Meet The Modest Chef Behind The World’s First Michelin-Starred Street Food Stall
Chan Hon Meng is the chef-owner of the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, the first Michelin-starred street food stall in the world.
The prestigious award was given recently to his modest store which sells delicious chicken rice that starts at $2 (or $1.50) per plate, making it the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.
Chan, who grew up on a farm in Ipoh, Malaysia, developed his love and preference for home-grown natural food from a young age.
“I stopped going to school at the age of 15.” Chan said. “Because in this environment, I had to help with the preparation of dishes from [a young age]. So I have a special interest an sensitivity when it comes to food. After I left school, I started working. My first choice was to become a chef.”
He first came to Singapore in the 1980’s and learned how to cook soya sauce chicken from a Hong Kong chef. After years of working long hours to hone his skills, obtain more knowledge and perfect his craft, he sought to branch out and start a business of his own.
“Because I learned form a Hong Kong chef, therefore I called it “Hong Kong Soya Sauce Noodle.” he said.
He opened a food stall called Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in 2009 in Singapore’s Chinatown. In business for the last eight years, his always-packed rice and noodle house has become known for serving delicious meals at very affordable prices.
Beginning early before the crack of dawn, Chan Hon Meng prepares the chicken for five hours, makes the rice and cooks the pork well ahead of the store’s opening at 10 am. Working for at least 100 hours a week, Chan sells around 150 chickens a day and doesn’t stop until the last one is sold.
Unlike most street food vendors who dress casually at work, Chan wears a white uniform everyday and takes pride in being professional.
When he got an invitation to attend the Michelin Guide Singapore Gala Dinner back in July of this year, he immediately thought it was a prank. He remembered being told before by fellow chefs that to be included in the Michelin Guide is the highest honor one could attain in the food industry.
“When I received the invitation, I was uncertain.” Chan recounted. “I asked them ‘are you joking? Why would Michelin come to my stall? I’ve never heard of a Michelin inspectors visiting a street stall.”
Representing Singapore’s “hawker” food, the hardworking chef proudly shared the stage with world-renowned chefs in the event held at the Resorts World Sentosa.
Thankful of the international accolade, the 51-year-old said he hopes the recognition will inspire others, especially the young ones, to enter the food industry.
“Whether you’re a restaurant chef or a hawker, I hope that every chef will put in their best effort as if he [the Michelin inspector] is tasting your food ay every moment. That is our most important takeaway and only then will your food display your passion. With food you can never stop learning.”
Chef Chan aspires to one day dine at one of legendary French Chef Joël Robuchon‘s restaurants. Despite his accolades and success, it would take Chef Chan a full day’s worth of work in order for him to afford it.