It is hard to imagine when the well-groomed and stylish entrepreneur Lena Sim professed not only was she not born with a silver spoon, she was extremely poor.

For those who are unfamiliar, Lena Sim is the owner of the casual Japanese food and dessert chain Ministry of Food (MOF), and Italian restaurant chain LENAS– suitably named after herself. Most would have thought that such successful business owners would have been daddy’s rich girl to begin with, but the 30-something CEO really worked all the way up, and hard.

Her maternal grandmother was her only guardian, both of them staying in a rented one-room flat. Other than her grandmother’s fried egg with spring onions, the only childhood food she remembered was the Lor Mee at Redhill Blk 55.

During her Primary School days, she would circle around the Lor Mee stall just to take a peek, but never had the money to eat it.

“It was until when I had a fever till ah-ma gave me $1.20 as a treat to make me smile. I sometimes wished I would fall sick more often”, she laughed.

But when the young Lena was about to pay up, she found out that she lost the money accidentally.

The Lor Mee stall owner gave her a free bowl in the end. The uncle did not mind that she could not pay, because he knew she was a fan of his stall.

The media-shy Lena added, “When you are poor and sick, it’s a caring act like this that makes you feel wanted.”

She described that her favourite parts were the crispy fish batter sprinkled on top, and demonstrated how she would make a ‘krap krap’ sound as she crunched on them. As she laughed again, you could sense that beneath this determined and strong-headed CEO, was a child who appreciated every simple thing she had.

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