10 Minutes with Cecil Chao’s Youngest Son, Roman Chao
Gigi and Cecil Chao need no introduction. The father-daughter duo and Tatler September cover stars are some of Hong Kong’s most well known residents. But how much do we know about Cecil and American-Vietnamese model Terri Holladay’s son, Roman? The youngest Chao and tycoon in-the-making lives a relatively low-key life despite the fame that has surrounded his family since he was a child. But, with an MBA from City University of Hong Kong with a concentration in information systems, the 27-year-old is destined to carve his own path without resting purely on the Chao name.
Here he discusses his new role, what he thinks about joining the family business and why Macklemore and Ryan Lewis may be the best live act he has seen so far.
What does Hong Kong mean to you?
I see Hong Kong as a Swiss army knife on a geographic and personal level. There are so many opportunities in terms of city, beach, party and business life. Culinary possibilities are definitely more diverse than anywhere else I’ve been to in the world. On a personal level, I’m fortunate to have good friends still around from various stages of my life (school, university and work). I’m the kind of guy who likes hosting events and gathering friends to celebrate the times that we’ve had together.
Tell us about your current role.
I’m currently a recruiter that specialises in the fintech sector. I’ve had the opportunity to learn about various cutting edge technology such as payment systems, crypto and trading technology. We like to call it a 360-degree job as the function of my job isn’t only to find the right candidates, but also to find and cultivate relationships with clients. It’s a job that always teaches me to push past my limits in terms of understanding people and networking, as well as be resilient and learn from failure.
What are your aspirations for your career?
I’m quite fascinated by how software can revolutionise businesses and make a psychological impact on customers. I’d like to work on an app that will make a positive impact to society. I know that’s idealist thinking, but as Steve Jobs once said “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, so I’m going to keep aiming for positive impact technology that goes beyond the zero sum game [the notion of one person's gain being equal to another's loss] fallacy.
Are you excited to join the family business?
Currently, I am on a path to learning more about the tech market from a business point of view. Somewhere down the line, it would be an honour for me to somehow collaborate with the family business. My brother, sister and dad are legends in their own respective fields. I hope to someday cross paths with them and make them proud.
What is your favourite holiday to celebrate and why?
Definitely Christmas. It’s the longest holiday off from work. I hope my manager isn’t reading this. I value hanging out with people that I care about. I basically have two Christmases whenever my mom is in town. Christmas Eve, I usually spend with dad and my siblings, while Christmas day I spend with her. All the following days, I get to party with my friends. I look forward to keeping warm through traditional hotpots and whisky. Hopefully by the time this is published, I will have completed my bucket list goal of trying spicy eggnog in the winter of 2020.
What are your top three favourite restaurants in HK and why?
Carbone, Spasso and Enoteca.
Carbone: I’m a big fan of Black Sheep restaurants. I particularly like Carbone. It really gets me nostalgic for when I lived in the US. I highly recommend their spicy rigatoni vodka pasta, as well as Mario’s meatballs. Whenever I go there with Dad, I can tell he gets quite nostalgic from the various western places we used to visit when I was a kid such as Jimmy’s Kitchen and Va Bene.
Spasso: This is a great restaurant for great Italian food. This was also the place my mom and stepfather treated me to when we celebrated my entry into the CityU MBA programme. They told me to invite a few friends and ordered an assortment of food. There was so much food. It was such an amazing night.
Enoteca: Every Friday, my colleagues, managers and I go there to wind down and celebrate a long hard week by getting pizza and pints of Brooklyn IPA and Hong Kong Yau. It’s quite a nice representation of the overall vibe of my current life and job. It symbolises the down-to-earth relationship I have with my team.
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What do you like to do when you travel?
I love to enjoy authentic and unique cuisines. After a week spending time with my family in Rome, we decided to spend our final day doing individual cultural sightseeing. I had 30 euros left and was going to use it to visit the Colosseum. Along the way, I passed by the Jewish district which was famous for its spicy artichokes and guess what? The price for the meal was exactly 30 euros. It was hardly a dilemma. I chose the meal. We have five senses of pleasure when we travel and my favourite is taste.
What TV shows are you currently binge watching?
I’m currently on my fourth or fifth (I’ve lost count) bout of re-watching Friends. I love ensemble cast sitcoms. I just appreciate how writers for shows like that and Modern Family weave in character development. Also, I resonate with Chandler Bing. His sarcasm is classic. I encourage any fan to watch the SNL video of Matthew Perry giving “sarcasm” classes.
Favourite concert you ever attended and why?
A Macklemore and Ryan Lewis show a few years ago. It was actually the first concert that I ever went to (I’m not sure if Clockenflap counts). Their style was super upbeat and lively, like a major celebration. I remember a distinctive moment during the concert when they played their song “Can’t Hold Us”. I remember that the crowd raved the hardest, the music played the loudest and golden confetti was pouring from the ceiling. That moment felt like champagne.
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Where did your love for live music come from?
A few years back, my mom took me to a nice jazz club in Central called BB Lounge. Our friend Jackson was the manager at the time and he was really hospitable. The thing that appealed to me was the singers. You couldn’t tell that they were working because you could see the passion in every song they did. Even all the times I went after, that consistency never changed.
What was your first pet?
My first pet was my white labrador named Summer. My mom actually chose her as she has always been a major dog person. When I was a baby, she had three chow-chows, but I still would consider Summer as my first pet as we truly grew up together. She came into my life when I was six and was with me throughout my childhood until my first year of university. She was always cheery and got along with everybody. No matter how rough things seemed as life transitioned, I was very grateful to come home to her every day. When she passed away at the age of 13, the pain was like losing a close family member. She truly was a man (and woman’s) best friend.
Describe a time you laughed so hard you almost cried.
There are too many moments for me to count, but the most important thing is the people I laugh with. It’s important for me to spend time with people in my life that I care for and love, like family and friends. I’m very grateful for having them in my life and I am doing everything I can to show them how much I appreciate them.
What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve ever done?
This. I’m not used to doing interviews. I hope this is a good start!
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