SINGAPORE — We were all moved when we first saw that viral video of chef Chan Hong Meng — in complete disbelief — that his humble hawker stall, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, had received a Michelin star.
“I’ve never heard of Michelin inspectors visiting a street stall,” the Malaysian-born chef recalled in the video produced by Michelin Singapore. “Can even a hawker be nominated?”
The Michelin representative was said to have told him, “We only judge based on the food, not on the venue.”
Chef Chan’s soya sauce chicken rice and noodle then became the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world, priced at SG$2 or US$1.50 (around P75). And the next day, it was business as usual. He was up at 6 a.m. and back at his stall.
However, while chef Chan may think life hasn’t changed since the award, the demand for his dishes has grown by leaps and bounds. To address this, he partnered with Hersing Culinary (the same folks behind Tim Ho Wan), and opened Liao Fan Hawker Chan — or “Hawker Chan” for short — a quick-service restaurant with branches in Singapore on 78 Smith Street (just across the original hawker stall) and the industrial area of Tai Seng.
The wait at the new branches has been shortened to one to two hours — and even just 30 minutes during off times — from its previous three hours at the original stall. Dishes are the same, however. Hawker Chan is air-conditioned; thereby the price of his famous Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice has been raised to $3.80 to cover overhead expenses. Hawker Chan is also expanding around the region this year “to accommodate everyone — both locals and foreigners — to make sure everyone can get a taste of the food he cooks, and reach out to customers,” he tells Philippine STAR.
The good news for Pinoys is that Hawker Chan will be coming to the Philippines by way of FooDee Global Concepts (run by husband and wife Rikki and Beng Dee, and son, Eric), and will be opening their flagship in the third quarter of this year.
“Our group has always been on the lookout for the best brands with the best value,” says Rikki Dee. “Hawker Chan fits well into our vision to deliver the best brand at the right price for the consumer.”
He also reveals that the location will be at a “major mall” and in the coming years, they are looking to open at least 20 stores in the Philippines.
Dee also assures that prices will be competitive. “We are looking at P99 for a chicken meal, to P199 for three kinds of roast items. Fantastic pricing for a Michelin star,” he says, adding that, “the chicken meat melts in your mouth.” While in the beginning, they will be serving only the dishes from Hawker Chan, in the future they plan to create Philippine-exclusive dishes.
And how does chef Chan plan to maintain the quality? He tells us that he will prepare all the sauces personally and bring it overseas to maintain consistency. He will also make sure he will properly train the chefs. While he has never been to the Philippines, he looks forward to coming (possibly in June) and is open to incorporating Filipino garnishes into the dishes.
Apart from the Philippines, Hawker Chan is also opening in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. In an interview with The Straits Times, Chan reveals that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kentucky Fried Chicken: “KFC sells chicken and has been successful in ensuring that the taste of its food remains the same throughout the world. I hope to do the same and become the No. 2 chicken eatery chain around the world after it.”
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FooDee Global Concepts also has Todd English Food Hall, Tim Ho Wan, Pound by Todd English, Llao Llao, Foo’d by Davide Oldani, Mesa, and Sunnies Café. Apart from Hawker Chan, they will also be bringing in Tsuta (the first Michelin-starred ramen from Tokyo) and New York concepts Flatterie and Chophouse.
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