In his juvenile years from age 15, Mr Teng had been working as a kitchen apprentice in a famous restaurant then in Singapore. Later part, when he turned 20 years old and after a 5 year stint with the restaurant, he started his first Zi Char outlet selling at Yishun Block 641.
From 1992 and 1993, Mr Teng expanded his food business into 3 outlets in furtherance to his career where they were at Boon Keng Road, Yishun Block 605 and Eunos Block 27. He then had singlehandedly managed the shops himself with 40 plus staff strength of which the businesses were considerably popular. Mr Teng’s Zi Char shops were aired over TV, and reviewed by local newspapers for their good tasting food presented and he had won many accolades for good food served.
Though so, in 1993, he met with the usual manpower issues for his businesses just like many others who do in their quests for retaining their status in the food line. In order to keep his food outlets afloat, he turned to hiring illegal workers to replace the massive depletion of local and work permit workers so to continue his trade. He was ultimately fined by the local court and his business was affected badly due to this. However, after a certain period of perseverance and efforts to sustain his shops, he survived the hard knocks and moved on.
Since 1997, he had then relocated to his current premises at the heart of the city and when you ask him what made him pressed on in this trade, Mr Teng commented that he could make a decent living from what he has a deep interest in and that is “food”, in addition to seeing his regular patrons coming back for his food through generations made his day and he felt he should continue to serve good food to them as a token of appreciation.
What is your name and age, are you local?
I am Teng Huan Koon, age 47 years and I am a local.
What makes your business or dishes different from others?
In most possible ways, my ingredients are handmade ourselves and we deliver fresh seafood and meat to our patrons which are bought directly from the fishery port every morning. We are the originator in our signature San Lou Bee Hoon, of which many have learnt the dish preparation from us and went on to start their own stalls offering it, this we have 20 over years of culinary experience in dishing it out.
Why is your shop named as such?
“Bee Hiang Seafood” derives from the meaning given in being delicious and fragrant food that we serve.
When was it first established?
On 10th July 1997.
What are your signature dishes?
We have San Lou Bee Hoon of course, Herbal Kampong Chicken, Thai-styled Beancurd, Cold Dish, and assorted varieties of Fish Head that include Bean Paste, Chilli, Curry and Assam styled together with our Black Pepper and Chilli Crabs.
What is your favourite local food?
Wanton Mee at North Bridge Road.
What is your secret to keeping customers coming in?
We endeavour quality food at affordable coffeeshop’s prices.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in food business?
I started as a kitchen apprentice at the age of 15 years old, and there was no looking back then thereafter when I left the restaurant and started my own entity at age 20 years old.
What has been your greatest professional success and biggest setback?
My line has enabled me financially to start a family and sustained our lifestyles till now.
In 1996, rental costs shot up at my Boon Keng Road’s outlet by 50% and I was forced to forgo it though I have already gained a foothold with consistent flow of patrons there.
What is your comfort food?
Fish Slice Porridge
Do you cook at home?
Yes, I cook.
What does your fridge consists of?
Fish, poultry, vegetables, and beer.
Where is your favourite overseas foodie destination?
China for its BBQ Lamb Shanks.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as an owner?
Taking orders from customers, preparing ingredients and managing the accounts and stock inventories.
What are the steps to becoming a restaurant owner?
The incumbent needs to master the work in the kitchen, from preparing condiments to selecting fresh ingredients and able to promote teamwork among the kitchen staff from helpers to chefs as it is important. Also, he need to exchange experience in the workplace to better build up a good business.
What do you think of the current market now?
For established food operators, it is profitable as we already owned our own group of regular patrons, however the market asserts pressure on new food outlets now with high rental costs and stiff competition.
How do you think it will be in the next 10 years?
The market will pick up with more food operators and thus, creating jobs in the food industries. Although technology may replace human work, however, there are still elements of which human efforts will not be engulfed.
What would your last meal be?
Bee Hiang Seafood
Address: 12 Verdun Road Verdun House Singapore 207275
Opening hours: 4.30pm – 12.30am daily