Hawker masters' trainees graduate

He had toyed seriously with the idea of becoming a hawker. At one point, Peter Mok even travelled to Vietnam to brush up his beef noodle-making skills.

But he took the plunge only when the Hawker Master Trainer Pilot Programme came along.

"There was no incentive to quit your job and plunge into something so different," said the 54-year-old, a former quality control officer in the garment industry. So knowing that he would be trained by one of the most famous hawkers in Singapore helped, he said.

And unlike many others who guard their secret recipes jealously, the trainer agreed to share the recipe with him. A precious recipe is now preserved and a new hawker has been born.

Mr Mok is one of 13 trainees who have completed the programme under four "hawker masters" and he is set to open his very own wanton noodle store - #noodlelicious - along with three other trainees.

They will set up shop in Amoy Street, at one of the incubation stalls provided on a one-year lease by the National Environment Agency (NEA). Unlike at other stalls, they do not have to go through an open tender process.

The NEA will also give these stalls a $500 monthly rental remission for the first six months, to defray the initial cost of investment.

But while there are 21 such stalls up for grabs, only two have been taken up, the other being char kway teow stall Liang Zai - also in Amoy Street.

Another five trainees have opted to stay on with their hawker masters while three are in the midst of tendering for a stall in the open market.

Some, like freelance graphic designer Cedric Ng, 45, did not like the idea of an incubation stall as he would have to move out after a year. He is "a bit sceptical about whether he can draw the same crowd" after moving. He has instead decided to stay on with his hawker master, Boon Tong Kee, for an extra three-month part-time stint to learn even more.

Another 17 are undergoing training under the scheme, which started in October last year and aims to train 50 people by November.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency announced yesterday that five more hawkers have come on board, bringing the number of hawker masters to nine.

The new ones are Casuarina Curry, Fatty Cheong Roasted Meat, Ha Ha Big Prawn Noodle, Hwa Xing Bak Kut Teh and Nam Kee Teo Chew Fish Porridge.

Hawker master Sulaiman Abu, 52, boss of D'Authentic Nasi Lemak, has no qualms about passing on his stall to his apprentices when he retires.

"I want the next generation to still be able to have authentic nasi lemak. We should not let the recipe die with the person," he said.


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