By Michelle Lee

December 18 - 31, 1998

is1.jpg (106680 bytes)

Photography : Ho Keen Fi










is2.jpg (148652 bytes)

Photography : Ho Keen Fi

Others in this story included:

Phyllis Chew, President of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE): David Lim, Mount Everest expedition leader: Glen Goei, Filmmaker: Electronic Road Pricing, The island's automated road pricing system: Cindy-Anne, Paul and Gary Berlandier, Co-owners of Sunset Bay Beach bar: Andrew Ing, Marketing Manager at Zouk: Audrey Perera, Event Manager.


U N D E R   T H E I R   I N F L U E N C E   [exerpt]

The people who wielded the most clout in 1998

They are daring, determined, persistent, creative, visionary and sometimes just a pain in the ass. They are the players, movers and shakers who made Singapore more interesting this year. I-S Magazine salutes the individuals who made 1998 a year to remember.

Claim to Fame: Designed a huge number of places where we eat, drink and dance.

How he sees himself: "indigent"

It has become increasingly hard to spend a night out in Singapore's hottest restaurants and nightspots without walking into an Ed Poole creation. His Singapore credentials are impressive: Two revolutionary House of Mao restaurants; the original Chinese-chic outlet China Jump Bar and Grill; the sleek acid jazz joint Hu'u Bar; the kitsch retro Lava Lounge disco; the smart and romantic Qhue; the campy Sugar; the cool Bobby Rubino's; the gothic Provignage; the new Next Page, and the 27 Haagen-Dazs outlets dotting the island. The man from Chicago has his fingerprints on a heck of a lot of bar counters.

Poole says he's just been lucky that the projects he has taken on have been very successful. Today, his firm is turning away three projects for every one undertaken. Part of his success comes from his devotion to detail, from searching for exotic timber for a sofa, suggesting the music for a nightspot to coming up with the whole concept for a bar.

Clients have, however, been taken aback when he continues this devotion after the work is finished. One recent instant was when he felt a certain nightspot "trashed" the place he had made, and stormed into the management office to put them straight. "What's the point of spending a million dollars on a setting when the place becomes covered with paper signs?" he says. "The visual aspect is a very powerful tool, and when they let it go to pot, then everything goes to waste".

And soon, you'll also be able to check out his work on the trendiest streets of London and India. His clients like his designs so much, he's now working on the latest House of Mao coming up in London, as well as the Indian branch of China Jump. Poole's ideas, recognizable for their sense of humor, come from his nocturnal routine. An insomniac since 12, Poole puts in an 80-hour week and sleeps an average of four hours a night. "because I have extra time to read, I am more aware of new developments in architecture and design. When I get really bored at 3am, I crank up the music and catch up on subcultures".


Claim to Fame: Creating a stir with his controversial theme restaurant, House of Mao.

How he sees himself: "I would like to be seen as a creative person. If I were not in the restaurant business, I would be in a creative business like design".

Call him General Tjioe. His battlefield is Orchard Road. "You want to make your presence felt, you have to be in Orchard Road. This is the place where theme restaurants are. House of Mao II's venue was deliberately chosen: Here, we are within 100 meters of Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, California Pizza Kitchen, Muddy Murphy's, Dan Ryan's and Celebrities Asia. So let's see who's the winner".

Judged on media hype, House of Mao is a big winner this year. The opening of the $1.2 million kitsch theme restaurant - centered around China's communist leader Mao Zedong - attracted hordes of curious diners - and a retinue of press. CNBC, BBC, NHK (Japan), NTV (German news channel), Asian Wall Street Journal, and Nikkei were among those who covered the opening of Houses of Mao I & II.

1998 has been one of Tjioe's busiest years, with the opening of the glamorous Club Chinois and the Houses of Mao, and the ensuing public scrutiny. "I didn't expect the overwhelming publicity, although I knew it was going to be a controversial restaurant because Mao is a controversial subject, especially in our society".

He first came up with the idea because he owns an extensive personal collection of Mao memorabilia. At the same time, he saw a wide-open opportunity for theme restaurants centered on Chinese history. He was so confident of his idea, he decided to take the calculated risk of a public backlash from the politically correct brigade. His friends and his Indonesian tycoon father advised Tjioe against the restaurant, but he stood firm and is now as ebullient about its success as the Great Helmsman was about The Great Leap Forward.

Not content with his 12 restaurants in Singapore, General Tjioe has House of Mao coming up in London, though he remains as guarded as Mao on when this next strategic move will happen.

back home