(SINGAPORE) Newspapers are well acquainted with the name Justin Quek, but the homegrown celebrity chef is making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Quek, who is to helm multi-concept restaurant The Sky on 57 in Marina Bay Sands (MBS), was caught drink driving on Aug 6 last year. He was jailed yesterday for two weeks and fined $6,300 for drink driving. He was also banned from driving all vehicles for four years.
The court heard that Quek, 48, was stopped at a police road block while driving along Holland Road towards Ulu Pandan at 3.45am. As he was unable to provide a breath sample, he was taken to Tanglin Police Division for a breath evidential analyser test, which he was unable to complete after three tries. He also refused to provide a blood specimen for analysis.
Further investigation revealed that Quek was driving without a licence and proper insurance coverage.
Quek's lawyer Julian Tay told District Judge Salina Ishak that his client's reluctance to provide a blood specimen was due to a kidney transplant he had had in 1999. Being on immunosuppressive drugs, Quek had feared he might contract infection. The counsel also pointed out that Quek holds a valid driving licence in Shanghai.
Quek, who was convicted of drink driving in 2005, could have been fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to a year for failing to give a blood specimen.
Quek is the second prominent restaurateur here to be caught driving under the influence of alcohol in recent years. Giuseppe De Vito, owner of Italian restaurant chain Il Lido, was apprehended for drink driving in 2007. He lost his licence for two years and was fined $8,600.
F&B players here expressed little surprise at Quek's misdemeanour.
'Chefs have a tendency to appreciate a drink or two,' said Steve Hansen, owner-chef of bar restaurant Broth. 'It's just a matter of whether you get behind the wheel or not.'
However, those personally acquainted with Quek seemed taken aback at his behaviour. Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, whose restaurant Waku Ghin is also at MBS, allowed that he has had a couple of drinks with Quek - but that the latter would always take a cab home.
Roberto Galetti, executive chef of Italian restaurant Garibaldi was shocked. 'I've never seen Justin drunk in my life,' declared chef Galetti, who said that he had known Quek quite well when the Singaporean had been Les Amis' star chef, though they lost contact after Quek moved to Taipei.
Chef Galetti added that celebrity chefs are under 'a lot of pressure, being in newspapers all the time'. 'People have a lot of expectations of them, it's not surprising they drink.'
While alcohol might be part and parcel of the F&B culture, restaurateurs are adamant that the industry should not condone drink driving. 'We don't provide drink in the restaurant for the employees,' said chef Tetsuya.
'It puts innocent life in danger,' said chef Hansen on drink driving. 'Serious penalties are necessary.'
Said Eric Teo, president of the Singapore Chefs' Association (SCA): 'Drunk driving is not right, but it can happen to anyone, whether a chef, a lawyer or a technician.'
Mr Teo noted Quek's numerous contributions to Singapore's culinary scene. 'We hope that this blemish on his personal life will not tarnish his professional contributions, and vice versa,' he added.
MBS declined to comment on Quek's personal affairs. However, it is unlikely that plans for Quek's restaurant will be affected as it is slated to open only this October.