Joshua on Dylan

He's more dependable

Mr Dylan Ong (left) and his wife Julia (second from left) at their wedding, with Mr Joshua Khoo and his girlfriend Airin Lee.
Mr Dylan Ong (left) and his wife Julia (second from left) at their wedding, with Mr Joshua Khoo and his girlfriend Airin Lee.PHOTO: SAVEUR

Mr Joshua Khoo is aware of his own rash personality, which is why he calls his business partner Dylan Ong the "more dependable" of the two.

During their time as Shatec students in the 1990s, it was Mr Ong who seemed more stable and mature, speaking of religion and spirituality to the more playful Mr Khoo, who was then a free-thinker.

Their partnership kicked up when they shared a stove in class and got along immediately by sharing the workload.

Mr Ong says: "We were pretty gungho about cooking and were very organised. We knew our responsibilities, so I would not leave him to clean up my mess."

Mr Khoo then became Mr Ong's confidante when Mr Ong's father was hospitalised for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Mr Ong did not let it affect his performance in school, or breathe a word about it to anyone, except Mr Khoo.

"Nobody knew and nobody asked," recalls Mr Khoo. "But being Dylan, he pressed on." Mr Ong's father died 10 years ago.

Their roles reversed, however, when they started Saveur as a kopitiam stall in Joo Chiat. Mr Khoo, who has an older and a younger sister, took on the responsiblity of being "the older guy" and pushed Mr Ong, an only child of hawkers, to go the extra mile at work.

Calling himself a "disciplinarian", Mr Khoo says: "I did press and push him, but it didn't break us. We were hard on ourselves. We work 12-hour shifts and never take a day off when new outlets open. All this, so that our lives would be easy."

However, Mr Khoo leaves Mr Ong to handle the suppliers.

"I don't like to negotiate with people. I don't like bargaining. What if I lose my temper? Then I would ruin everything. He can be the bad guy," says Mr Khoo, laughing.

Of their enduring friendship, Mr Khoo says: "We can joke around or argue. But we reason it out and understand how to handle the situation. We are interdependent."

When Mr Ong got married two months ago, holding a wedding dinner at Saveur Art, Mr Khoo was his best man. The bride Julia, 30, works in management consulting company Accenture.

"Now that he is married, he holds even more responsibilities, especially when he has children," says Mr Khoo.

The partnership is, perhaps, one of complementary temperaments.

Ask each chef who is more skilful in the kitchen and Mr Ong, laughing, diplomatically demurs.

Mr Khoo, however, flashes a cheeky grin and says: "I'm still the better cook."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'He's more dependable'. Print Edition | Subscribe