Dato’ Fazley Yaakob, Beyond The Spotlight
Just a few days before our interview with Datuk Fazley Yaakob, a heartwarming story of him performing an act of kindness surfaced online. It all began when a GrabFood rider (a food delivery man) requested for a selfie with Fazley after delivering an order to his home, but could not muster the courage to actually do it, for fear it would go against the company’s policy.
Fazley, said the rider named Fakhrul so badly wanted to take a photo with him but had to be careful not to jeapordise his job.
Admiring the man’s integrity and sincerity, Fazley decided to do something nice for him. Being a chef, he baked a cake for the lucky rider and worked together with Grab to pull a surprise for Fakhrul. Coincidentally Fakhrul’s birthday was just around the corner so it all fell into place.
In a video documented and shared on Instagram, Fazley shared a snippet of what happened on the day of the surprise. Fakhrul who entered the room thinking he was in trouble due to being late found a delightful surprise waiting for him behind the door.
“I love surprises so I love to surprise those who I’m close with. But this person was so genuine – I admire people who are like that and those who work hard everyday to make a living so I didn’t mind going the extra mile for him.
“I found out soon after that he is in fact a religious teacher as well,” she said.
“These food delivery riders are just like us. I’ve met people who come from various backgrounds, some overqualified even. I found out the Fakhrul was also juggling another job as a religious teacher.
“Then there was this Grab Driver whom I met awhile ago who holds a PhD. By daytime he lectures, and by night he earns extra income by becoming a Grab driver,” he said.
Fazley’s act of kindness received much praise from his followers and fans alike as they discovered that he’s a real gem of a person who rises above the fray of his elite celebrity status.
THE RISE OF FAZLEY YAAKOB
Fazley is a multi-hyphenate. A singer, actor, motivational speaker, host and a chef, there’s no celebrity quite like Fazley in Malaysia.
In 1998, he pursued his studies in Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce & Administration.
Coming back to Malaysia, he honed his skills in acting, and eventually landed roles in movies like ‘Janji Diana’ and ‘Gila Bola’. Also, the man has five albums to his name. A song that marked his breakthrough moment in the music industry was ‘Asmara Ini’.
Upon entering as a contestant in Masterchef Celebrity Malaysia (Season 1) and won, he took the plunge in pursuing a career as a chef. With his newfound love and passion in culinary, he continued his studies at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. We found a Facebook post of his dated Nov 29, 2014 which depicted a photo of the apron he wore during the Masterchef show. He reflected how the apron changed his life forever. Now, he owns a restaurant called SukaSucre Bistro, where he blends traditional cooking from his hometown of Rembau, Negeri Sembilan and French cuisine techniques. On a personal note, Fazley is also a proud husband to his wife Azrene Soraya Abdul Aziz and a father to four kids.
“People nowadays refer to me as a celebrity chef. But Chef Jo (who is the head jury of Masterchef) often reminds me that I am not a celebrity chef.
“He often says to me, you’re not a celebrity. Don’t allow people to call you a celebrity who becomes a chef, you’re a professional chef who has become a celebrity,” said Fazley.
GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY
Having led a career in the spotlight since the 90s, Fazley has experienced different eras of fame. “Gone are the days when celebrities sit on a high pedestal and deemed untouchable.
“With the access of technology now, everything has changed. While it connects you with the public, it also allows them to criticize you constructively or destructively.
“As a celebrity, you have a responsibility to give back to society,” said Fazley.
One of the ways he is doing that is by showing his support towards small-time business owners who sells food at hawker stalls in Malaysia.
“Every Friday I would visit hawker stalls in various locations just to see how these underrated cooks prepare their dishes. I don’t judge by how fancy a stall is, as long as it’s clean and the food tastes delicious, I’m all for it.
“This has somewhat become a routine of mine. If I am impressed by a hawker stall, I would recommend their business on my Instagram.
“Others often ask me how much I get paid to review the food but the truth is I don’t get paid and I don’t want to get paid. It is purely done based on my honest reviews as I genuinely want to help spread word and give encouragement towards these small F&B businesses.
Taking things up a notch, Fazley said he will soon begin filming his journeys to these various hawker stalls and channel it on YouTube for people to watch.
“I’m not doing this for the money. To give them the encouragement and motivation gives me a sense of satisfaction. It’s important to show these small-time business owners that sense of encouragement and give them a pat on the back because it’s not easy to do what they do. This would be part of my CSR (corporate-social responsibility) initiative,” he said.
As a chef, people often ask me what I champion. For example, British chef Jamie Oliver champions healthy food for children in school. I am a simply guy – if you work hard you are my champion.
“You don’t have to necessarily be a CEO to be considered a hard worker. What’s important is you create your own success. Those at the bottom climbing up the success ladder, those are the ones working hard. Sometimes all they need is a boost of moral support and motivation,” he said.
Part of the reason Fazley feels strongly about championing the underdogs, and those who work tirelessly to make ends meet is because he can relate to their struggles.
On the surface, people are often under the impression that Fazley has had a silver-spoon upbringing all his life. But there was a time when his late father, a former executive secretary for political parties UMNO and Barisan Nasional had experienced some financial struggles.
“That time was when I studied abroad in New Zealand. Thankfully, I had money from my scholarship to back me up but it wasn’t enough so I had to resort to working there part time.
“I needed 800 New Zealand dollars a month to cover my life expenses, books, stationary, etc. But I was only given 450 I had to earn the rest.
“I didn’t want to trouble my parents back home. I knew of my parents’ financial situation as my father was in between jobs at the time so things weren’t stable. Also, aside from his own family, he had 12 siblings to support as well.
“This experience nearly caused my depression because I didn’t have enough money for school or books. To earn money, I took a job working in a restaurant.
“On the first day of my job, I was given a set of tools – gloves, mop and a bucket. I was responsible to clean toilets everyday. But what they didn’t tell me was the chaos that happens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
“The toilet is a common toilet shared among a few restaurants. When people are intoxicated due to alcohol, the toilets would be extra challenging to clean,” he said.
One of the lowest points in his experience of cleaning toilets was having to scoop up feces with his gloved hands. Yes, we cringed too.
“I cleaned toilets for a year before I was promoted to clean the front part of the restaurant, and then I was made cashier and then a kitchen helper.
“Besides that I was also a cultural dancer. I did anything that could help pay for school and books. My mother never found out because if she did, she would’ve cried,” he said.
Coming back to Malaysia, Fazley said his father sent him to a petrol station to work. Besides that, he also sold some vegetables at a night market part time.
“I’ve experienced how these people at the stalls and night markets work. I’ve seen how hard they have to hustle, that’s why I can understand where they are coming from,” he said.
Having learnt things the hard way, Fazley doesn’t shower his kids with luxury even though he very well could. Expensive toys and gifts must be earned.
Most recently, his eldest son expressed his wish to purchase a video game console, the PS4, but he knew that he had to work for it so he set up a business to sell ‘nasi lemak’ in order to raise money. After two months of hard work, he finally purchased his dream gadget.
HOPES FOR 2020
Back in the day when Fazley was in school, he had to write an essay on what he envisions for the year 2020.
Now that we will be welcoming the new year in under two months, Fazley expressed that it’s hard to believe the time has come.
“I used to calculate my age by the time the year turns 2020. I would be 42 by then, would I still be alive? I thought to myself,” he said.
“Truthfully I expected flying cars and all things sci-fi by the year 2020 but it looks like we’re nowhere near there yet,” he chuckled.
On a personal note, he feels happy with himself having exceeded his expectations in terms of achieving life goals but wishes to do more as an influencer in the society.
“As an entrepreneur I have many things to look forward to. My wife leads a business and CSR project of ours called ‘Three Little Ahmads’ where we create innovative and reversible clothing for little boys and little girls.”
The clothing brand features magnetic buttons, and styles that are worn from the front that buttons at the back which is a special inclusive focus to children with autism and limited abilities, as stated on its website.
“Next year we will be showcasing our clothes in New York, Paris and Dubai at a fashion show.”
In terms of his career as a chef, Fazley is tied to Four Seasons in Kuala Lumpur where he is responsible for curating and creating the Asian menu for the hotel.
With all that going on and so many hats to wear, Fazley’s a champion for juggling his responsibilities so seamlessly. Well, as we said there’s no other celebrity like Fazley and we’re positive he won’t stop building his brand anytime soon. As for us, we will forever be in awe of his sheer determination to be the best version of himself.
Behind the Face of Salam
- Face of Salam : Dato’ Fazley Yaakob
- Project Manager & Co-ordinator : Shah Shamshiri
- Text: Syahirah Mokhtazar
- Editor : Ili Farhana
Photographer: Bustamam Mokhtar, White Studio
- Graphic Designer: Asyraf Tamam
- Art Director : Faizal Harun Nasution
Stylist: Faizal Harun Nasution
- Make-up Artiste : Bobo Cinta
- Outfit 1:
- All from Neonate
- Outfit 2:
- All from Neonate
- Outfit 3:
- Suit set & shirt: LORD’s Tailor
- Hat & belt: Stylist’s own