Saveur founders go separate ways

Saveur co-founder Joshua Khoo (left) now runs a hawker stall, while chef Dylan Ong is opening a casual restaurant next month.
Saveur co-founder Joshua Khoo (left) now runs a hawker stall, while chef Dylan Ong is opening a casual restaurant next month.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Chefs Joshua Khoo and Dylan Ong have sold their stake in the business and will be running their own eateries

Chefs Dylan Ong and Joshua Khoo, co-founders of the popular Saveur group of restaurants, have sold the business to their silent partner for an undisclosed sum.

The two Shatec-trained chefs made their mark in the food scene here by offering French food at low prices. They opened Saveur as a hawker stall in Joo Chiat in 2011. A year later, they opened the first Saveur restaurant in Purvis Street, and continued to add more outlets, including Saveur at Far East Plaza, Italian restaurant Concetto at The Cathay and Saveur Art at Ion Orchard. Concetto was changed to Saveur last year.

On why they sold their shares in the business in December last year, both Ong and Khoo would say only that they have "different visions".

They say they remain good friends and have returned to their passion for cooking, with their own businesses. And they are sticking to their mission of serving food at affordable prices.

Saveur will always be our baby and we have learnt a lot from the experience. But we were constantly under pressure and it's time to take a step back.

CHEF JOSHUA KHOO

Khoo, 33, now runs a two-month-old hawker stall called Taste Affair at Amoy Street Food Centre. Ong, 30, is opening a casual 45-seat restaurant called The Masses at 80 Beach Road next month.

Noting that diners have become more health-conscious, Ong's $100,000 venture features a "contemporary, happy menu" that uses seasonal produce, housemade ingredients such as pickled lotus root, and fruit enzyme for dessert items.

Menu offerings include chicken collagen veloute ($8); duck leg confit ($12.90); and US Black Angus striploin with potato mille feuille and organic watercress salad ($22.90).

Classic cocktails such as whisky sours and cosmopolitans are priced between $12 and $15.

On the location, Ong says: "There are not many Western options as eateries along Liang Seah Street mostly serve Chinese food. Younger diners also frequent the area. As the name suggests, we want to cater to the masses."

Khoo's Taste Affair offers a smaller and simpler menu which is built around "flavoured rice" and angel hair pasta.

Each dish comes with either angel hair pasta or paella-style rice flavoured with saffron, as well as a poached egg and sauteed vegetables. Pick from ingredients such as sake butter clams ($6.50); poached chicken leg ($5); and diced prawn and chorizo sausage ($7).

Khoo says: "Saveur will always be our baby and we have learnt a lot from the experience. But we were constantly under pressure and it's time to take a step back."

Ong adds: "At the end of the day, we have to focus on what would make us happy. Leaving Saveur may be sad, but it's okay."

•Taste Affair at 02-128 Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road, opens from 10.30am to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Saveur founders go separate ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe