$42,800 for chicken rice recipe

The word "hawkerpreneur" has become a buzzword of late, used by those who want to draw the younger generation into the hawker scene.

And it is not just family businesses which are looking to the second or third generations to carry on the name and recipes.

Mr Niven Leong, 55, who owns chicken rice stall Uncle Chicken at Alexandra Village Food Centre, is looking to train a handful of "hawkerpreneurs".

He wants to sell his father's Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice name and recipe.

The asking price is $42,800, which Mr Leong says is his father's "favourite number".

Mr Leong has done the maths and says confidently: "You can recover the cost in 10 months. As long as you follow the recipe, the money will come. Whoever comes through my training, I will make sure they can make money."

Sin Kee is a well-known name among chicken rice stalls. The business started in 1971 at the now-defunct Margaret Drive Food Centre. It moved to Mei Ling Street Food Centre in 2002 and that stall draws queues. It is run by younger brother Benson Leong.

Both brothers worked at the stall in their secondary school days and know the recipe inside and out.

Under Mr Leong's tutelage, students will get to work hands-on at the stall and learn everything from chopping and cooking chicken to doing inventory and managing day-to-day operations.

He will also assist future owners in sussing out locations to open new stalls and be their hawker-consultant in the subsequent 12 to 18 months.

Mr Leong had taught the recipe to former bowling world champion Adelene Wee. She ran Big Bowl Chicken Rice at the now-defunct Kampung @ Simpang Bedok hawker centre and is a partner at its outlets at Jurong Point's Kopitiam food court as well as Kranji MRT station.

Although he is selling the recipe, Mr Leong says he is not closing shop, despite his poor health.

It is also business as usual for the younger Mr Leong, 54, over at Mei Ling Street Food Centre.

When asked if he would consider being a trainer in the handful of initiatives which are training the next generation of hawkers, Mr Niven Leong says that he does not want to teach in a classroom setting and prefers to teach at his stall instead.

He says more hawkers should follow in his footsteps.

"Actually, hawkers are willing to teach others but they don't get the right students," he says. "In my father's time, they had to make money. Now, people just want to make money. There's a big difference."

While the five-figure sum may seem costly for a chicken rice brand that is not the most famous in Singapore, it is not the most expensive asking price for popular hawker brands.

Two years ago, there was a slew of hawkers offering to sell their recipes.

These included Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee, which made headlines when its owner, Mr Teo Yong Joo, said he would sell the recipe for $1 million.

The stall moved from Hougang to Bedok and is now housed in Toa Payoh HDB Hub's Gourmet Paradise food court.

The owners of Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint at Upper Paya Lebar Road had asked for $3.5 million for their shop space and recipe.

Owner Betty Kong is still fielding offers from buyers.

Mr Leong says: "People may think I'm trying to make money from this. But if I wanted to make money, I would have just started a franchise.

"As long as customers can still continue to enjoy my father's legacy, I've done my job."


Would you pay to learn how to cook chicken rice? Why or why not? E-mail your views to suntimes@sph.com.sg

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This article was first published on September 2, 2014.
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