2013/Snake Year Recap & Reflections Posted by: | January 30, 2014

I have been meaning to blog about 2013 since last month, but I had no idea the first month of 2014 would be so crazy (after an equally crazy month of December – holiday season means INSANE time for people in merchandising and Food business like me). Today is the last day of Snake Year, and also the first day in a long long time that I have been doing nothing but nursing my cold in bed – yes, my body is finally on strike! One of the good things about being sick is being able to really shut down and taking care of your body – and mind, which is why I decided it’s time to break my writer’s block and get my blogging juices flowing again! After all, writing is the most therapeutic thing for the mind and soul :)


So as tradition, I am going to recap highlights and lessons of 2013/Snake Year – possibly the most eventful year in my life so far as you may have read in my previous posts – and it is hard to imagine I could even top 2012 if you read my 2012 recap! Anyway, here is a quick recap, in chronological order:


1. I entered the E-Commerce world!


I started 2013 with one-of-a-kind partnership with Vietnam’s biggest IT company (Vat Gia/VG) to build a warehouse system and online store for my merchandises and cooking classes at Kitchen Art – this was a life changer for my small team as we were doing stock taking by hand, and worked on a very primitive POS system. Since the launch of the online store in June, we have shipped our products to customers as far as HCM City and to towns I have never even heard of! 

You may wonder how a new start up like mine attracts attention and support from a big company like VG for systems I would never be able to afford? Simple: by staying authentic and true to my purpose. I even had a condition for this whole partnership: I decide how the Online Store looks, works and feels – it has to look like a product from me, not from them. Moral of the story is good things come when you know what you want and act in your own true purpose, not someone else’s. 


Snapshot of Kitchen Art Online Store


 2. Opened my first ever Food business, the KAfe


OK I am not going show off about my KAfe as you have read all about it in my previous post. But I have to say again, it was my most impossible milestone ever achieved, proving again that if you really put your heart and soul into something unapologetically as if it is already a DONE DEAL, you WILL get there. The following 6 months of operation was the harsh reality after the dream-come-true and the high of setting up. I did not even have much time to bask in the glory of becoming a young restauranteur. Everyday was another surprise (often a nasty one, such as a broken toilet), and just to get through everyday in one piece without having the customers yelling at us, is an achievement. I would go to bed patting myself on the back for getting through yet another day, and wake up starting the whole rollercoaster ride all over again. Now THAT is reality. And that reality is still ongoing. I don’t know when it would ever end because I do not see myself exit this industry in a near future. Despite the blood, sweat and tears, I am still loving it! (but not every second of it, that’s just absurd, who likes stinky broken toilets??). On top of that, I was still running Kitchen Art. So this leads to another point proven: Yes it is physically possible to own and run multiple businesses. Now I know how Steve Jobs did both Pixar and Apple. Only he had thousands of employees and I have only a handful. 

Beside all the hardship of KAfe, there are many perks. One of them being reuniting with my old friends at KAfe by chance (because who doesn’t go KAfe? Lol), or having them visiting me on purpose, just to show support and love! So many amazing reunions have happened as my good old friends from Singapore or even old colleagues have come to visit my brainchild and appreciating it (and giving KAfe raving reviews on fb, tripadvisor, foursquare etc – you know the drill). Guys, no matter how busy I may seem, I am always free for you if you pop by for a visit. This is the whole reason I open a cafe –  to spend time with people (and eat good food)! 


Picture taken by Siew Yian, captioned as “Power of Dreams” on her FB :)


My bff from Singapore – Joanne, came all the way from Singapore to visit me and my KAfe!


3. Signed my second book deal 

I know some of you are still wondering what happened to my first book, “Sweet Kitchens” – IT’S COMING THIS APRIL! But we (me and Anh) signed a second book deal with a Vietnamese publisher for the first time this year too. Surprisingly they gave us a lot of creative freedom, and wanted us to be as real as possible. Which is exactly what I did when I pitched for the book – no fancy powerpoint, no long stories. Just me thinking women in Vietnam should have a new modern spin to their simple yet soulful cooking without having to be over the top Masterchef perfect material – as Television is selling that image hard these days, esp with Knorr advertising budget, lol. Cooking really is not a big deal, but it should also not be seen as a daily chore. That’s all I wanted to bring across. And they bought that idea. The yet-to-be-titled book is scheduled to be launched on Women’s Day (how apt) on 8th March this year! We are still in the midst of design and layout but it is finally coming into shape. Here is a glimpse!


Excerpt from Chapter 1 of our second book about daily cooking


 3. Joined the gym and became a gym nut


I am actually very proud of this one. After 3 years of no exercise since I moved back to Vietnam, I finally am back in BUSINESS. It has been 3 months since I joined, and I still maintain 4-6 sessions a week, packed with combat, dancing and fitness classes, with a bit of yoga here and there. I did not pay attention to my weight but I did notice significant changes to my wellbeing and fitness. Everything feels tighter, firmer and stronger! Some say I don’t look like I lost a lot of weight since I joined gym, but that’s not the point. The point is, exercising balances out my life a lot these days, and it forces me to disconnect from the hectic work schedule to really just focus on every muscle in my body and sweat out the stress and tension. After each session I would feel more confident and waking up with muscle ache is just the most alive feeling I can think of these days! I also discovered my joy for dancing through the Zumba and Bodyjam classes that I decided to take up additional lessons in dancing – which brings me to the next point: when you really like something, don’t think twice about doing it for yourself. Doing things that you love is like collecting gold coins. The more gold coins you have, the richer you feel in life. So start stacking them coins up!


Before Bodycombat class at my local gym.


4. Me and Anh finally met – and did a hell lot together


The friendship of the DECADE – me and Anh (my soulmate/business parter/co-author/co-blogger) has been a big topic of my posts in the last 2 years blogging. And all that time, we still did not have a chance to meet. In fact, it was in my 2013 new year resolution to meet her in person finally. AND WE DID! 2013 Christmas and New years was unforgettable as I got to spend it with her and her family who are now like my own. We went to Hoi An, Danang together, we ran the Christmas Feast event at KAfe together, baked together, and countdown to new years together. Unlike many beliefs that online friendships are virtual and often awkward once met in person, ours was nothing like that. We instantly bonded the moment we met, and didn’t even spend a day apart the whole 3 weeks she was here. We also didn’t stop talking – and probably annoyed a lot of people around us with our constant chatter. This proves one thing: A real friendship is real, no matter how it started and in what form. Now we are back to being on two different continents, but we never felt closer! We made a pact to see each other more from now, and next time we meet will be at our book launch in Singapore this April! Can’t imagine bringing her to all my favorite places to eat! I am also looking into visiting her in Melbourne this year, and we plan to travel to New York together this fall too. Having a best friend is one of life’s greatest blessing, and it is such a rewarding experience to open up to your friend and receiving nothing but love and respect in return. That, in my opinion, is true love. 



5. I grew up – a lot


Through reading, soul searching, meditation, writing and thinking – I have matured a lot in the past year. Wisdom or realizations don’t just come to you with time, you have to be open to learn, to feel and to acknowledge what is going on inside you. Having spent most of my twenties focusing on the things outside of me, I am now much more focused on what is going on on the inside and how I feel about things. In fact, the best decisions I made this past year are decisions I made based on what my inner guidance told me. Always ALWAYS trust your instincts and inner voice! This helped me to be stronger and fearless towards everything happening to me, and made me realize that life is ENTIRELY what you make of it. It can be total darkness but if you choose to see light, you will still find happiness and clarity. Happiness is a choice, not a result or reward. Have you made that choice for yourself yet? 


6. I have become a bit more famous (?!)


Now let’s not get too ahead of myself, but I did appear on TV quite a few times in 2013, and even on some major Magazines! The media is suddenly becoming very interested in what I do, and call me the food entrepreneur, “Fox of the year”, “wonderwoman”, “stylish CEO” and all sorts of things. I guess being a female entrepreneur is something new in this town, and I am glad I represent this new breed of homecoming “queens” who decide to do something new and refusing to conform to society conventions. Ah I’ve said it. I am weird and PROUD! As long as my words and what I do get out to more readers out there, it’s a good thing. I hope more women will be inspired to follow their calling and not afraid to challenge themselves! 


Me featured as one of “Foxes of the year” on 2!Dep magazine


Alright. Those are major milestones in 2013, and looking back on my 2013 resolutions, I did pretty well:

1. Not lose my drive for my business, passion and dreams – and never forget my purpose  –> CHECKED

2. Finally meet Anh in person  —> CHECKED

3. To eat, cook, dance, love and live with my loved ones everyday  —> CHECKED


For 2014, I do not have any resolutions. I decided the only thing that matters is to wake up everyday knowing I am going to give it my best and find love and happiness and sincerity in everything I do. Remember, it is a choice to feel good and why set resolutions and then feel bad about not achieving them? I’d say, throw them out the window and feel good everyday and you will achieve more than you can ever think of writing down in one list, as I did in 2013 :) 


Finally, here is a “Thank You” video that I produced with my team in Kitchen Art to thank my amazing and adorable team in KA and KAfe for having worked so hard the past year and stood by me through rain and shine. You guys are awesome, and truly my heroes!



Happy 2014/Horse Year everyone!


2014 new year’s eve countdown at the KAfe with my staff and customers






4 Responses to “2013/Snake Year Recap & Reflections”

  1. Ganesh says:

    Dear chi anh
    Was eagerly awaiting your long overdue post
    And I was inspired, motivated, educated and enlightened about life and priorities
    Especially the exercise bit! 7 sessions a week! Wow!
    The video is really sweet and it just goes to show that the people around you and your staff are vitally important in any business and smooth running of a company
    Looks like you are blessed in that aspect
    I like your philosophy of living for today to make a better future
    (Did I get that right? :))
    Maybe we should all stop looking back and regretting and looking to the future and fretting or dreaming and live more for today.. It will certainly make me healthier and happier and wiser… Just like you!
    Thanks again chi anh I really enjoyed reading the 2013 review.. Certainly made a perfect start to my year!

  2. Jura says:

    Hi Anh! Good to find your blog and great to hear how many things you have done this year in addition to opening the Kafe! We’ll be around soon in the new year. All the best for the year of the horse! Here is my blog by the way if you want to see: http://juraphotos.wordpress.com/ I have been meaning to do a piece on Kafe for ages but feel everyone has beat me to it! Word, etc.

    • Chi Anh says:

      Oh hey Jura! Good to see you here and I’m glad you are reading my blog! Your photos look amazing and I’m happy to know your blog now. Happy year of the Horse to you too and can’t wait to “reunite” with you guys and Tara the dog ;)

  3. Katherine says:

    Wow! What a whirlwind year. Congratulations on all of your achievements. You’re a powerhouse of energy. Looking forward to following your journey.

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