David Gelb, director of the acclaimed “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” traveled to a hawker center in Singapore to film two warring chicken rice vendors using only an iPhone 13 Pro.
“Poached,” a project created in collaboration with Apple for the tech company’s Shot on iPhone ad campaign, showcases the story behind the chicken rice war between Maxwell Food Centre’s hawker stalls Tian Tian and Ah Tai.
“One of the most popular dishes in hawker centers is chicken rice,” food journalist Annette Tan said. “Tian Tian chicken rice is an institution in Singapore.”
Tian Tian previously had a chef named Wong Lian Tai who worked for the hawker stall for about 20 years. However, things purportedly started falling apart after Tian Tian’s founder Foo Kui Lian passed the torch to her daughter, Loi Mui Yin. Loi wanted to modernize the brand that Foo started in 1986, but Wong did not support this new direction.
“Once you have things like a central kitchen and HR, things are bound to change,” Tan said. “For an old-school cook, that probably doesn’t fly?”
Wong eventually stopped working for Tian Tian and later opened his own stall, Ah Tai, two doors down. Wong sold the same product as Tian Tian’s and even used a similar signboard.
“You wouldn’t do that if you weren’t trying to declare war,” Singaporean chef and restaurateur Bjorn Shen said.
“Now that Tian Tian is more of a modern business, I feel like Ah Tai’s chicken rice is more like what Tian Tian’s used to taste like,” Tan said.
In the behind-the-scenes extra that Apple posted shortly after releasing “Poached” on Monday, Gelb showcased the iPhone 13 Pro’s “extensive suite of tools,” including the phone’s cinematic mode that automatically shifts focus and “the ability to adjust the depth of field itself in post-production.”
“Shooting in a hawker kitchen, there’s not a lot of space,” the “Chef’s Table” creator said. “We want to tell their story, but we don’t want to interfere, and we want to present what they are doing in a very authentic and natural way.”