The Kuala Lumpur head mixologist at Marini’s on 57 shares how he’s also inspiring other bartenders to be fitter, happier. 

“I had been exercising for a while, once a week in the gym, but not really looking into my diet, and I was still drinking like everyone else after shift. Then about a year ago I woke up one morning and I just felt shit. I was like, ‘No way. I don’t want to feel like this anymore.’ I had had a rough day and a very long shift, and then some drinks – not many – and when I woke up, I thought, ‘I am 33 years old and how can I feel like this?’ I felt so bad. So, I went all the way: I changed my mindset. I wanted to become a fit bartender.

Now I go to the gym every day. Every morning I wake up at 9am and eat my breakfast – thank God, I never did that before, a proper breakfast – then run in the park for some cardio, then the gym for one hour, then go to work. I am also on a sugar-free diet. I don’t take sweets; don’t take dessert, unless it’s my cheat day – maybe one cheat day every two weeks. I don’t drink soft drinks or juice from a pack, only fresh juice. I don’t take much carbs; I don’t eat rice except brown rice. Fish, broccoli, avocado, tuna – still some fats, but just good fats.

It’s been amazingly natural. I didn’t have any difficulty, except for the rice – I am Asian after all. I feel better, I feel stronger; I can work for 16 hours. I could do that before, but then I needed a two-day break. I’ve seen a big change in my moods too. I could be very negative before, hot-tempered. I was trained in bars at a time when everyone was scolding and screaming, working fast. Now I feel calmer. I look after 50 staff. I am involved in management, and I look after beverage operations for the entire Marini’s group, which means beverage development and some marketing. And on weekends I am still behind the bar. It’s not a tough job, sure, but if you’re not strong mentally you won’t manage the stress from the customers, from your bosses, whatever issues there might be. Now I feel very positive. I smile more. But I think my staff miss the old me – they don’t hear my voice as much anymore!

Everyone has been supportive. ‘What happened to you, Junior? What did you do? Help me! I want to be fit like you!’ So I want to inspire others that working behind the bar is not an excuse. The words you hear most often from bartenders are: ‘We don’t have time.’ This is what I want to change. I want my staff to see how I can manage it doing the same hours as them. I said to them, ‘Listen, if you guys want to continue in this industry, you should look after your diet – or else you find another job. Because when you reach 40 years old, you can’t go anymore with the smoking habit, the drinking habit and unhealthy food. You’ll be left behind.’ In Malaysia it’s typical that parents don’t agree with us becoming bartenders. They say it’s not healthy. It’s late nights. We can prove them wrong by doing all these things.”

This story is part of our series on Bartenders’ Wellness, first published in Issue 06 of DRiNK Magazine. To read more on the topic, click here.