Humans of the Embassy: Alice Kwek-Chai, Agricultural Affairs

Food defines me.  This wasn’t the case 35 years ago when I first joined the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office as a commercial assistant at the age of 20.  This was my first job and I’ll probably retire here.  During my new employee orientation and the many trade missions and trade shows that I have attended in the United States, I have visited farms, corn, soybean, and wheat fields, processing plants, apple orchards, slaughterhouses, and sausage making factories.   I learned about the food supply chain and came to understand how our food makes its journey from farm to fork.  It also made me appreciate the Singapore government’s efforts to diversify its food sources worldwide to ensure food security.

The U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Singapore is part of the global network of 93 offices located worldwide.  My job is to help American agricultural exporters gain market share here in Singapore and my office does this by partnering with American agricultural producers and processors who are represented by non-profit commodity or trade associations called “cooperators,” of specific generic commodities such as dairy products, soybean, wheat, wine, meat, and poultry.  The work does come with some tasty perks.  My food experience and expectations have reached a new high and I have since passed on my love for food to my hubby and two sons.  We bond over Sunday dinners and will dine at least once a month at a restaurant and we share a common passion for wine, champagne, and single-malt whiskies.  I believe food connects people.  On weekends, I love to cook and occasionally invite my church friends for food fellowship.  My extra hot and spicy XO sauce was recently featured in the Straits Times.

In addition to my regular work duties, I have also served many terms as chair of the Embassy’s local staff association, which represents the voices of the locally-hired employees on various issues and advocates on their behalf with management.  The association also helps promote diversity and inclusion across the Embassy by showcasing Singaporean culture to American colleagues, celebrating local holidays and festivals, and, of course, through food.

– Alice Kwek-Chai, Agricultural Affairs