Chen Fu ji cooks its last plate of fried rice

THE Chen Fu Ji Fried Rice restaurant, which has a history of more than 50 years, called it a day on Saturday, the last of three consecutive days during which its owner Roger Koh specially took to the kitchen to cook its most famous dish for the loyal customers.

According to Mr Koh, 55, who is a chartered accountant by training, the restaurant at Riverside Point was crowded with customers as early as 4 pm on Saturday.

Many had come after learning that it was its last day of operations, reported Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.

When its reporter arrived at 10pm, he found the eatery's signboard was already taken down but the owner was still around chatting with some customers.

Mr Koh told Wanbao that more than 200 customers came throughout the day, including many who had come specially for the first time to try the Gold Plated Fried Rice.

It was priced at $25 a dish.

He also revealed that he was recorded on video - for the first time - stir-frying the well-known dish.

"As there were too many customers, each had to be limited to only one dish, which also had to come in smaller amount," said Mr Koh.

"Otherwise, there won't be enough for everyone," he added.

Earlier, he told Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao that the restaurant could not continue anymore, with rental too high, the labour market too tight and customers too few.

Mr Koh said the idea of winding up had dogged him for more than a year after he found it necessary to transform his business model.

Besides, he pointed out, turnover in local food business has declined apparently by between 20 and 30 per cent this year.

Chen Fu Ji had constantly been criticised for "overpricing" since Mr Koh bought the brand in 1995.

But he insisted that lots of work and expensive ingredients went into its signature dish.

He lamented that the price was kept unchanged for years, despite the rise in costs, to prevent driving away even more customers.

The Riverside Point branch was the only Chen Fu Ji outlet still standing this year, after the other nine, including the oldest one at Erskine Road opposite Maxwell Food Centre, were closed through the years.

Chen Fu Ji had its genesis in Chinatown in the 1950s, where a small shop run by a woman and her two daughters made famous the Gold Plated Fried Rice.

The recipe is said to have been passed down from ancient China.

The daughters were hired by a Japanese to work at his restaurant at Erskine Road in 1992 but the brand was soon sold to Mr Koh.

The women worked for six months only under Mr Koh but, in that short span, they had passed on their cooking skill to him and his chefs.

myp@sph.com.sg


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