There are several things happening in a day for Chai Hall. The mother of two juggles her time between her roles as restaurateur and founder of a newly opened dance studio. Moving Cube. She adds, “I am currently producing a dance showcase as a fundraiser for a charitable organization that I am running for the family, The Best Gift Foundation.” In between tasks, meetings and other work obligations, Chai still manages to supervise renovations for her family’s properties in Koh Samui and Italy.
Challenges and setbacks notwithstanding, the dance enthusiast who’s been immersed in her study of Flamenco for eight years now, shares that moving with purpose and flowing with the tide has helped her navigate her way. Chai advises: “Not everything that you plan for in life happens, you have to learn how to go with the flow. As Bruce Lee (one of my husband’s biggest heroes) quoted, ‘Be water, my friend.’”
This week, our multi-tasking, multi-hyphenate Woman of Pearl takes us through her busy yet exciting days. Dabble in Flamenco dancing at Moving Cube Studio. Go behind-the-scenes to discover the secret recipes of Hong Kong Central’s chic dining concept, Mr. Wolf. There is also an option to indulge in a three-hour weekend brunch accompanied by bubbly Prosecco, no less. Walk along the beach, paddle board or simply take in the sounds of waves crashing as South Bay.
What keeps you busy these days?
My days are filled with tasks for different projects, both personal and work. I am currently producing a dance showcase as a fundraiser for a charitable organization that I am running for the family, The Best Gift Foundation (thebestgiftfoundation.org). I’m also working on a collective recital for my new dance studio, Moving Cube. This is in partnership with other studios and dance teachers.
I am learning the ropes and enjoying it at the same time--running a multipurpose space for dance and wellness, Moving Cube Studio, overseeing operations of our restaurant in Central, Mr. Wolf. While all this is happening, I’m also supervising renovations of our properties in Koh Samui and in Todi, Italy.
How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
It’s ever evolving. In my youth, I planned on becoming an architect, but that did not pan out as my aptitude in math did not quite live up to the requirements of the curriculum. My back up was to study Psychology as I always wanted to help people and I found the mind to be an intriguing subject.
After graduation, I worked as a Psychometrician for a big bank in the Philippines, which was a bit duller than what I thought a career in psychology would entail. The benefit was that it took me to different places as I had to administer tests to applicants in a number of branches around the country.
Just when I was about to apply for my Masters Degree, a few friends persuaded me to apply to be a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific Airways. And I thought, why not? You get paid to travel around the world. So, I jumped on that bandwagon and next thing you know, I was living in Hong Kong and flying to places I have never dreamed of traveling to.
The next stage is the most important career of motherhood. I gave up my job as a flight attendant to take care of my family. I take this role very seriously. Now that they are older, I’ve started getting involved in the family’s businesses and honing skills that I put in the back burner during the girls’ formative years.
What is it about your work/career that you enjoy the most?
I am fortunate to be able to choose the work that I do and I am very grateful for that. At Mr. Wolf, we are organizing in-house events as a means for generating revenue and promoting the restaurant at the same time. It is a challenge but great fun as well.
The studio is my passion project as this lets me get immersed in flamenco dancing, which I started taking up just about eight years ago. Aside from the studio providing a ‘home’ for my hobby, it has helped expand the dance community that I move around in. Being able to meet dancers of all ages, nationalities, varied disciplines and levels is a valuable experience and something that is ‘uniquely Hong Kong’.
What do you consider to be ‘hazards of the job’?
It might not be a hazard, but having your own restaurant involuntarily limits you from exploring other restaurants, which HK has thousands to offer.
Having a dance studio allows me to have more time to spend in the studio for practice, which has resulted in more injuries. I’m suffering from heel pain at the moment.
For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
Having an independent spirit helps you to find your true self and will help you achieve clarity in what your goals are in life. Not everything that you plan for in life happens, you have to learn how to go with the flow. As Bruce Lee (one of my husband’s biggest heroes) quoted, ‘Be water, my friend.’
What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?
I am not sure if this is applicable to my situation as I did not spend long enough a tenure in any of the jobs that I held or am currently holding. I believe that judgments or assumptions of what your abilities are based on gender or race will only affect you if you allow it to. This is of course subject to the position or environment that you are in. If you believe enough in your talents and abilities, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals.
How do you balance work and family life? What are the activities that enable you to bond with family?
‘It takes a village’, as the proverb said. Even when I was a stay-at-home mom, it still required ‘teamwork’ to get through the day, specially when the kids were little. My husband traveled a lot in the beginning of our family life, and it was a challenge not having him around.
Having people to help and learning how to delegate tasks spells a difference between heaven and hell. Nowadays, planning is key. I learned that from my husband. I have made a habit of making lists of my tasks, lists to delegate to others. I line it up sticky notes on my wall so I can visualize things that need to be done.
As any family, we love our dinners together. It’s a time for sharing and catching. We live in a neighborhood where it is conducive for outdoor activities like long walks along the sea with our Labrador, Scout, hanging out by the beach, paddle boarding or wakeboarding. We love “vegging out” while watching movies.
How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
Dancing is my escape and I have been challenged by flamenco dancing for eight years now. It is a difficult dance and learning it gets me in a mindfulness zone. When my schedule gets hectic and overwhelming, I listen to chanting for 15 minutes to quiet my mind and get centered. Walking or running by the beach is, for me, a great way to unwind.
How would you describe your personal style? What are your wardrobe essentials?
My fashion sense is a bit schizophrenic. It has different personalities depending on what mood I am in. I tend to fall back into preppy basics, and you can never go wrong following French street style. Sometimes, I would go for some crazy print pants or bold color dress or a voluminous top. But I always make sure that there is balance in terms of proportions.
Over the years, I have learned what suits me and I stick to it. I used to be obsessed with high heels but nowadays, my sturdy pair of Golden Goose sneakers and not-so-vertiginous heels are my ‘best friends’.
What for you makes a good investment piece? Kindly cite example pieces in your current wardrobe.
I finally gave in and bought myself a vintage Chanel jacket last year. I had plenty of time last year to scour online sites for a piece. A good well-cut jacket that you love will take you places.
An exquisite string of pearls commands elegance. My daughters wear their version of pearls mixed with some edgy necklaces to update the look.
What do pearls mean to you?
Being Filipina, pearls remind me of the motherland. The Philippines is a rich source of pearls and the national gem is the South Sea pearl. The pearl symbolizes the natural beauty of the country that I grew up in.
Likewise, wearing pearls, whether with a suit, an evening dress or a plain white T-shirt and jeans, never fails to make me feel elegant.