He may have come from really humble beginnings, he may have not finished school, but one Malaysian just gained international recognition for his determination and passion.
Ipoh-born hawker Chan Hon Meng was recently awarded a Michelin star, the prestigious culinary award, for his Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle hawker stall in Chinatown, Singapore.
He’s the world’s first hawker stall to receive one, and also one of the world’s cheapest Michelin eats with meals from USD1.50 (RM4).
Michelin stars are awarded for excellence to a select few establishments, and the acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. More often that not, the award is linked to fine dining establishments but with the blurring of lines between restaurants and other eateries, Michelin has since adapted. In 2014, it had a separate listing for gastropubs in Ireland, and the 2016 Guide for Hong Kong and Macau introduced an overview of notable street food establishments.
In a video released by Michelin Guide Singapore, Chan detailed his journey to his success and said that despite leaving school at the tender age of 15, he always had a special interest and sensitivity when it comes to food.
“I come from Ipoh, Malaysia. I grew up in a village. My parents were farmers. They reared pigs, ducks, and grew their own crops. I stopped going to school at the age of 15 because in this environment, I had to help with the preparation of dishes from young. So I have a special interest and sensitivity when it comes to food and a keen understanding. After I left school and started working, my first choice was to be a chef,” the 51-year-old self-made chef explained.
“I run my own business, I have been a hawker all along. But I learned how to cook from a restaurant. Because I learned from a Hong Kong chef, therefore I called it Hong Kong Soya Sauce Noodle,” he added.
Last month, Chan received an invitation to the Michelin Guide Singapore Gala Dinner. On his initial reaction to the invitation, Chan admitted that he was uncertain. “I asked them, ‘Are you joking?’. Why would Michelin come to my stall?”
The footage then showed Chan nervously dressing up and making his way to the dinner, looking smart and definitely worthy of that Michelin star. Little did Chan know, the dinner would change his life forever.
His Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle hawker stall received one Michelin star that night.
“For us chefs, we long for the day we are recognised internationally. It is a form of honour as if we are in university and now we are graduating,” he said, adding that the Michelin representatives told him that they only judge based on food and not venue.
Watch the video below:
Chan, who has been in the line for 35 years, is still hard at work manning his Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle hawker stall in Chinatown, Singapore. In fact, his stall has been receiving so much attention that people have been queuing up, some for more than an hour, to savour his dish even before the shutters were up at 9am.
In his parting note, Chan said, “I hope that every chef will put in their best effort as if he (the Michelin inspector) is tasting your food at every moment. With food, you can never stop learning.”
Well done, Chan Hon Meng! Malaysia is truly proud of you. #MalaysiaBoleh :)
Source: Michelin Guide Singapore.
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