“I developed a passion for cooking when I was about 12 or 13. It started with me liking that feeling when I got praises from my family. Whenever I cooked, my mum and grandma would say my cooking’s very nice, and that boosted my ego.

I’ve always been around the culinary scene. My dad has a fruits and dessert stall, and my mom has been helping him ever since they got married, but I never thought of pursuing a career in cooking back then; I only cooked for leisure.

In school, I actually studied sports science, and during my internship, I worked as a personal trainer at a bodybuilding gym, which was around the same time I picked up boxing. That was when I saw the ugly side to the local gym industry.

The pro bodybuilding scene isn’t as clean as what some think it is; many people were taking steroids. I also didn’t like how appearance sells. My ex-boss said no one will take me seriously as a personal trainer if I didn’t bulk up, even if I had the knowledge and skills.

After I graduated with my diploma, I helped my dad out at his dessert stall for a while. It was the worst time of my life because I was still training as an amatuer boxer back then, so I only had about three hours of sleep each night.

But my boxing training, along with the discipline of waking up early even when I slept late the night before, made me the person I am today. Having that kind of work ethic really helps me now that I’m running Beng Who Cooks, my own food stall at Hong Lim Food Centre.

I came up with Beng Who Cooks when I was still studying at culinary school. I decided to pursue culinary arts after I stopped helping my dad at his stall. For four whole months, I was experimenting with different recipes that I could use for my business.

I chose the name Beng Who Cooks because I grew up with many Malay friends, and they call me ‘beng’ the same way I call them ‘mat’. ‘Beng’ refers to someone who is rebellious and follows his own rules, and I adopt that mindset in my cooking. It’s also just a catchy name.

Because they know how tough the F&B scene is, my parents are not supportive of this business. My girlfriend, who’s now my fiancé, wasn’t supportive at first either, but now that she’s seen how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am today, she’s fully behind me.

I’m working hard not just for me, but also for her. She’s working really hard too because we plan to get a house and maybe married in three years’ time. If the business does well, maybe we can get married earlier.

Beng Who Cooks just entered its first month of operations. It’s not been easy, especially on the first day. Customers came at 10, but I only managed to finish cooking everything at 12.30. Sales was bad and I made a loss. I just felt like shit.

But now, things are falling in place. Surprisingly, feedback from returning customers have been good. And this is honest feedback from members of the public, not just friends.

Yes, I’m very passionate about Beng Who Cooks, but I also know there are risks. This stall is my everything. If it works, it works. If I fall, I’ll have to start again from ground zero. This business is not for the strawberry generation, but I’m determined to change the hawker scene, one bowl at a time.” – Jason, 27

Beng Who Cooks

  • Address: 531a Upper Cross Street, #01-44, S051531
  • Opening Hours: Weekdays: 10am – 7:30pm; Saturday: 10am – 3pm
  • Co-owned by Muslims

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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.