Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration of a casual speed date.
Simon Tam is a man with a story that, on the surface, seems rather straightforward, but is, in reality, imbued with snippets of experiences and advice from some of the best in the industry.
“In 1994, I came to Hong Kong and opened a wine school, ran it for more than a decade and did a lot of consulting on the side. I’m also trained in winemaking, so I was invited to judge a lot of wine competitions around the world. It was a great way to meet interesting people, and before I knew it, I got a call from Christie’s, and ended up being their Head of Wine in Asia,” he says.
After more than a decade of learning about the auction and wine world, Tam left his role to start his own venture to fill in a gap he noticed in the market.
“I got a lot of feedback from my clients over the years, and decided I had to start my own project that was maybe a bit quirkier, but would address those needs. We’re very consumer-focused, so what that means is serious vintages with limited production that you can readily drink. Our wines are well kept and well stored, and you can still buy them at below market price compared to when you walk into a retail store,” he says.
Tam’s team at Aeos Auctions specializes in searching for and gathering the most interesting consignments and offering the bottles to their consumers at daily auctions.
Name: Simon Tam
Neighbourhood: Sheung Wan
Occupation: Founder & Auctioneer at Aeos Auctions
1. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
Curry fish head. I absolutely love it. It’s underrated here but I just love it.
2. What is your drink of choice?
Well, wine, obviously, but once upon a time in Singapore, I tried a tea with ginseng and chrysanthemum infusion that had no added sugar – but I was completely invigorated by it.
3. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
I’m very lucky to live just up the road from my office where there are so many produce markets and supermarkets. I love cooking, so it’s a delight to get to be so close to all these places.
4. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Very, very morning. About eight years ago, I went scuba diving for the first time, and for that sport, you really need to get up early to catch the morning sun. Ever since then, I’ve been getting up at 6.30am every morning.
5. What is your greatest fear?
Cooking a bad meal. It’s a little egotistical because I’m a pretty decent cook, so my fear really is imperfection.
6. What was your first job?
Pouring champagne at my family’s restaurant in Australia. I was only 14 or 15 but I was tall enough to pass as an 18 year old.
7. When did you last ride the Star Ferry?
8. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Making my friends and family laugh.
9. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?
Are you ready? 85 pairs. I have this habit where, if I really like something, I’ll buy the same pair in multiple colours.
10. What is your typical Sunday like?
I’ll start with cooking breakfast, nothing too heavy, and always with a fruit smoothie. I’m a big fruit smoothie guy. I usually meet a friend for lunch or visit one of my godchildren. By 5pm, I’m usually home, resting, and getting ready for the week.
11. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
Underwater or over-water. Scuba diving is so relaxing for me.
12. What is one movie everyone should see?
Love Actually. An absolute feelgood movie from beginning to end.
13. What’s your favourite childhood memory?
The first time I picked up an épée for fencing class. I was 11 or 12, and that was pretty life-changing. I got fit, had some great friends around me, and fenced for about a decade. I was the Australian champion, too.
14. What is one thing you’ve never revealed to your parents?
My family are restaurateurs. When we first arrived in Australia, we were surrounded by all these incredible wines. Once, I stole a half bottle of ‘61 Lafite to drink with my friends and, of course, we didn’t understand the taste at all and mixed it with some Coca-Cola.
15. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
The freshness of the ocean in the morning. Nothing can really compare.
16. How often do you prepare your own meals?
Pretty much every night when I’m at home. I have to entertain a lot for work but I’d otherwise always cook my own meals.
17. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Fish; I’m an ocean guy. In Southeast Asia, there’s so many varieties and ways to prepare fish, I just love the diversity.
18. What is your best dish?
Roasted Portuguese Suckling Pig. It’s unlike the Cantonese style; the Portuguese pig is flattened out, and then highly seasoned with chili, fennel, garlic, bay leaves and, of course, salt. Mine has become really popular amongst my friends because after I finish cooking it, there is zero fat left, and the skin is extremely crispy.
19. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
My mother, she’s a great advocate for treating people how you want to be treated.
20. Do you have any favourite tattoos or special birthmarks? What is it?
None, but I do have both my ears pierced from back in my fencing days. The state team boys, we decided to do something together and getting our ears pierced was just the easiest and cheapest.
21. What would you do if you won the lottery?
Nothing different. I’m pretty lucky, I have everything I want in life.
22. What was the best gift you ever received?
My son. He’s almost 15 now, and such a wonderful, smart boy.
23. When did you feel that you ‘made it’?
Every time I get up, I take a deep breath, think about what I do and just keep going. I don’t ever really ask myself that question. I’m a simple guy, in that sense.
24. What’s your favourite tradition?
I always ask for chili when I go out – regardless of the type of cuisine. I can’t get enough of it.
25. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Becoming a father. Nothing can prepare you for it. My godparents once told me that the role of a parent is just to prepare your child to leave you. It took me a while to understand it, but that’s exactly what it is.
26. When was the last time you felt starstruck?
Back when I was still in Christie’s, we were in Shanghai for a big Moët party, and I sat opposite Scarlett Johansson. She was absolutely mesmerizing, measured and funny. This was about six or seven years ago, and I still talk about it!
27. What is your life motto?
Keith Floyd, an English TV chef, had a famous saying which ran along the lines of: ‘If you can put an honest plate of food in front of people in this mean world, that’s a good thing.’ I really subscribe to that saying.
To learn more about Aeos Auctions, click here.