Chew Chor Meng sets sights on western food for next business venture

The actor shared that he has plenty of ideas in store for his growing food empire

Chew Chor Meng sets sights on western food for next business venture
Chew Chor Meng sets sights on western food for next business venture
23 Aug 2018

Chew Chor Meng sets sights on western food for next business venture

Chew Chor Meng and Dennis Chew’s food empire has expanded at an amazing speed since last July – it feels like yesterday that they opened their first mookata (Thai barbeque-steamboat) stall on July 1, 2017 and since then, 888 Mookata has expanded to a total of three locations.

On top of that, the pair, along with their two other close friends and business partners, have a brand-new offering under their belt: a porridge stall that officially opened for business this month. Named The Famous Zhou (it reads like Chew Chor Meng’s name in Mandarin), the stall is once again located in the heartlands, this time in Ang Mo Kio.

The media was invited to the coffee shop for a tasting session, along with an interview session with Chor Meng, where we sat down with the actor to talk about his latest business venture.

“Having a porridge stall is something that I wanted to do since about a decade ago,” the 50-year-old mused. “At the time, my friend advised me that operating a food business isn’t easy because there’s a lot of things that I have to take into consideration. That’s why I gave up on it at the time.”

10 years down the road, his dream has finally come true as he, along with his partners, prepared for the opening of The Famous Zhou for four months. During which, they enlisted the help of celebrated chef Huang Ching Biao, to teach them how to prepare porridge.

“We got to know him during Kungfu Chef, and we’re very grateful that he’s been very helpful to us,” Chor Meng gushed. “Thankfully, our engineer friend also quit his job to help us with the business. Not only have we been tweaking our recipe continuously, but we also took customer feedback into consideration since our soft launch in July (…) After we received confirmation that we’re almost there, we decided to have our official opening.”

That being said, customer feedback hasn’t been 100 percent positive, something that the actor admitted he has learned to take into his stride. “Some people like a more intense taste, while others prefer to have a lighter taste for their porridge. There are some who prefer their porridge thick, while others think that watery porridge is the way to go. We realised that we can’t please everyone, and although we’ve been listening to our customers’ feedback, there’s no way that we can find something that will be to everyone’s liking,” he shared.

The solution was to find a middle ground that they feel has reached their standards, and maintain it. “I’m really happy that I’ve been seeing familiar faces here; that means that they’re returning customers, which is the best way to confirm that we’re doing alright,” Chor Meng beamed.

Chew Chor Meng and Dennis Chew at their 888 Mookata stalls
Chew Chor Meng and Dennis Chew at their 888 Mookata stalls
23 Aug 2018

Chew Chor Meng and Dennis Chew at their 888 Mookata stalls

For those worried that this means that Chor Meng will be letting acting take a backseat with his food empire growing day by day, the actor mused, “I’ve always liked food. I’ve also burned my hands a couple of times. We’ve had businesses that didn’t do well, but we took it as a learning experience, and we’re taking things step by step for now.”

With 888 Mookata’s profits within three months of opening being able to cover the quartet’s initial investment, Chor Meng explained that this time around, The Famous Zhou’s startup costs were also channeled from 888 Mookata’s profits.

“Our business is a food concept and we’re willing to try out all sorts of foods, and it was never our intention to focus solely on mookata,” he explained. “For porridge, as long as you cook it well, I think it’s easier to open a few more stalls as well. You don’t need too many workers because if you get the recipe and porridge base right, you don’t have to be specially trained to be able to cook the porridge well.”

It hasn’t all been rainbows and sunshine for The Famous Zhou, however, as Chor Meng shared that preparation starts at 5am, as they have to cook the porridge base from scratch. His biggest worry right now is also manpower, as he admitted that being in the kitchen for hours on end is not a walk in the park.

“The hours are long and it’s really tough on the staff,” he said. “It’s not a job that everyone will be willing to take on, and it’s difficult to hire. That’s why it’s even more important to have a good team on board,” he mused. “For now, we’re only selling porridge in the day because there aren’t many people here at night. We’ll continue observing the situation and we might adjust the operating hours down the road.”

Looking ahead, Chor Meng also revealed that among his goals is to open a western food stall.

“That engineer friend of ours is really good at preparing western food. I’ve tried the pastries he’s made, and it’s really amazing. He actually wanted to make the youtiao for the porridge stall too, but I told him that his time and efforts are better spent elsewhere. He can’t do everything, so that’s why we decided to get the youtiao from somewhere else instead,” Chor Meng chuckled. “For now, we’ll be focusing on the porridge business. This is a new venture for us as well and if we do well here, we’ll take this formula and apply it to other businesses too.”

Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou
Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou
23 Aug 2018

Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou

Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou
Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou
23 Aug 2018

Celebrity friends showed their support for The Famous Zhou

Chor Meng is very hands on with his work, visiting his stalls as often as he can
Chor Meng is very hands on with his work, visiting his stalls as often as he can
23 Aug 2018

Chor Meng is very hands on with his work, visiting his stalls as often as he can

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