Singapore bureaucrat’s cooking trip sparks outcry

Melanie Lee

A Singaporean bureaucrat who wrote about taking his family on an expensive cooking course in France has sparked ire from locals, with some accusing him of extravagance given the city-state is in recession.

Tan Yong Soon, a senior official at Singapore’s Environment Ministry, learnt to truss chicken and cut vegetables at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris with his wife and son, and wrote about it in the Straits Times newspaper earlier this month.

“Taking five weeks leave from work is not as difficult as one thinks. Most times when you are at the top, you think you are indispensable. But if you are a good leader who has built up a good team, it is possible,” Tan wrote in the newspaper.

His article raised eyebrows given the five-week course for three at the prestigious French cooking school cost more than S$46,000 (21,000 pounds).

Singapore is one of Asia’s wealthiest nations but it was the first country in Asia to fall into recession last year. More job cuts are looming.

“Anyone who has any sense of empathy for the average working person struggling to survive would not be splashing his story of luxurious holidays in full spread in a national newspaper,” said Andrew Loh on a Singaporean discussion website (

Tan could not be reached for comment and he has not said anything publicly about the response to his article.

“How long does each of us take to earn even half that amount that Mr. Tan spent on his lessons? And how many of us can afford to be away for five weeks on paid vacation without getting sacked from our jobs?” said Eugene Yeo, senior writer at the political website, The Wayang Party Club of Singapore. (

Some online forum users said Tan could decide what to do with his money, but still felt he was being boastful.

“Agreed that what he does with his money and time is his business but to brag about it really makes me boil,” said an online post from someone nicknamed Ricksw8437.

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