The Club Med APAC Markets CEO tells Outlook Traveller about the brand's future, eco-green initiatives and the Indian market
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Outlook Traveller: How did your journey into food begin?
Hawker Chan: My early exposure to cooking developed my passion for it. My culinary journey began during the daily preparation of my family's meals. That laid the foundation and it is my strong belief that good food should be made simple and affordable. At the age of 15, I left school and my hometown for Singapore to pursue my passion for cooking. it was during my early years of apprenticeship under a Hong Kong chef that I learnt and developed the soya sauce chicken recipe.
OT: What experience do you want your customers to take away from your food?
HC: Whenever people eat the food that I serve, I feel a sense of satisfaction and it makes me believe that food does bond people together. I want my customers too to feel satisfied and happy after having the food.
OT: How did your first stall (Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle) come into being?
HC: As I mentioned earlier I left school and my hometown at the age of 15 to come to Singapore to pursue my passion. In 2009, I started Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Complex Food Centre. I chose this location because of the short distance from my house (I stay at Chinatown area). At that time, cheap rental was also one of the determining factors for the stall location.
OT: What made you decide to partner with Hersing Culinary to open Liao Fan Hawker Chan?
HC: I decided to partner with Hersing Culinary to open Liao Fan Hawker Chan because Hersing Culinary is highly reputable and has good exposure and experience in terms of business expansion, both locally and overseas.
OT: How did it feel when your stall was inducted into Singapore's Michelin Guide in July 2016?
HC: A lot of hard work and passion was required to earn the Michelin Star...daily food preparation is hard work. I have to wake up early in the morning to prepare the sauce for marination and to achieve the signature flavour and tenderness. (It takes) many hours of manual braising...I use premium and fresh ingredients to prepare the dishes daily and firmly believe that the consistency in taste and food quality are essential to culinary success.
Singapore has a very diverse food scene with hawker food being a favourite not just with the locals but also the tourists. This has certainly motivated me to work harder and better.
The award of one Michelin Star from Michelin Guide Singapore in July 2016 gave me great pride. It was beyond my imagination that my humble soya sauce recipe would be recognised by the most prestigious Michelin Guide. They awarded the titles: The World's First Hawker Michelin-starred Meal and The Cheapest Michelin-starred Meal In The World.
OT: What has been your journey since? How has this changed your operations?
HC: The soya sauce chicken dish is definitely growing in popularity. I saw a need for a partnership to accommodate to the increased demand as well as business expansion to ensure everyone gets a taste of the dish.
OT: How are the customers at Hawker Chan different from the ones at your old stall?
HC: We see more tourists visiting the restaurants, but most of my local regular customers still comes by my hawker stall.
OT: Now that you have international fame, how do you manage running both the venues?
HC: It does not change much. Ultimately, customer service and food quality still come first.
OT: How do you manage to keep your prices so low compared to other Michelin eats?
HC: The low prices compared to other Michelin eats are due to overall lower overheads. At the same time, the prices are kept low to show my appreciation to my regular customers who supported me throughout the years.
OT: How would you compare your food to other Michelin-starred fares and cuisines?
HC: I believe that consistency in taste and food quality is essential to culinary success. I use premium and fresh ingredients to prepare the dishes daily and I make the marination sauce everyday early in the morning to achieve the signature flavour and tenderness. There is a unique combination of soya sauce and various kinds of herbs that make my dish stand out among others.
OT: Where do you see the future of your stall? Are you looking to expand?
HC: As mentioned earlier, I partnered with Hersing Culinary to transform my original hawker food stall into a quick service concept restaurant. Currently there are nearly 20 quick service restaurants across 7 countries: Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia and Kazakhstan.
I am truly honored to have such an expansion within a short period of time.
Regardless of the location of my future stall or restaurant, the food quality must always be consistent. Whenever there are potential of business expansion, we will explore in that sense.
OT: How has the Michelin Star fueled your travels?
HC:The Michelin Star has fueled my travels as a chef to bring my soya sauce chicken dish to people all over the world, and continues to fuel my passion for cooking as I see people enjoying my culinary creations.
Michelin-starred Liao Fan Hawker Chan will be at the ‘Singapore Experience Zone’ by Singapore Tourism Board at Zomaland Season 2 in the JLN Stadium, New Delhi from December 13-15, 2019
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