Meridian Junior College

Tunisian in chef's whites serves Mediterranean fare

Dressed in crisp chef's whites, Mr Njahi Samir comes across as a professional culinary artist who pays close attention to details.

But the affable 37-year-old Mediterranean chef went from cooking in restaurants to running a food stall at the Meridian Junior College canteen in Pasir Ris.

With nearly two decades of culinary experience, the Tunisian takes pride in his craft and his attire.

"We are cooking for people, so we have to look presentable," he said. "If you are presentable, people will respect you and your food."

His stall, which has been at the JC for more than two years, is well patronised by students. It has about 20 food items on the menu, and each dish sells for between $2 and $3.

The daily menu keeps changing, said the Singapore permanent resident, who has been living here for more than 10 years. "Students like to try new and different dishes. "

His crowd-pleasers, which come in generous portions and involve the lavish use of spices, include the Mediterranean chicken rice set, as well as the Tunisian chicken, beef or lamb kebabs.

One change from working in a restaurant is that Mr Samir now does all the cooking himself, with the aid of two stall assistants. But the father of two children, aged six and eight, is not complaining, as he finds joy in preparing meals for the school community.

Second-year student Mohamed Wasim, 18, frequents the stall at least thrice a week, and would order popular dishes such as the Mediterranean chicken rice set or Tunisian chicken kebab. Usually, there would be long queues at the stall.

"The food is delicious, the portions are good, and there is a variety of items to choose from," he said, adding that some classmates choose to eat only from the stall.

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'Tunisian in chef's whites serves Mediterranean fare '. Subscribe