Foodie families: Samy's Curry

Foodie families: Samy's Curry

SINGAPORE - This Indian restaurant, one of Singapore's most famous, is an institution. It draws diners from here and abroad, and the place is packed every day with fans of its fishhead curry, masala chicken and fish cutlets.

Samy's Curry was started by current owner V. Maheyndran's father, Mr M. Veerasamy, as a roadside stall in Tank Road. The restaurant moved to various locations, but has established itself firmly in Dempsey over the years.

Mr Maheyndran, 56, who, like his father, was born in Tamil Nadu, has two children, both of whom run the restaurant. Daughter Nagajyothi Mahendran, 30, and son M. Veerasamy, 26, are directors of the company.

His wife, Madam Veerasakthi Maheyndran, 51, also works in the restaurant, as does his son-in-law, Mr M. Pandiyan, 33. The eatery has 15 staff in the kitchen and another 10 for front of the house.

At meal times, family members walk around the restaurant, talking to customers regular or new, and make a point to ask for feedback.

Mr Maheyndran was grooming his son to take over the business but gave his daughter the choice to opt out if she wanted.

However, like him, she found herself stepping up to the plate when the family business needed help.

Mr Maheyndran, was it a given that you would take over Samy's Curry from your father?

Mr V. Maheyndran (VM): When I was young, no father wanted his children to become hawkers. My father was half- hearted about me joining the business. He wanted me to be a lawyer.

When I was 21 years old, just out of national service and one week before I was supposed to get married, he died suddenly at age 50 of a heart attack. Bo pian (Hokkien for no choice), I was forced to take over.

I almost wanted to give up. My money management skill was zero and, at one stage, I thought, 'There must be an easier way to make a living'.

But I stuck on and learnt the business the hard way. It was the 1980s at the time and I had no family here. There was nobody to guide me.

You also had to step up to the plate rather suddenly, didn't you, Ms Nagajyothi?

Ms Nagajyothi Mahendran (2012) (NM): In 2007, my father had a heart attack and it was very scary. I didn't know anything about the business. My brother was young and I couldn't rely on him totally.

I used to come to the restaurant on and off, but after that, I had to be here every day, all day. Yes, it was tough, I was very shy, very scared.

I didn't have the courage to gather my 20 staff and give them pep talks. But I had no choice. My survival instinct kicked in and, somehow, you find the courage to do it.

My father didn't have the opportunity to learn from his father, but we have the luxury of learning from him.

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