Thirteen people have finished their training with some of Singapore's top hawkers, but just five of them will be running two "incubation" stalls with a year-long lease. (Four banded together to run a wanton mee stall.)
Another five opted to stay on at the trainers' stalls while three others are leaping straight into running their own.
The first batch of graduates from the Hawker Master Trainer pilot programme showed off their skills at a tasting session on Monday, cooking for panelists of the CEO Hawkers' Guide published by the Business Times.
The programme, which started last October, has "master hawkers" like Mr Thian Boon Hua of Boon Tong Kee chicken rice fame and Mr Sulaiman Abu of D'Authentic Nasi Lemak impart their skills to trainees to preserve Singapore's hawker heritage.
Currently, another 17 are undergoing training, and the scheme aims to train 50 people by November.
Among those running an incubation stall are Mr Peter Mok and Ms Sim Poh Gek, who will cook wanton mee and other noodle dishes.
Mr Mok, 54, said it was faster to snag a guaranteed incubator stall than bid on an ordinary stall and wait for the results. "Time is not a luxury we can afford," he said.
Mr Cedric Ng, 45, opted to stay with Boon Tong Kee for an extra three-month part-time stint. "If you stay you can learn even more," he said.
Others, like Madam Noor Marina Salleh, 37, have some prior experience in the industry. Mdm Marina, who trained with D'Authentic Nasi Lemak, previously ran a stall at Temasek Polytechnic and is bidding to run a hawker stall with a three-year lease at Sims Place.
She said the incubator stalls' year-long lease would not be long enough to recoup her investments in equipment and signage. "It takes money to start up a stall, and if you have to find another place after a year, that also takes money."
The Workforce Development Agency also announced on Monday that five more stalls have now joined the list of master trainers.
They are Casuarina Curry, Fatty Cheong Roasted Meat, Ha Ha Big Prawn Noodle, Hwa Xing Bak Kut Teh, and Nam Kee Teochew Fish Porridge.