The next time you pick up a curry puff or chicken pie at an Esso petrol service station, you will be eating a snack created by chef Willin Low of modern-Singapore restaurant Wild Rocket.
If you are feeling more than a little peckish, there is his nasi lemak too.
He has launched ready-to-eat nasi lemak ($4.80) under the &Will brand, as well as curry puffs ($2.20 each) and chicken pies ($2.50 each).
The project is in partnership with Commonwealth Capital - a Singapore-based investment company which owns PastaMania and has a stake in brands such as The Soup Spoon and ice-cream chain Udders, among others.
It comes as Cheers, FairPrice's convenience store arm, and ExxonMobil Asia Pacific launched a revamp of the latter's Esso petrol service stations in November last year. The refreshed retail format includes new ready-to-eat products, as well as Japanese snacks.
Low's products are available at selected Esso petrol service stations, such as the Cheers outlets in Queensway and Holland Village, and FairPrice Xpress outlets in Still Road and Choa Chu Kang.
The items will be distributed islandwide in the next two years.
Low, 45, tells The Straits Times that he has been in talks with Commonwealth Capital since last year and plans to produce sauces and marinades for retail in its production kitchen.
With a sigh, the chef says: "Resistance is futile. Production kitchens are the way to go."
He is also working on ready-to- eat mee rebus and mee siam, and more pastry products.
The chef is also working with Souperfoods - a joint venture between The Soup Spoon and Commonwealth Capital - to produce the famous Roxy Laksa's paste.
For the past two years, he has been learning the recipe from third-generation Roxy owner Mike Lim, who moved his stall from the East Coast Lagoon Food Village to hip hawker centre Timbre+ in November last year.
In addition to these projects, this year will see major changes to Low's restaurant business too.
First, Wild Rocket at Hangout Hotel in Upper Wilkie Road will close from tomorrow until Feb 28.
Low says he is "bored" and is looking to refresh the menu. The restaurant re-opens on March 1 with a menu focusing on house-made pasta with a local twist.
Some flavours he and his team have been working on include oxtail rendang, lor ark (Teochew braised duck) ragout and Thai red curry roast duck. Set lunches as well as four-course and omakase dinners will remain.
By the end of June, the six-year- old Wild Oats restaurant at Punggol Park will close. Although the restaurant is "still profitable", he says manpower problems have left him with no choice.
He says: "We worry when it comes to the weekend. Sometimes, we cannot open our water deck simply because there is no manpower. People ask why we don't seat them there, but if we do and we cannot serve them, then we will get more complaints."
A new pastry chef at Relish at Cluny Court in Bukit Timah will also bump up the group's dessert offerings.
The chef also has his sights on overseas projects and is looking to open in Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong next year.
He has a new dining concept "with a social angle" in the works for this year in Singapore and he has also collaborated with ice-cream parlour Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream and Coffee to produce a special flavour - Chocolate Tau Yew Tempeh Crunch - for Creamier's fifth anniversary.
It pairs aged dark soya sauce from local sauce factory Kwong Woh Hing with dark chocolate ice cream and will be available in scoops ($4.50 each) and pints ($16) at Creamier's outlets at Toa Payoh and Gillman Barracks from Feb 1.
Low says: "With the current economy, collaborations are the way to go. Small players cannot do it on their own and doing all this ensures that one plus one equals three.
"My big banner is all about celebrating local food. I'm just doing so via different platforms."
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