Five minutes with Rob Cooper

Five minutes with Rob Cooper
Nicole Slater meets the co-founder of Enoteca Group this Father’s Day

Local business owner and father of two

Rob Cooper is well-known around town and can frequently be found in his restaurants The Picture House and The Conservatory. Although he has enjoyed life as a restaurateur for the past 16 years, Cooper’s journey to Hong Kong was quite the rollercoaster.  

Read more: Five minutes with Narelle Pamuk

“I left a good job in advertising in London in 1991 with a six month round the world ‘Trailfinders’ ticket. I promised my dad I’d be back in time for Father’s Day. He gave me a hundred quid and I went. That was 30 years ago,” says Cooper. 

He spent a year backpacking around Asia and two years in Australia and New Zealand  working casual jobs from waiting tables to selling carpets and computers. Before moving to Hong Kong in 1994. I headed to a cheap dorm in Chung King Mansions. Within 24 hours I was dressed in a loud red frilly Spanish shirt and black trousers and was hired as a waiter at Dali’s Tapas Bar in Wan Chai for $5,000 per month.

That was when he met his wife-to-be, Kim Minards. Life was a whirlwind of cheap shared apartments, parties and going home when the sun rose. Kids were the last thing on my mind. The couple wed in 2004 and decided to open their own restaurant group, Enoteca in 2005.

 After hitting 40, Cooper and Minards believed it was time to expand the family. “We decided on kids and were rubbish at making our own. So we chose to adopt. I grew up with adopted aunts and cousins and it seemed the natural alternative route to the family for us.” 

The couple signed up with the Hong Kong Welfare Department and six months later became the proud parents of Jack. “There’s no build up of prenatal preparation so it was a beautifully surreal nervous moment for both of us,” he said.  The family left Hong Kong Island and moved to Clearwater Bay shortly, after it was the best thing we could have done. Green space, forest rails, nearby beaches – Sai Kung is their playground.

New addition to the family

In 2011 the couple welcomed their daughter Summer and the family. They went from strength to strength opening an array of new restaurants across the city. For years we didn’t have a good work life balance. It certainly worked out for them at the expense of maximizing quality time with the kids when they were both very little. “Every night we worked, came home at 2am and slept during the day,” says Cooper. 

With strong Management teams in place, the couple has been able to enjoy more time at home together, “we work a social life with crowds, so home life downtime is the best, It’s not just the once a week beach or once a month Disney trip, it’s the cuddles, nerf gun wars ( dad has to lose) and pillow fights that are fun for the soul.” 

Now aged 13 and 10, Jack and Summer are coming into their own and will hopefully take on the reins of the Enoteca Group, “Summer has a passion for food and is naturally caring and sociable. Jack might end up having to manage the money and legal aspects for her though so maybe commercial law school first.” But until then Cooper is making the most of family time and advises fellow fathers: “don’t blink …they grow up so fast. Be with them as much as you can make them and you laugh together.”

Tell us a dad joke 

Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? 

Because the pee is silent

 

 

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