Michelin enters the Singapore street food scene, causing both fame and disruption

Chan in the kitchen
Source: Michelin Guide Singapore via YouTube
52 year old chef Chan Hon Meng has been a street hawker all his life. Before his Singapore food stand opens each day, customers are already queued up to buy his delicious dishes, which costs $2 Singapore – or USD$1.87 – the lowest price Michelin-starred meals anywhere in the world.

When Michelin invited Chan to receive recognition for the excellent quality of his food, the Malaysian-born chef didn’t quite believe that the invitation was real. But a few weeks later in July 2016, he beamed from ear to ear as the company spokesman welcomed him on stage and awarded Chan’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle restaurant a single, coveted star.

Producing quality, tasty food at prices low-wage workers can afford is a balancing act, and one which requires long hours and in Chan’s case, has called for personal sacrifice too. Although his suppliers have raised prices several times over the past two years, Chan has not raised his. The downside to international recognition is that although demand has caused Mr. Chan’s workdays to escalate to the 17 hour range, at the end of each day he must turn away a long line of hungry customers because provisions have run out. And, now Chan worries about how to qualify for a Michelin star again next year.

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