Singapore Michelin-starred food hawker to start chain

Singaporean chef Chan Hon Meng of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice in Singapore

A Singapore street-food chef who was awarded a Michelin star this year announced Friday a partnership with a multinational culinary company to offer customers across Asia a taste of his prize-winning braised chicken dish.

Chan Hon Meng announced in a joint press conference with Singapore-based Hersing Culinary, which holds the Asia franchise for the popular Tim Ho Wan chain, that the partners will collaborate on a new Singaporean restaurant before expanding across the region.

"I'm very happy to find the right partner," Chan told reporters. "It's important that they are very enthusiastic about the food and beverage industry and they put their customers first."

Their first venture will be a restaurant called Hawker Chan, which will offer the signature chicken dishes Chan currently serves at his stall in Singapore's Chinatown.

Malaysian-born Chan is one of two "hawkers" -- so-called because many started out as street peddlers -- awarded one star by the culinary bible when it launched its inaugural Singapore guide in July.

The 80-seater Hawker Chan, just three minutes' walk from the current stall, will feature air-conditioning and sit-down dining at higher prices.

Chan will get a 50 percent stake in the restaurant, whose set-up costs are estimated at Sg$1 million ($720,000).

Chan's stall, which serves up his award-winning dish for just Sg$2.50 ($1.80), has been called the cheapest Michelin-starred food establishment in the world.

His wife and other family members will continue to run his stall while he will oversee operations at both outlets.

Hersing chairman Harry Chua declined to give a timeline for international expansion, with financial terms for future outlets to be negotiated between the two parties.

Hersing holds the Asia Pacific franchise rights to Tim Ho Wan, a Hong Kong dim sum chain that has also been awarded one Michelin star.

It has 38 Tim Ho Wan restaurants in nine countries, including Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Chan in previous interviews indicated his desire to "be like Tim Ho Wan".

The diminutive cook saw his fortunes change after he was awarded a Michelin star, with diners lining up for hours just to order a plate of chicken and rice.

"I'm very happy that I can bring something small that belongs to Singapore to go across the world," he said Friday.

"If you work hard, you can be recognised and your day will come."