SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Barely five months after introducing handcrafted buns to the menu, celebrity chef Tan Yong Hua died from heart failure in his sleep in September last year.
The chef, 47, who ran Restaurant Home, was best known for his Peking duck and homey dishes such as steamed fish and rice vermicelli with pork knuckles.
His devastated wife, Madam Sandra Chan, found that she had to decide between the restaurant and her office job.
Madam Chan, 44, told The New Paper: "I didn't want to employ someone to cook my husband's dishes because the taste will never be the same."
But that would mean two full-time employees, who are from Malaysia, would lose their jobs during a difficult time given the Covid-19 pandemic, she added.
After the funeral, Madam Chan sat down with them to discuss her dilemma.
"They were understanding and told me that they would respect my decision," she said.
Chef Tan had launched the buns during the circuit breaker in April and accepted online orders while he continued to run the zi char eatery for takeaway and deliveries.
Madam Chan finally decided to focus on the bun business in her husband's memory.
She said it also allowed her to spend more time with her seven-year-old son.
She and her late husband had fallen in love with the chewy and soft buns in Malaysia three years ago.
Madam Chan learnt the recipe - that had been passed down three generations - from her aunt.
The couple worked on the recipe over and over again before perfecting it.
Chef Tan had even planned to incorporate some zi char flavours into the bun creations, but that was not to be.
Running the business is not easy for Madam Chan who has no formal training or experience.
She said: "I have no business background but my husband used to share his restaurant operations with me, and with support from friends who have their own businesses, I am learning."
Its bestsellers include the meat bun, turnip bun and brown sugar bun, and orders for home delivery can be made on this website.
Madam Chan said: "The response has been really good. Many of our customers are Malaysians who have not been able to return home. They say the buns remind them of their home town and that warms my heart."
She added: "This bun business is a labour of love between my husband and me.
"I will keep it running for as long as I can."