Our valiant writer decides to sacrifice his weight loss efforts to get the scoop from his good friend and fellow musician Er Chow Kiat who has opened a gelato shop called Paradiddle Gelato. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL CHAN; EDITED BY ROSA LEE
December 2020: a spanking new gelato shop opened for business at Kinex, a mall where the legendary Hollywood Theatre—home to City Harvest Church in the ‘90s—once stood.
The owners of Paradiddle Gelato are Er Chow Kiat, 32, and his fiancée, Itzel Cheok, 31. You probably would have seen Chow Kiat on stage during CHC’s services—the award-winning professional drummer and drum school owner serves with CityWorship on drums.
Chow Kiat has toured with celebrity artists such as Taiwanese singer Angela Zhang and celebrity guitarist Mateus Asato—these performances have come to a halt since the pandemic began. In 2018, he opened his drum school Drum Tutor, which offers a unique curriculum to both adults and children. Itzel worked in marketing before making her first foray into the F&B industry with her fiancé. Paradiddle is located in the same building, downstairs from Drum Tutor’s Kinex branch on the second floor.
Full disclosure: Chow Kiat and I have been friends a long time. We met when I played bass with him during the Emerge Conference in 2006. In fact, we are so familiar with one another that Chow (as those closer to him call him) is well-known as my constant “frenemy”. We grow closer through making fun of each other, and our online banter has not gone unnoticed.
When Chow Kiat told me about his new venture, my first thought was, “Does he not know that I’m trying very hard to lose weight? Did he do this on purpose, knowing that good ice cream is my weakness?”
But woe was me—the lure of a good ice cream was just too strong. When I was assigned this story, I sacrificed my diet and boldly took the opportunity to try out more flavours at Paradiddle Gelato… and of course, to have a good chat with Chow and Itzel about their cool new business.
Mervyn: To start things off: how did you two meet?
Chow Kiat: We met at Drum Tutor when Itzel and her sister signed up for lessons. We found out that we had a lot of mutual friends in church. That sparked off our interest in each other.
M: Meaning the teacher took advantage of the student?
CK: No! Or maybe yes lah. I’m kidding! (Itzel laughs)
M: Itzel, what do you see in him?
I: I think he is very down-to-earth. Very humble. That’s all.
CK: (mock-upset) That’s all ah? (Both laugh)
M: As an engaged couple, how do you both deal with any conflict or differences when it comes to running the business?
I: I think a big part is compromise, and to make the effort to really understand each other, to be very supportive of one another.
CK: She is the real boss of Paradiddle Gelato. Although we both put money into this, she is here most of the time and I leave it to her to run the business. As a couple, there will be arguments but that’s normal. We are learning to put our egos aside and choose to still love each other.
What made you decide to start another business after Drum Tutor?
CK: I’ve been running Drum Tutor for about three years now. We are doing okay but I wanted to diversify. Itzel was helping out at Drum Tutor part-time. Before COVID hit, I was touring and performing overseas every weekend. So when the pandemic hit, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I should start to think about doing something else.’ But my main intention was to diversify my business.
M: Why the name Paradiddle?
CK: Paradiddle is a basic rudiment in drumming, but it was Itzel who chose this name.
I: After all CK and I met through drums, and Paradiddle is a term that relates to drums and to Chow.
CK: When we first started talking about starting this business, we decided we wanted to link it back to drums because that is my area of strength. Also, because most of my students are children, I thought that selling gelato would be a good idea. At Paradiddle Gelato, you can choose to eat the gelato with breadsticks, which look like drum sticks. Our whole concept, which took us three to four months to come up with, is drum-related, including naming the sizes of the cups: Tom for small, Snare for medium and Bass for large.
M: So did I inspire you? The bass cup is large because I play bass and I am large?
CK: Are you large? (grins)
M: I’m extra-large. Let’s move on. How did you guys come up with your range of flavours?
CK: We now work with a chef but before that, we went around the island tasting different gelatos. We finally found a chef who makes a really good dark chocolate flavour we both like—we both knew he was the right one.
M: What were the initial difficulties you faced setting up Paradiddle?
CK: We had to learn how to handle food. The renovation for F&B business is totally different from what we did for the music school, so that was another learning point. Itzel was the one handling all these so she had to make the calls, check the progress and all that. The learning curve was very steep.
M: How has running the business over the last few months made you a better person?
CK: I think you really have to learn to put on a smile. The short conversations with the customers—simply asking them where they live, for example—changed my perspective. It’s amazing how a two-minute conversation can spark off something and because of that, we have made quite a few new friends already.
Our interview ended on that note because, true enough, a lady came in and chatted with Chow and Itzel as if they had been friends for a long time. To my surprise, I found out later that she was a first-time customer!
Paradiddle Gelato offers 12 flavours at any one time that will put anyone in a good mood—flavours rotate regularly so you’ll always have something new to try out. I can say this: it’s worth busting your diet for because the gelato is really that good.
MERVYN’S PARADIDDLE TASTE TEST
In the words of my fellow taster Michael Chan (who took the photos in this story), “The quality is really there. You can tell that they don’t use lousy chocolate. It’s very rich and not too sweet.”
Verdict: 5/5. Paradiddle’s top-seller for good reason! Must try!
Milk & Honey
This is the dark horse. On my two prior visits to Paradiddle, I didn’t try this as I’m not a big fan of honey. But wow, it really brings you to the Gelato Promised Land. The balance of milk and honey is perfect: the honey does not overpower the flavour of the milk, just balancing the dairy with a pleasant sweetness. It’s officially my favorite flavor now. Oh yes, and I had this with the Rosemary Waffle cone, which make something tasty, even tastier.
Verdict: 5/5. If this is not a top-seller, it should be.
Peanut Butter And Jelly
While Dark Chocolate and Milk & Honey are staples, this one is a seasonal flavour. The first bite unveils the contrast of the peanut butter’s richness against the strawberry jam’s tartness, bringing back fond childhood memories of my favourite Skippy peanut butter with jam. Now that I am a little older, I must admit this flavour is a little too rich and sweet for me, although this is in no way is an inferior scoop of gelato.
Paradiddle Gelato is located at Kinex Mall, 11 Tanjong Katong Road, Unit B1-11. Opening hours are from Tuesdays to Sundays, 1pm to 9.30pm. Check out its Instagram account @paradiddle.sg for their special flavours of the week.