Penang to ban foreign cooks to preserve 'local' food heritage

GEORGE TOWN - Penang is set to implement a ban on foreign workers working as the main cook in the hawker food business in order to protect the state's food heritage.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said hawker licences were only given to locals but the local council had found out that there were a few hawkers who employed foreigners as their main cooks, according to Bernama news agency.

It quoted Lim as saying the local council was currently gathering feedback from the public relating to the matter, adding that the implementation could take place as soon as early next year,

"We are considering revoking their hawker licences if they are found to engage foreigners to work as their main cook but we need to get public feedback before we proceed with the implementation," he told reporters on Saturday.

Research conducted by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) shows there are over 119 foreign workers working as cooks in the 68 hawker centres on Penang Island, according to Bernama.

Lim said Penang was famous for its hawker food and Penang food must have a local taste.

"It defeats the purpose of approving the hawker licence only for the locals if the hawkers employ foreigners as their main cook," he said.

He also reminded the hawkers to only employ foreigners as their kitchen helpers, waiters or waitresses and not as the main cook.

"We will take into consideration the public's need before proceeding with the implementation," he said.

Bernama reported that over 68 hawker centres were screened during the research, with the majority of the stalls operated by foreigners in Bayan Baru, Relau, Jelutong and Tanjung Tokong.