signature has got to be ‘My Sassy Bini’, which has dragonfruit, gin and kaffir lime leaves in it. Pair it with some spicy tacos and I can kick back and relax for the night.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

Perhaps the most interesting would be when I first started The Red Beanbag and operations were in full swing. We had a staff shortage with only one head chef and two assistants.

One of the assistant cooks didn’t show up for four days and when he finally did show up on the fifth day, he told the head chef, ‘I’m being targeted by agents. They’re here to shoot me. I’ve got to go.”

When we heard the story, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But that’s F&B, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always a better story to tell.

A day in the life of a restaurateur is….

… stressful, a lot of running around, a lot of meetings to attend and 1001 things to do. You’ve basically got to assume 10 roles at any one time. You are always someone’s manager, mentor, financier, personal shopper, secretary, headhunter… and the list goes on.

What do you do for fun?

I binge-watch episodes of food-related shows; Masterchef Australia, Hell’s kitchen, Chef’s table, My Kitchen Rules. Of course not all these shows are ‘serious’ cooking shows, but hey, it’s my guilty pleasure.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Lou Shang Bar?

We are a bar that likes to experiment a lot with different techniques and presentation. We play around with fat washing liquors (such as pork jerky infused bourbon), smoking herbs and drinks to enhance the cocktail. I would call it ‘experimental bartending’ and who better to do so than our head bartender, Demi, who already has more than a couple of award winning drinks.

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

I am in the midst of opening another restaurant, located at The Starling Mall in Damansara Uptown. It will have a casual fine dining vibe but the part I’m most excited about is the food. What it is? You’ll just have to see…

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  1. All the best with the new one at Damansara Uptown! Cheers!!!

  2. I wish you all the best with the new restaurant. Great review.

  3. Can’t wait for the Starling! Me too. I HEART the Sassy Bini!

  4. Thanks for all the support! Really appreciate it especially in these trying times!

  5. hoperator

    Can’t wait to check out the new restaurant!

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