Photo Essay



Chef-owner Immanuel Tee of Immanuel French Kicthen, 27, was the former chef de cuisine of Keystone Restaurant before it closed down due to leasing issues. He was the youngest Chef de Cuisine in Singapore when he rose to the role at 25. A chance approach brought him to embark on his French venture in well, a coffeeshop. Magdelene Tan finds out more in this photo essay.



Immanuel wakes up at 8am every morning to prepare almost all the dishes by hand.  He mentions that as a hawker, he works longer hours and in a much smaller space than he is used to in his previous workplace.


Even side dishes and sauce are concocted from 9am onwards till the shop opens at 12 noon. The usually reserved Immanuel lights up when he shares the intricacy of his cuisine with you. Concerned over food quality, he invests a lot of time in preparing everything from scratch. He usually goes home at about 11pm to midnight after cleaning up.


Why specifically French cuisine? Immanuel understands that to survive in the competitive F&B industry, a business must have a focused selling point order to differentiate itself from the masses. The menu ranges from $3.90 to $30 and radiates a definite young, fresh vibe. Asked if he handles it on his own, Immanuel laughs and shares that his friend from NTU Mass Comm designed the menu and maintains the restaurant’s Facebook page.


Immanuel checks on the duck confit’s progress. He insists on using only fresh produce and plucks the feather of duck legs for his signature duck confit every morning by hand. Even the soup is not from a can unlike other restaurants as Immanuel values food quality over scrimping on food costs, which is usually the case for many F&B entrepreneurs.


Song Jia Ming, 32, has been working for “He Zhong Carrot Cake” stall in Bukit Timah Hawker Centre for 10 years. The stall is renowned for selling only the white version of cai tau kway (fried radish) in thick, brownie-like pieces.


Jia Ming began working at the carrot cake stall straight after army after his army friend told him that the stall was searching for a stall assistant. He worked for 2 years, taking and delivering orders, before he was learnt how to fry the carrot cake.


One can already feel the heat of the wok standing outside the stall. Once inside, it’s surprisingly even hotter than one expects it to be. Jia Ming shrugs off the heat with a simple statement, “Bo bian (colloquial term for no choice), this is part of the hawker lifestyle.”


Why decide to fry carrot cake for a living? The easygoing chap has no definite answer. Jia Ming prefers to see what life dishes him and work with it.


“You don’t call yourself a hawker if you don’t work at least 8 hours a day.” says Jia Ming. He shares that the hawkers hailing from China in the olden days are more resilient and youngsters nowadays are not as tenacious and are not willing to suffer hardship. He works daily from 1pm to closing time at about 10pm. On his future plans, he does not seeing himself as a hawker, has yet to decide what job he’d take up.



Life is hectic for the hawker, as he can fry up to 300 plates of carrot cake during peak hours at dinnertime. He is definitely good at what he does, evident from the stall’s popularity as hungry customers keep flocking for some carrot cake goodness.