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Free workshop to teach aspiring hawkers ‘80% of all recipes’ by charitable business owner

Starting a hawker business is no cakewalk. As we keep hearing on the news, stalls sprout and wither on a dime, spurred on by numerous factors. As distinguished as the heritage behind our hawker culture has become, running a stall can be immensely demanding.

It’s hence a rarity that anyone would be willing to part with their recipes at zero cost, especially in a climate where they can total up to S$800k (stall included).

Free Hawker Workshop - Mr Big Kodo

If you’re an aspiring hawker or have intentions of exploring the trade, simply drop an email at mrbigkodo@gmail.com for the free workshop, after which an approximate 3-week course plan will be developed, specific to each person. All at no charge.

But what reason is there for such magnanimity? Mr Kodo has always had a generous streak about him. Because of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis in 2023, he’s moved on from directly managing his many hawker businesses to a more consultative role. The offer to teach his recipes for free isn’t anything new, but the free workshop format was something he only recently devised.

Free Hawker Workshop - Mr Kodo portraits
Credit – Mr Big Kodo

At the age of 16, he was helping out at his grandfather’s carrot cake pushcart at Redhill Close during the hawker centre boom, before moving on to his father’s laksa business at Tanglin Halt. From there, he dropped out of school to pursue part-time work with a company selling all manner of food like bak chor mee, zi char dishes — the whole works.

In the 1990s, he opened 2 (now defunct) adjoining stalls at Sims Drive, the first selling si chao — carrot cake, char kway teow, Hokkien mee and orh luak — with his grandfather’s recipes, and the other offering fish soup made from his father’s. His mother also opened her own chicken rice stall opposite Thompson Hospital.

Safe to say, when it comes to hawker dishes, Mr Kodo’s got everything down pat. As charitable as this may all seem, however, he has one condition. ‘I can teach anyone, but companies won’t get anything out of me. This is for the people that want to enter the hawker trade or want to experience what it’s like, not big corporations.’

Free Hawker Workshop - Stallfront

With so many (past and present) businesses under his belt, he simply wants to contribute as much as he can. ‘Zi char dishes are not easy because you have to cook them on the fly and control the flames,’ he shares. ‘I developed these recipes over the years — chicken rice, Hainanese beef noodles, western food, ban mian, fishball noodles, nyonya curry, as well as my own specialities.’

Of course, it’s impossible to compress everything into a 3-hour session. ‘The workshop is introductory, for them to get a feel for the hawker trade. And for me to single out those who are really interested,’ says Mr Kodo. ‘Depending on what they want to learn, I will adapt the rest of the course to teach stall maintenance and hygiene. It’s all free!’

Free Hawker Workshop - Food Empire BCM bowl
Free Hawker Workshop - Food Empire BCM bowl

The veteran business owner is awaiting responses before seeking out a venue to hold the first workshop. ‘I can organise it at my Upper East Coast stall, but if need be, I am willing to rent a kitchen space on my tab.’

He hopes to gather enough responses before the date of the free workshop, slated to take place before Chinese New Year in 2024. If you’re interested or happen to know someone who might be, do drop Mr Kodo an email at: mrbigkodo@gmail.com.

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