Nat Ho wears many hats — he’s a model, host, singer and actor. Recently, he became a businessman by venturing into the world of F&B.

SINGAPORE (Apr 23): The photographer must have said “Do it again” for what seemed like 50 times and each time, Nathaniel Ho, or Nat, as he is commonly known,  would oblige. Ho is the consummate professional who understands what it means to get the money shot. In this case, the photographer wanted him to emerge from the swimming pool with just the right amount of water dripping off him.

Ho is a familiar face, thanks to his role as Lim Jun Kai in the long-running local TV series Tanglin. He is also a model, host and singer. The wearer of many hats has added a new role to the list — that of businessman. Last year, he opened LoveBento, which offers a healthier choice of food, and just this year, he brought in a popular bubble tea brand from Taiwan called Bobii Frutii.

The drinks, which contain tapioca pearls termed bobii in colloquial Taiwanese, are made from natural ingredients such as butterfly pea extract, fresh milk and fruit juice. And instead of high-fructose corn syrup, only premium brown cane sugar from Taiwan is used. Customers can choose the level of sweetness for the tea-based drinks at Bobii Frutii. The names given to the teas — such as Don’t Want To Grow Up, Don’t Want To Work and Mermaid’s Tears — will put a smile on your face.

“Our teas are very Instagrammable because they are layered. Moreover, we don’t use artificial colouring, stabilisers and preservatives. Even our pearls — bobii — are not made with stabilisers or preservatives. In fact, they are handwashed every day in a Taiwanese factory and then freeze-dried before being sent over,” says Ho.

Options is sitting with Ho at the private beach at Amanpuri in Phuket after he has spent a whole day doing a fashion shoot. He is tired but enthusiastic to share with us his business stories, both the good and challenging ones.

What kind of experience can a customer expect at Bobii Frutii?

The counter at Clementi is an open counter, so people can actually see their bubble tea being made. For example, our matcha tea uses fresh milk and each is individually hand-whisked using the traditional Japanese method. The founder, from Taiwan, spent some time in Japan as an apprentice to learn from the ­matcha tea experts. Many people don’t realise that matcha and green tea are actually different.

 Matcha has very specific requirements; for example, it actually oxidises easily, especially under bright lights, so it is processed in a very dark room. At the end of the day, Bobii Frutii is about the quality. It is a bit more premium and we believe that people can actually taste this difference because [these days] everybody is so well travelled and discerning in terms of taste. You can definitely taste the difference in quality.

I know it’s not fair to ask you to pick, but which is your favourite bubble tea?

I am a fan of oolong tea, so that would be Don’t Want To Work. Our signature [teas] have very interesting names and reflect the brand’s fun-loving nature. Oolong tea is mixed with milk and the bobii is made of butterfly pea flower, which to me is like chasing away the Monday blues.

Another tea with a cute name is Mermaid’s Tears. It’s a bit different from the others as it’s an ice-blended fruit slushy. At the bottom is mango, the middle layer is citrus fruit and the topping is blue butterfly pea pearls. The mango signifies the beach, the citrus is the sea foam and the blue part is, of course, the ocean. The pearls are the mermaid’s tears because she wants to go to the beach but she cannot... it is all very whimsical.

You also have LoveBento. Can you tell us more about that?

LoveBento was my very first F&B project, in December 2016. It actually came about because I was into gym training and realised that it was very hard to find good sources of protein at an affordable price. I won’t say we are cheap, but I would say that our positioning is more mass market. Sometimes, when it comes to healthy food, people think: ‘Oh, this is way too healthy for me.’

We wanted to make LoveBento accessible because I believe [healthy food] is a lifestyle. You might want to make dietary changes, but if they are not sustainable from an economic point of view, you will not be able to stick to your diet. My difficulty is that in Singapore, when you buy a plate of chicken rice, it is a lot of rice with a few strips of chicken. If you go to the gym, you need to eat a lot of protein. So, in terms of our portion, for the price, it is actually value for money. In fact, we also serve brown rice, and if you don’t want carbs, we have the Nat Gym set, which is a double portion of protein and eggs.

The reason we called it LoveBento is firstly, for me, food is a very emotional thing. For example, in Asian culture, our parents ask: ‘Have you eaten?’ We use it almost as a form of greeting. It is about that emotional connection and, at the same time, healthy food is a reminder to be kind to yourself, to treat yourself well, because we need our health to enjoy life.

F&B is a rather fickle industry. What is your strategy to keep going?

The main reason I went into business was to create a financial infrastructure to support my creative pursuits. I read somewhere that most high-net-worth people have at least six to seven different streams of income. This was like my baby step towards that. Between F&B and retail, I think F&B still makes a lot of sense. You need to eat every day, but you don’t have to buy a dress every day.

What about travel? Where do you go when you have some downtime?

The default location is Taiwan, because I spent two years there and have a lot of friends there who are like family to me. Last year, I went to Melbourne and then Beijing. It is never truly a holiday, as I am a workaholic. When I was in Melbourne, I was doing post production for one of my music videos, Battleship, which I plan to release soon.

 In Beijing, I recorded the Chinese version of one of my unreleased songs; the music thing is still ongoing even though there hasn’t been much news about it yet. But it is all in the pipeline.

Give us your three best travel tips.

Firstly, always travel with a face mask because the air in the plane is dry and recycled and that makes it easier to fall sick when you are in an enclosed cabin.

Secondly, wear an eye mask because they don’t always turn off the lights in the airplane when you want them to. Thirdly, get custom in-ear monitors or a noise-cancelling headphone. I use custom in-ear monitors for my stage performances and they also work in the plane as I am able to tune out all the sounds around me.

If you could pick any leading actor in the world, who would you like to work with?

Jim Carrey. A lot of people know him for his comedic roles, but I actually like him in his serious roles. The ­movie that left the greatest impression on me is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I also read up about him; he really worked his way up and there’s a story that stuck with me. When he first started out, he actually wrote a cheque to himself for $5 million with a date and one day that dream came true. The takeaway I got from this is that if there is something that you dream of or plan to do, just go ahead and do it. You never know until you try and a lot of people have forgotten that as human beings, we are limitless, and we need to [remember] that.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am working on a few TV pilot projects that I am excited about, but because they are still at the pilot stage, I am keeping my fingers crossed. ­Tanglin is still ongoing. There should be more music coming up this year and, of course, in the area of business, we are hoping to have more branches, but it depends on whether we can get [suitable] locations. For drinks, it can be a bit challenging, so we are looking at how we can tweak the concept to be able to get better locations. For LoveBento, our focus this year is going to be on corporate orders because we do corporate deliveries as well. Yes, I am excited about all the projects.