Honours grad with hawker passion

Mr Keith Koh, whose stall at Maxwell Food Centre sells British fare, says the hawker culture is unique to Singapore, unlike cafes which can be found "anywhere in the world".
Mr Keith Koh, whose stall at Maxwell Food Centre sells British fare, says the hawker culture is unique to Singapore, unlike cafes which can be found "anywhere in the world".ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

After graduating with first class honours in business from the University of Greenwich, Mr Keith Koh decided he had no interest in pursuing a corporate job - much to the initial dismay of his parents.

Then 25, he opted to spend his days in a hot and stuffy hawker stall rather than an air-conditioned office. Now, two years on, his stall Lad & Dad, which serves British fare at Maxwell Food Centre, has a constant stream of customers.

Many of them are older folk curious to try out his dishes, which include the classic British bangers and mash, and beef stew.

"There were some who told me they found that my food brought back memories. One customer said his father used to cook for the British, so this sort of food reminded him of the past," he said.

Mr Koh said he was never inclined to open a cafe and would much rather have his stall sited among other stalls selling fishball noodles, chicken rice and wanton mee.

"Being a hawker... means reaching out to a broad demographic of customers," he said.

Mr Koh is part of the new generation of young hawkers who aim to inject new life into the trade.

"I've always loved the hawker culture here," he said, recalling his frequent trips to Maxwell Food Centre as a teenager. "It's so unique to Singapore and I missed it when I was studying in London."

He hopes that he and other young hawkers can help hawker centres survive and thrive.

"We can get cafes anywhere in the world. Hawker centres are ours. We should appreciate and embrace them. I hope our hawker culture is something Singaporeans can always be proud of," he said.

Sue-Ann Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline 'Honours grad with hawker passion'. Print Edition | Subscribe