Celebrating Life’s Every Triumph: Alan Gwee Swee Phin | SPD - Singapore

Celebrating Life’s Every Triumph: Alan Gwee Swee Phin


49-year-old Alan Gwee had a successful career in the F&B sector. He was passionate about good food and great service, and rose up the ranks to become an operation supervisor at the Michelin-starred Hong Kong Mak’s Noodle - its first franchise in Singapore.

All that came to an abrupt halt on 20 July 2016 when he collapsed in his home. At the hospital, Alan was told that he had stroke. A brain haemorrhage also resulted in losing the use of his left hand. Heading back to the job he loved seem no longer possible.

Alan was referred to SPD’s Transition to Employment (TTE) programme and was determined to return to work. With no job and no income, he was hurting inside and desperate to recover. Time and again, his body failed him when he tried to reach further, walk faster or to stand just that bit longer. Coming to SPD for rehabilitation each week, Alan would choose to take the 1km-walk to the centre over the convenience of the shuttle bus service. He pushed himself and was determined to improve.

For someone whose working life had revolved around the F&B scene, life can be lonely without the service team and empty without the adrenaline of peak-hour dining. For Alan, this was a real daily struggle. Soon after joining TTE, Alan was provided a work hardening opportunity with our employment partner MyNonna’s to run a school canteen stall.

There was a stark difference between running a canteen stall and a Michelin restaurant, but Alan relished this opportunity. The learning curve was steep and Alan knew that it would take time to get used to working again.

Six months go by in the blink of an eye for many, but for Alan, it was a long time where it was a daily battle with a body that needed to rediscover its endurance. Along the way, he also learned to face customers again. To smile, even when his body hurts. To see a satisfied customer smiling back was a reward as he knew that it was a job well done.

Resolutely, Alan embarked on finding an F&B job on his own. Alan’s journey back to employment was not exactly a smooth one. He faced many rejections from employers and many others who told him that he was not a suitable match for the F&B industry. He endured numerous interviews with no results.

However, Alan never gave up and kept up with his applications. In November 2016, he was accepted by Timbre Group for a bistro project. His journey of resilience back from stroke is much lauded. From a career ending condition, he now fronts the newly opened Five & 2 Bistro as a bartender.

"I was jobless, but I never gave up. My job is to keep on learning,” said Alan.

We hope Alan’s story will inspire others to chase their rainbows and never to give up on their dreams.