LIFE POWER LIST 2015

National chef

16) MS VIOLET OON, 66, chef-owner of her eponymous restaurant in Bukit Timah Road and the new National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery Singapore

It is a testimony to Ms Violet Oon's culinary credentials that nobody bats an eyelid that her new restaurant is boldly called National Kitchen.

The 3,000 sq ft set-up at the National Gallery Singapore has won praise for serving delicious Singapore dishes from the Chinese, Indian, Malay, Eurasian and Peranakan communities, in an elegant setting.

At long last, Singaporeans have a fine restaurant where they can entertain overseas visitors as they tuck into fish head curry, chilli crab, chicken rice, nasi lemak and the old-fashioned pineapple upsidedown cake.

After opening and closing several food ventures and running a successful food consultancy business, the cooking doyenne is doing what she does best - feeding people.

The former food journalist also continues to fly the Singapore flag high as a food ambassador and is widely recognised for her expertise in Nonya cuisine and Singapore dishes.

In June, her eponymous restaurant in Bukit Timah Road relaunched with an expanded menu after a six-week renovation.

It also features a show kitchen for her to conduct cooking workshops.

These grand plans have become reality because of her partnership with Mr Manoj Murjani, 45, chairman of Group MMM, an investments and acquisitions group that focuses on developing lifestyle, hospitality and food and beverage companies and brands.

There are plans to open overseas - Ms Oon is eyeing London - and her range of sauces will debut next year. They are "hotly requested" by Singaporeans and tourists who want to recreate her dishes at home.

She says: "It has been quite a rollercoaster ride so far, but just like culture and the arts, food cannot stay still. My quest to curate, chronicle and capture authentic recipes continues."

Ms Oon - who used to run cafes and restaurants in the mid-1990s - credits her son Yiming Tay, 33, and daughter Su-lyn Tay, 38, for their hard work in keeping the brand current.

"They saw something powerful and thought we should preserve and enliven it. My restaurant is not Mod- Sin, that is not my purpose.

"But we are not locked in time either," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'National chef'. Print Edition | Subscribe