Founded by Chan Hong Meng, Hawker Chan became famous for its simple yet delicious $2.50 soy sauce chicken noodle dish when it was included in Michelin’s first-ever guide to Singapore in 2016, earning one star.
But when the food bible unveiled its latest Singapore edition on Sept. 1, Hawker Chan — formerly known as Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodles — was nowhere to be found.
After his Michelin triumph, Meng’s career began. His brand has grown from a humble stall in a hawker center in Chinatown to a franchise restaurant with locations in Thailand, the Philippines, and more.
He changed the restaurant’s name to Hawker Chan and started expanding into other dishes.
NewsMadura has reached out to Hawker Chan for comment on the star’s loss.
‘Michelin has correctly adhered to their weapons’
While some have praised the Malaysian-born chef for benefiting from his hard work, others have felt the quality of the food has declined after the opening of his new establishments.
Singaporean food expert KF Seetoh told NewsMadura: “I think Michelin has properly adhered to their guns and protected the dignity of the stars.”
Seetoh was an old friend of the late Anthony Bourdain and took the chef to several hawker centers in the Lion City. Bourdain’s support of these small, local food outlets, many of which specialize in just one dish, helped show travelers outside of Singapore just how much delicious food the city had to offer at every price point.
The two were working on a hawker center concept in New York City when Bourdain died in 2018.
For Seetoh, however, the future of Singapore’s food culture depends on much more than just one chef or one restaurant.
“More so, and with all due respect, Michelin needs to stick to their core strength and run the restaurants as the restaurants need help now.”
Singapore, like almost every country in the world, has seen its tourism industry devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Amid border closures and local closures, the food and beverage industry has been particularly hard hit.
However, the country’s high vaccination rate has prompted the Singapore government to slowly reopen and develop a strategy for living safely with Covid.
Hawker Chan was awarded a Michelin star in 2016.
Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
Michelin under the microscope
Michelin, owned by the tire company of the same name, is one of the most secretive publications in the world. The names of the editors and contributors are closely guarded secrets.
The company originally started publishing guidebooks for people driving in Europe and made the leap from tires to cars to tourism. In the travel guides, some restaurants would get special mentions.
Later the galaxy came into existence and took on a life of its own. The highest number of stars a restaurant can earn is three.
The Michelin brand was so respected in the world of fine dining that some chefs were driven insane to score its accolades.
In the end, Veyrat lost his suit. But he’s not the only chef to speak out against the food bible recently.
Korean chef Eo Yun-gwon, whose restaurant Ristorante Eo was awarded a Michelin star in the 2019 Seoul guide, complained that he didn’t want to be included in the book at all.
“The inclusion of my restaurant Eo in the corrupt book is a slander against Eo members and the fans. As a ghost, they had no contact number and I could only contact me via email. While I clearly declined my listing of my restaurant, they’ve included it in their will this year as well.”
Over the years, Michelin was criticized for focusing too much on Europe and North America while ignoring the rest of the world and prioritizing high-end establishments.
It released its first guide to Tokyo in 2007 and its inaugural guide to Hong Kong and Macao two years later.
Top image: Singaporean chef Chan Hon Meng, founder of Hawker Chan.