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S’pore’s Hawker Chan says it will not give up after losing Michelin star amid food criticism

The world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal will no longer be Soya Sauce Chicken seller Hawker Chan.

Chef Chan Hon Meng’s Hawker Chan has been left out of the Michelin Singapore 2021 guide. It did not retain the One Michelin star for this year.

The news sparked debate online and drew positive and negative opinions on the matter. Some said that the brand’s current offerings are not worthy of a Michelin star while others defended the food and offered words of encouragement to Hawker Chan.

Hawker Chan’s dishes / Image Credit: danielfooddiary

Before Hawker Chan got the recognition in 2016, the stall’s cheapest meal, the Soya Sauce Chicken rice costs just S$2.00. The price has increased but is still slightly under S$3.00 at the Chinatown branch.

Since the recognition in 2016, Hawker Chan has opened many more branches at places like Tai Seng and Tampines Mall.

Fellow hawker entrant Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle is still in the category since the Guide’s inaugural edition in 2016.

Online criticism on food

A flurry of comments went online, with some calling the food “mediocre” to begin with, while others said that since Hawker Chan sold the recipe to the chain, the standard “dropped like a rock”.

“Not surprised they lost the star,” one Facebook user commented.

Image Credit: Facebook screengrab

Some food critics have been lowering their reviews of Hawker Chan after it rolled out a chain of restaurants under the brand.

On danielfooddiary, the food blogger gave a review of the outlet at Tai Seng. He said that customers should not go to that branch expecting Michelin quality food, as the hawker stall at Smith Street was the one that got the star.

But he added that although prices of the chicken is at S$3.80, it is still very affordable.

Hawker Chan responds to comments

Despite being questioned about the quality control standards of the eatery, a spokesperson from Hawker Chan said that nothing has changed since the brand’s debut in 2009.

“We prepare our food fresh daily, with the same secret recipe and cooking method to prepare our signature Soya Sauce Chicken as what we have been doing since the start of Hawker Chan 12 years ago,” the spokesperson said. “We do not believe in using a central kitchen to prepare the food.” 

Chef Chan Hon Meng, founder of Hawker Chan / Image Credit: Getty Images

“Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to food choices,” the spokesperson added.

The team is “disappointed” with the results but they refuse to throw in the towel and let the setback affect them. They hope for the best outcome for the next Michelin guide edition.

Long queues continue at Hawker Chan’s Chinatown stall

Despite the loss, patrons still continued to queue at Hawker Chan’s Chinatown Complex stall, Michelin star or no Michelin star.

Supporters have also gone online to encourage Hawker Chan to not give up.

“You don’t need a star to shine! You have already served the public well by providing good tasty food as very affordable prices,” said a Facebook user.

Long queues continue at Chinatown stall / Image Credit: Gavin Tan

On LinkedIn, user Eric Sim posted a post to encourage Chef Chan.

“Life and work have its ups and downs. Let’s try again next year, Mr Chan!”

From one stall in 2016 to 19 stalls in 5 years

Hawker Chan has been expanding since its win in 2016, as the Chef wanted to strike “while the iron is hot”.

It has five outlets in Taiwan, one in Malaysia, two in Thailand, two in Australia, three in the Philippines, and one in Kazakhstan. That’s a total of 14 stores worldwide.

Locally, it have five outlets. With the main stall at Chinatown and branches also at Chinatown, Tai Seng, Tampines, and Orchard Road.

Though Hawker Chan has lost its star, it can still lay claim to be the world’s first hawker to be awarded one Michelin star.

Hawker Chan’s Chinatown stall / Image Credit: Getty Images

Also, he can count the money in his bank to feel better too. As his decision to jump on the opportunity to expand with just his signature chicken rice recipe has definitely paid off.

The pandemic has impacted its expansion plans with lesser dine-in customers and less tourists in Singapore. However, Covid-19 has also presented Hawker Chan with the opportunity to capture another segment of the customer base. It started taking in online orders and expanded its delivery services, which helped push sales.

We leave you with a quote from Chef Chan himself:

“I have failed numerous times in life. However, failure is the key of leading a successful life. The tendency to get up and proceed forward is more important to be successful.”

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images, Hawker Chan




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