4 new food concepts, from new-age hawkers to co-cooking spaces

Competition in the food and beverage scene remains unabated and business owners are thinking outside the box to develop the food scene of the future.

There is, for instance, co-cooking space OUE Social Kitchen, which is tapping the sharing economy.

Or how about food vault concept OUE Re:Store, which is embracing technology? Both are located at Downtown Gallery, which is part of integrated development OUE Downtown.

Casual eatery Hawker Heroes at Northpoint mall in Yishun, on the other hand, strives to preserve hawker heritage and champion next-generation hawkers by giving them space in a shopping mall.

And there is AppeDine, an app which links food and beverage businesses with diners and chefs, and gives chefs an additional platform. The Sunday Times checks out these new concepts.

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All-in-one dining platform

APPEDINE

Info: www.appedine.com

(From top) Curry sotong set with pork belly from Hong Seng Curry Rice and mee pok from Ru Ji Kitchen. A digital display (top) will flash the customer's name on the numbered vault for food pick-up; the menu is curated by three chefs as well as by Maka
On AppeDine's app or website, diners may do things such as book a private chef or buy meal vouchers. PHOTO: APPEDINE

AppeDine is a platform that connects diners with food and beverage outlets, as well as with chefs.

Features on the website and the AppeDine app allow users to buy food vouchers, book a chef and keep up with the latest food events.

Under the Book A Chef function, customers pick a chef based on his set menus and have the meal prepared at the chef's preferred location.

The Chef On Demand function allows diners to pick their chefs, but they also get to pick the venue and customise the menu.

Browse events such as an art-themed team-bonding session at Cups N Canvas in Selegie Road, a cocktail-networking session at Chef's Table by chef Stephan Zoisl in Tras Street or a leather-crafting workshop at Monniker Cafe in Balestier Road.

The app's business tool also offers features such as calendar planning and voucher redemption tracking.

Merchants and chefs can list their services and outlet spaces on AppeDine for free. The company takes a 20 per cent cut from the merchant for each transaction.

Platform founder Clara Lim, 42, says: "AppeDine was created to encourage support for and awareness of the local food industry in Singapore. I noticed many good restaurants fading away in the last few years. I believe it is because of the lack of a consolidated platform for F&B merchants to optimise their resources and meet diners' needs."

Les Amis Group's chef de partie Tan Wei Shan, 22, has been on board the AppeDine Partner programme since its soft launch on July 30. He is listed on the Book A Chef and Chef On Demand features. His latest gig was a pop-up event at Park Avenue Rochester hotel last Friday. It was a collaboration with the hotel's Cali Cafe.

He says: "The F&B scene in Singapore is very competitive. There are many restaurants opening every day and new culinary graduates every year.

"I believe AppeDine can bridge the gap to create job opportunities for chefs. It is also an additional channel for private and junior chefs to hone their craft, better themselves through experimentation and take up the challenge to create dishes according to customers' needs and dietary preferences."


Cook together

OUE SOCIAL KITCHEN

Where: 03-02 Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way

Open: 10am to 10pm daily

Price: $48 an hour (kitchen station for four people), $108 or $160 an hour (VIP rooms), additional $10 an hour for rental of special equipment such as sous vide machine, ice-cream maker and waffle maker; walk-ins welcome depending on availability or book via the Downtown Gallery app

Info: Call 6224-0355, go to www.facebook.com/ouesocialkitchen or e-mail socialkitchen@oue.com.sg

You have heard of co-working spaces.

Now there is a co-cooking space - OUE Social Kitchen, a kitchen that allows people to get together and cook with friends or colleagues.

Launched earlier this month, the the 4,000 sq ft kitchen at Downtown Gallery in Shenton Way features, six kitchen stations, two VIP rooms and two halal-friendly (no pork, lard or alcohol) stations - all for hire by the hour. The space is outfitted by upmarket home appliance brand Smeg.

Bring your own ingredients (chilled lockers are available for rental) and basic condiments are provided, from salt and pepper to oyster sauce, mustard and balsamic vinegar. Cutlery and crockery are also provided.

Pre-packed ingredients will be available in the future.

OUE Social Kitchen also has a resident chef and staff on hand to help clients if needed.

The best part? No cleaning up.

Ms Patrina Tan, senior vice-president of retail, marketing and leasing of property developer OUE Limited, which is behind OUE Social Kitchen, believes it will cater to workers and residents in the Central Business District as well as tourists.

She says: "Co-cooking spaces are the convergence of two key consumer trends: the rise of the sharing economy as well as the shift towards prioritising experiences over products. Consumers are looking for unique experiences and to connect with people who share their interests."

Mr Jansen Ko, 30, director of climbing gym Boulder Movement, one of the tenants at OUE Downtown, tried out OUE Social Kitchen during its soft launch period.

Over four hours, he and his colleagues made cream of mushroom soup, sauteed mushrooms with garlic and butter, waffles and lemon cupcakes.

He says: "The kitchen is spacious, with state-of-the-art cooking equipment and kitchen tools all provided. The staff were knowledgeable and helpful as well.

"It's a luxury that we didn't have to clean up after cooking.

He added: "It would be good to have cookbooks or pre-loaded recipes in iPads for those who need step-by-step instructions to cook.

"Cooking is a social activity and it's more fun to do it together. It is a great team-bonding exercise."


Convenience store for hot food

OUE RE:STORE

Where: 02-14 and 03-11 Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way

Open: Order from 10am to 9pm daily. Time slots for collection are every 15 minutes

Info: Place orders via the Downtown Gallery app, available on Google Play or Apple App Store

Roll over, hot food vending machines. Now there is OUE Re:Store, a snazzy high-tech hot-food dispensing concept.

Here is how it works: Customers place their food orders through the Downtown Gallery app and choose a timeslot to pick up their food at the store.

Kitchen staff will steam the pre-packed meals, then place them in a numbered vault, ready for collection.

There are 120 numbered vaults lining a wall of the store, whose digital panel will display the customer's name for easy pick-up.

There is also a 5,000 sq ft dining area on the second floor that is open to anyone, regardless of whether they bought food from OUE Re:Store.

The system is currently on trial and will be launched on Oct 2.

The menus here are curated by Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh and three chefs.

Dishes are priced from $9 to $12 each.

The ambitious project is a partnership with Mr Seetoh, 54, who picked the chefs to come up with the menus.

He also contributed his own dishes, which include laksa mee tai mak with yong tau foo, chwee kueh beef rendang and mee pok lor bak (braised pork belly).

The three chefs are Malcolm Lee of one-Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant Candlenut at Como Dempsey, William Wongso from Indonesia and Sau del Rosario from the Philippines.

Chef Lee's menu includes babi pongteh chap chye with rice; tauhu goreng and assam fish with rice; and buah keluak fried rice with roast chicken.

Chef Wongso's dishes include cassava rendang - cooked like Padang-style beef rendang - with turmeric rice and jackfruit curry; and nasi minyak batanghari, a speciality spiced rice dish of Jambi, Indonesia, which is served with braised beef cooked in dark roasted grated coconut.

From chef del Rosario come Filipino dishes such as pork pochero (stewed pork belly with potatoes, plantains, chorizo, chickpeas and bok choy) with rice; and chicken adobo (chicken marinated in vinegar, soya sauce, peppercorns and garlic) with rice.

Mr Seetoh emphasises that none of the dishes are microwaved or frozen. The meals are prepared in a central kitchen and because they are heated up by steaming, he had to exclude fried or baked food, which would turn soggy.

While the menus currently offer only Asian food, he does not rule out introducing other cuisines.

He says: "Curation is very important. If not, you can just eat anywhere else. Using automation is part and parcel of the future of dining. But we remain focused on heritage food."


Young hawkers' tie-up

HAWKER HEROES

Where: 01-07 Northpoint, 930 Yishun Avenue 2

Open: 7am to 10pm daily; Hong Seng Curry Rice opens from 10am to 10pm daily

Info: www.facebook.com/HawkerHeroesSG

Hawker food is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

First, there is hipster hawker centre Timbre+ at one-north by the Timbre Group. And then there is the new Yishun Park Hawker Centre in 51 Yishun Avenue 11, which opened last Wednesday, managed by Timbre Group.

And now, another home-grown food and beverage company, Pezzo Group, known for its chain of pizza kiosks, has launched Hawker Heroes last week at Northpoint mall in Yishun.

It is a cosy 50-seat casual eatery which houses two popular stalls - popular Ru Ji Kitchen and Hong Seng Curry Rice.

Ru Ji Kitchen is run by Ms Joanne Ng and her husband Daniel Lee, both 35, and they have outlets at Redhill Food Centre and Old Airport Road Food Centre, as well as the original in Holland Drive which was started by her father in 2003.

The couple, who have two children aged three years and 16 months - are biomedical sciences graduates from the University of Bradford.

Ru Ji Kitchen is famous for its dry mee pok noodles ($4.50), accompanied by handmade fishballs, freshly fried pork lard and sambal.

New items at its stall in Hawker Heroes are bak chor mee and wonton mee - a collaborative dish with Hong Seng Curry Rice which supplies the char siew for the dish.

Hong Seng Curry Rice, which has stalls at Redhill Food Centre and Singapore Management University, is run by third-generation hawker Alex Lim, 27.

Wanting to run his own business, the banking and finance graduate picked the hawker path in 2014, taking over from his father and uncle.

At Hawker Heroes, the spread features a selection of customer favourites from Redhill, including its signature Hainanese pork chop, braised pork belly and curry chicken - all of which are drenched in thick curry or gravy.

Curry rice sets are priced from $4.50. Brown rice is available at no additional cost.

On being a part of Hawker Heroes, Mr Lim says: "It is good for us second-generation hawkers to carry on our families' businesses, and the partnership with Pezzo Group gives new life to our hawker career. I've always dreamt of opening in a mall, but I have limited knowledge and capacity."

Besides the offerings by the two stalls, Hawker Heroes also sells breakfast sets, dim sum, nasi lemak and drinks.

It took Hawker Heroes a year to select suitable hawkers, says Ms Adora Sarah Chou, 31, marketing manager of Pezzo Group.

There are plans for expansion and the group is looking out for more hawkers to work with.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'Jazzing up the food scene'. Print Edition | Subscribe