Booky sits down with Hawker Chan head chef, Chef Chan Hon Meng
The world’s most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant, Hawker Chan is a surprisingly easy, accessible, and convenient way to enjoy a world-class meal. With the opening of its third branch in the Philippines, Booky decided it was high time to sit down and get to know the culinary master behind it all.
Chef Chan Hon Meng- the head chef, founder, and name-inspiration for Hawker Chan- might not be the person you imagine when you think of “celebrity chef”.
He doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical mold of international culinary superstars; gone are the loud, unapologetic personalities paired with intimidating, made-for-TV auras. Instead, Chef Chan keeps a quiet, cool, and accommodating demeanor, hinting to the fact that he still feels much more comfortable back in the kitchen that in front of the cameras.
In fact, despite being the man of the hour and the reason for all of the festivities, Chef Chan seems to possess a knack for being able to slip in and out of crowded rooms without being noticed. This, of course, sends his team into the occasional scramble as they try to locate their boss, but the crisis is always averted as Chef Chan somehow seems to pop up just when he is needed.
Chef Chan’s restless, constantly on-the-go nature serves as a perfect example of his unending and unyielding energy. From his constant trips in and out of the kitchen to the way that he handles every dish being served, it’s very apparent that, despite this being his third or fourth restaurant opening in the span of a few months, Chef Chan is still very much hands-on.
He credits his energetic motor and drive to the fact that he feels incredibly lucky with the success of Hawker Chan, reaching heights that he never even imagined he would be able to achieve.
Chef Chan had humble beginnings on his path to culinary stardom. He grew up eating, learning, and eventually cooking food in the context of family. For Chef Chan, food was always made to be shared, to be enjoyed, and to be cooked with the love and attention that those eating it deserve.
Cooking grew into such a big part of his life that Chef Chan claims he cannot see himself doing anything else, and that he cooks so that he can continue to share his joy for food to the people around him.
Knowing that he needed to stand out if he was ever to succeed as a chef, Chef Chan took what he knew and loved, the basic roast chicken, and put his own unique and hard-earned spin on it. By developing a flavor that was not quite Hong Kong and not quite Singapore, but something that was truly and distinctly his own, Chef Chan’s world-famous Soya Sauce Chicken Rice was born.
In many ways, the Soya Sauce Chicken Rice tells you all that you need to know about Hawker Chan. The dish is quiet and unassuming, but packs a rush of flavors and cooked with precise care that you’ll forget about complicated, pretentious dishes and be completely taken by this back-to-basics meal.
After more than 30 years of working in the food industry and quietly mastering his craft, Chef Chan was finally recognized for all of his hardwork with his first Michelin star back in 2016. This turned the already popular local food stall into an overnight international sensation and put the Hawker Chan brand on the map.
However, even after becoming renowned and sought after across the globe, even after opening branches from London to the Middle East, Chef Chan has made it a point to ensure that their prices remain as unchanged as possible. A testament to the belief that everybody, whether rich, poor, or somewhere in between, deserves the opportunity to eat and experience good food, Hawker Chan debuted- and still remains- as the cheapest Michelin meal you can find on the planet.
As if anyone needed much convincing to gorge on incredible and affordable cuisine, Hawker Chan’s dishes sit a lot better knowing that they were created to be shared and enjoyed by all, made by a man who considers anyone who eats in his restaurant family.
Hawker Chan opened its third branch in the Philippines on March 4, 2019, joining two other branches in SM Mall of Asia and SM North Edsa.
G/F Glorietta 3, Ayala Center, Makati
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