I’ve actually known him and his then girlfriend Noelle when we shared an instructor in Krav Maga (He has since gone to focus on BJJ). He started The Social Outcast as a small hawker stall in Tampines and now seated in Aminurrashid Hasnordin’s restaurant at The Grandstand, it’s plain to see that The Social Outcast has done very well for themselves, after all, it’s not every day you get to see a Muslim chef serve up fine meats and cuts charbroiled in a charcoal and hickory wood grill oven. It’s not lost upon me that few brands get to re-invent and re-define themselves in this manner, in the same vein, Braun Büffel presented key Autumn Winter 2022 pieces with analogous strong notes of reinvention and unexpected contrast.
Mint, an affectation derived from Aminurrashid, is also a man of unexpected contrasts. Deeply philosophical, occasionally combative (as you will discover), he channels his contrasts into dishes that like Braun Buffel’s latest collection are familiar yet innovative. His Tempura Fries for example, the perfect balance of crispy light batter and soft fluffy potatoes on the inside, it’s a recognisable classic but a new interpretation of everyone’s favourite side dish. Case in point that if you can do small things well, so too will that attention to detail, transfer to great endeavours.
There’s a saying, “don’t let perfect get in the way of good”, you won’t just serve good food, you want to serve perfect dishes, does this mean you won’t compromise at all?
That’s how Social Outcast got here today. The moment you compromise your values, it’s over. No matter how hard it gets at work you still show up, it’s a very different mindset from the youngsters today. This is why when I hire, I hire those with similar mindsets. I’m not hiring cooks, I want them to be chefs.
At the end of the day, the national obsession with high productivity in the pursuit of revenue gets in the way of true value because you lose your soul. I mean just look at Singaporean satay today compared to what we had in the 80s and 90s. Ingredients have to work alongside technique, soul and pride.
When I made Social Outcast burgers, my meat was double ground with a frozen or super cold blade. So I would switch up the blades after making a few cuts because one the blade warms up, your patty wouldn’t be compact anymore. It’s about the small details. Once you compromise on that, your quality drops and the colour of your patties change, a warmer blade means the fats have melted along the way. So we pay attention to details from the moment of production but the truth is your average consumer won’t be able to tell and we refused to play those games with our paying customers. We didn’t do that going from hawker stall to restaurant.
It wasn’t a straight path to becoming a chef, what was your career like?
I worked many years in F&B before I started bartending as a part time job. I then went on to becoming a training and development manager for Da Paolo. After that, I went onto to SMRT Institute as a lecturer teaching adult learners. Yet, all along, even though it was a corporate job like I had always wanted, I quickly realised that it wasn’t the life for me, so I started looking for opportunities out but they never came and then next thing you know, it’s been 10 years and you earned yourself a long service medal. Then, my dad was diagnosed with cancer.
When I think about it, this plan goes back to when I first met my wife Noelle. For almost a year, I couldn’t get a job. My mother was concerned I was slacking and I showed her that I was applying to 50 jobs each day but I simply could not nail an interview. One day, I was bartending at Molly Malones, I noticed this guy with a bow tie and suspenders, he always ordered lunch with a glass of Guinness. It was then that I wanted to see how to was like being on the other side of the bar instead of the one pouring drinks. I wanted to go somewhere and not have to worry about the price of drinks. So, I asked him how he did it.
First, he asked me what my objectives were. Then he asked me what my game plan was. I told him I was applying for work. He told me matter of factly, “that’s not a plan bro.” So he taught me to work backwards, targeting what I wanted to do and then plan out the steps to get there. I told him that I didn’t have time for that and he advised that I take a day or two away from everyone to a place where you are not distracted. You make a two, three or five years plan and review it each year to see if you’re on the right track. Initially, I dismissed it as stupid but over the next few days, I decided to take my motorbike up to Kota Tinggi with a book and a pen. When I eventually entered the corporate world, I realised it was not the destination I had hoped and so five years into the journey, I went back to the same place but this time round, I thought up ideas for a cafe with burgers.
Wait a minute, at that point, what was the most complex meal you had ever prepared?
Maggi goreng [laughs].
So you didn’t think that you had a talent to be an actual chef?
I knew I could cook but I was never tested.
But planning is different from actually having the skillsets…
I decided to just jump in the deep end but thankfully, my experience in Training and Development and as an Operations Manager gave me the knowledge of the equipment I needed and the processes of running an F&B outlet. I knew how to set a menu and I thought I would probably need a chef. However, this did not quite proceed according to plan because in Singapore, life is such that you are chained to the stability of the job and there’s an ever present fear of leaving your job. Every year, I would get a bonus and it would go into paying for holidays overseas. Year in year out, I kept postponing the plan while embracing the Singaporean idea of a dream.
Eventually, I got the push I needed to take a leap of faith. My dad caught cancer. I was in my late 30s and out of the blue, he had a bad fever. We rushed him to the hospital and the checks by the doctor eventually diagnosed him with stage four cancer with six months to live. At 65 years old, I could tell that he felt he was going to leave a lot unfinished. So I went home and spoke to my wife, it was dream that should anything happen to me, a successful business was something I could leave behind for the family. Without concrete plans and just a piece of paper with scribbles on it, we happened to be renovating the marital home which was coincidentally situated above a coffee shop that had a small stall available for rent. While renovations were ongoing, I would pop in regularly for coffee, making enquiries about the stall. During one of the usual coffee outings, I excused myself to go to the toilet and returned, discovering that my wife had paid a deposit and that we had to start the next month. That was the push, I had one month to quit. That’s when I started training to be a chef.
That’s a pretty incredible level of competence in such a short time…
Yeah… I read a lot and experimented as much. I don’t think I had ever read or trained as hard in my life for anything else.
From homelessness to this, what happened?
To be honest, I wasn’t a very good kid. I joined a gang because I wasn’t the biggest kid in town and small sized guys like me have a Napoleon complex where you have to show that you are tougher than everyone else. I also grew up in a very strict family and I was watching my peers do things I wanted to do and I didn’t realise at the time that it was for my own good and so I rebelled.
That moment changed the trajectory of your life?
Many people say gangs are bad and that they will lead you down a path of destruction but what I learned was a discipline and an honour code of the streets. There were things we couldn’t do: gang up on one person and beat them up. If a guy tells you they have no problem with you, you cannot instigate a fight, you have to take them at their word. If I had problems with you, it was verboten to target the elderly, the infirm, women and children. In a gang, I learned strict codes and with those codes, learned to manage my misplaced rage. These were “laws of the jungle” that my parents didn’t know to teach me, these are the same laws that now govern how I conduct myself. It’s not all about profit, numbers or data. My mother asked me if I would make the same choices I did and I said yes, because the journey had taught me the lessons that I didn’t know how to learn. Also, you don’t learn the rules of the street in school, I mean look at the people right now, not using their turn signals [laughs].
Obviously your parents have a different perspective of you today…
Once I was the example of what not to grow up as and now, I’m the cool uncle to follow. People don’t see the journey, they see the end product. These are lessons I try to impart to all my employees, give a hundred percent and then go to sleep with the peace of mind having a job well done. Even if you fail, do so with pride that you gave it your best shot.
How does this attitude translate into brand values you admire?
Lange & Sohne obviously for the attitude towards craftsmanship. Nike, because “Just do it”. Brazilian ju jitsu teaches you tremendous lessons in overcoming adversity, you’ll never understand as quickly as getting choked by your opponent and then using the last 5% of your strength to figure out the way of a chokehold. It is major chaos in the kitchen, all the orders are flying at your hard and fast and with the flames and heat, it’s not exactly a comfortable environment, yet you have to keep cool and have your wits about you. This is exactly like BJJ, you are got to think and find the eye in the storm and just work your way out of it.
So, did you get here on your own power?
No, it was fate and destiny. I have never imagined that I could be successful as a chef. My five year plan was to have enough brand equity to sell the brand or to enter elevated dining. We have gone from hawker to casual dining and next year, we’re entering elevated dining and then we are headed overseas.
We made a lot of mistakes. Even step, from hawker to casual dining and then to becoming a formal restaurant, will have many challenges of their own. That said, the menu in a restaurant will become relatively easier to manage with a smaller menu but fine dining will bring about its own problems.
What would you tell your younger self?
Family matters more than you realise and finish what you started, you learn more from failure. Set your kids up for failure. If you can handle failure, success is easy.
About The Social Outcast
A Muslim-owned woodfire smoked & charcoal grilled joint. With a laissez-faire attitude, TSO continues to shake up the food scene, shifting away from the traditional perception of Halal food. TSO’s signature dark art of food preparation was inspired by the exploration of wood-fire grilling and smoking techniques.
Bold, innovative, no boundaries, old-school, purist – we have left out a few other censored words but you get it. The rebranding and relocation of TSO reflect the coming together of two unorthodox artists in this new space. In the kitchen and in the overall presentation, two diametrically opposed personalities bring you an unforgettable dining experience that will capture your senses all in one.
The Outcast Chef, Mint’s obsession with fire and smoke, emphasises on providing high-quality food and imports most of his ingredients and kitchen equipment from overseas, including the Mibrasa Charcoal-Grilled Oven from Spain, Premium Beef & Lamb from Australia, Chipotle from Mexico and Unagi from Japan.
Menu every 5-6 months.
Look out for his upcoming projects
The Madman & Co
Private Dining, Pop Up Event & Private Hire – an upscale BBQ experience with premium ingredients and raw fire to impress your guests and loved ones. Imagine Wagyu Meats Cut from different prefecture, Seafood flown in directly from Japan, flavors and spices varies from Asian to Mexico, African to Texas. Follow their instagram (https://instagram.com/themadmanco) for notification on pop up events or drop them a dm.
The Outcast Chef (The Social Outcast’s Chef-Owner) is rather affectionately known among friends as The Mad Man. He’s never comfortable with the title of a Chef or Pitmaster; “a cook title’s more fitting cause I’m always in the ever-learning process” he says. A purist in the kitchen, every dish is created from cherished memories with his loved ones and foods he love. One of those, is burnt cheesecakes. Take it from Mint: there’s nothing a good dessert can’t solve, especially one that’s golden and crusty on the outside, smooth, luscious, and sensuous on the inside.
His burnt cheesecake is smooth and lush, with the warm personality of a warm and rich uncle who loves dirty jokes and will die of sexual exertion in the arms of his mistress he cheated with. We all have battles with our inner demon on daily basis, our cheesecake are the kinda where you take a break, hug your demons and share a cheesecake with. It is perfect for every occasion from including that bad break up you just had. Trust him.
Currently, they have 2 flavors – Classic Burnt Cheese & Roasty Burnt Hojicha. A classic original cheese, never goes wrong. And a roasty hojicha for all the tea lovers. And we are venturing new flavours really soon! Instagram Here