Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice restaurant founder dies; employees vow to keep his legacy alive

SINGAPORE - Mr Wee Toon Ouut, founder of popular local chicken rice brand Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant, died on Sunday (Oct 13), aged 81.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice announced Mr Wee's passing but did not give details on the cause of death.

"As a mark of respect, all our restaurant and outlets will be closed on Saturday 19 October 2019, to send him off on his final journey," it wrote.

"We seek your kind understanding and apologies for any inconvenience caused."

The Straits Times understands that Mr Wee has been in and out of hospital in the past few months, eventually succumbing to his illness on Sunday morning.

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Mr Wee founded Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice in 1989 and oversaw its successful growth here and expansion into the Philippines, Japan, Korea and Indonesia.

The restaurant has several restaurants and outlets across Singapore, including United Square, Marina Square and the Esplanade.

Today marks an emotional and sad day for all of us at WNK. We are deeply sadden with the passing on of our Founder, Mr...

Posted by Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant on Sunday, October 13, 2019

The restaurant said in its Facebook post that Mr Wee's philosophy of cooking for customers was like how a "mum cooks with passion for their children".

It also said that Mr Wee's "warm smile and sincere personality will be missed by all".

The post added: "Rest In Peace, Towkay! - From all of us in the WNK family!"

News of Mr Wee's death prompted many of his friends and Wee Nam Kee's regulars to offer their condolences online, with some commenting on Mr Wee's personal touch and recalling fond memories that the restaurant had helped to forge.

Mr Wee Toon Ouut with an employee in a photo taken in 2001. PHOTO: ST FILE

Facebook user Francis Poulose wrote: "It's the chicken rice I grew up with...Started bringing my kids there and every time we dined there, (Mr Wee) will bring extra bowls of rice for them and tell them to grow up strong and (to) study hard.

"Thank you for so many memorable meals," Mr Poulose added.

Mr Albert Tan, the manager of Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, told ST that Mr Wee was a boss who never kept aloof from his employees.

"He is very humble and makes it a point to be in his restaurants almost every day. He interacted with his customers like they are his old friends," said Mr Tan.

The 48-year-old manager said it is a difficult time for all who knew Mr Wee, even though they had been prepared for the worst when Mr Wee was battling his illness for months.

"We will ensure his legacy carries on and do our best to not let him down," he said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.