He left oil and gas industry to sell chicken rice

He left oil and gas industry to sell chicken rice
National University of Singapore business graduate Derrick Lee is running his own chicken rice stall.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Mr Derrick Lee's relatives became concerned when he decided to quit his job in the oil and gas industry to become a hawker.

They thought being a hawker was not something to be proud of - a common misconception, Mr Lee, 31, told The New Paper.

But that did not deter the National University of Singapore business graduate from signing up for Fei Siong Food Management's hawker training programme in 2015.

"My family does not run a food and beverage business, and it is difficult to break into the industry just like that.

"I could join a restaurant as a waiter, then slowly join the kitchen staff. But since (Fei Siong) was keen to accept apprentices, why not?" he said.

He learnt from veteran hawker Foo Joon Khoon, who shared his wealth of experience.

Read also: Aspiring hawkers can learn from veterans

Today, Mr Lee runs Ah Khoon Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice with the help of two full-timers - one of them being Mr Foo - and a part-timer. It is one of the 40 cooked food stalls at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang.

"Although (Mr Foo) is my employee, he is also my mentor who continues to guide me, so it is a balancing act.

"Luckily, we share quite a good chemistry. When I look at him now, I see a little of my father in him," Mr Lee said.

His stall will turn two in November.

"It is tiring, and I have to sacrifice a lot of personal time, but I get more money and satisfaction than what I would as an employee," he said, adding that he has plans to expand his business.

Recommendations to sustain Singapore's hawker culture

Sustain the hawker trade through:

- Training opportunities and pathways for hawkers

- Incubation stall programmes for aspiring hawkers to experience the trade

- One-stop information and service centre for trade-related inquiries

- Enhancing the profile of the trade by sharing inspiring stories of hawkers

Improve productivity in hawker centres through:

- Centre-level initiatives, such as centralised dishwashing and bulk purchasing of ingredients

- Stall-level productive equipment for certain tasks, such as cutting chilli

Improve vibrancy of hawker centres and enhance them as social spaces through:

- Regular organised groups for patrons

- Improved amenities, such Wi-Fi and child-friendly spaces

- Ensuring a variety of food

Promote graciousness through:

- Improving tray return facilities to foster a tray return culture

- Encouraging considerate behaviour, such as the sharing of tables

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2017.
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