The Story Behind A Noodle Story

When we think of hawkers, a young face don’t usually appear and the food that we can buy from Hawker centres are usually more traditional. Recently, there are a younger group of hawkers appearing in our hawker centres, some to take over their parents, while some are like Gwern, whipping up amazing new dishes. We go behind the scenes to know more about the story behind the hawker that was awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Please tell us about yourself before you started A Noodle Story

My name is Gwern Khoo, 36. My dream is to be the best chef as I can be. Hence, I started my culinary journey working and learning from the best. I started cooking ten years ago. I had been working in various top fine-dining establishments. Last was 2 Michelin stars, Waku Ghin at MBS.

I started A Noodle Story four years ago. I’ve always love to create new dishes even when I was a chef. I’m very happy when people come up to me and say they like my food. What I really want is to start my own business and let customers enjoy my creations. The hawker Centre is a cheaper way for me to test out my ideas and concepts. 

How did you pick up your culinary skills? Why have you chosen making noodles instead of other cuisines?

I attended Shatec to learn the basics. During that time, I also read cookbooks widely and regularly do my own R&D. As such, my knowledge was much better than most of my course mates due to the extra effort I put in.

From there, I worked in various top restaurants to learn from the best. My passion is such that I even worked on my off days in other restaurants for free to increase my knowledge and skills. I love to eat noodles. It’s important to cook what you like to eat, then you can improve.

How did you chance upon this idea? What gap did you wish to make up for?

There had been an uptrend in Japanese cuisine, especially ramen in the past few years. I knew I couldn’t fight head-on with those famous chains from Japan. So, to leverage on this trend, I started my S-style ramen. Somewhat same but still differentiated from the usual ramen and hawker fare.

I chose the Central Business District (CBD) because of the demographics. Now, more youngsters are well-travelled and willing to try new things. And they are willing to pay for quality and unique concepts. The Hawker Centre is a low-cost platform for me to test out my ideas and concepts. With the high-casualty rate of cafes and restaurants in Singapore, you won’t want to throw away good money.

We are the “First & only Singapore-style ramen.” What this means is you can’t get this noodles anywhere; only at A Noodle Story. We are also probably the first to use modern cooking technique used in high-end restaurants in a hawker setting. Having such differentiated advantages allow us to play and amplify our uniqueness in the media and social media leading to more awareness, and of course, sales.

ANS

The store to look out for.

What motivates you on a day to day basis?

It’s important to have a vision. Once you have a vision of how your business is going to be down the road, everything you do is aligned in achieving that vision. Anything else is just noise.

How do you serve high quality food while keeping the price affordable?

It’s difficult. I probably can because I’m in a hawker centre. If this was a restaurant, it would be hard.

What are some ups and downs you have experience?  

The Ups

Happy, satisfied customers giving the thumbs-up.

The Challenges

It had to be our most valuable resource – time. We spend on average 13-14 hours daily here. There were huge sacrifices of family and friends time. It’s definitely physical tired and mentally draining. In addition to the long hours, the heat is also unbearable. To cook at a high level consistently for 3 hours non-stop for lunch and 2 hours for dinner, we need to be in tip-top condition. Hence, we’re mentally drained at the end of the day.

I must admit that maintaining consistency in our food is a huge challenge every day. Our ingredients are all natural produce and so varies in consistencies all the time. Consistency comes from being precise; so, we make it a culture do everything with precision in our kitchen. That said, we always taste, taste, and taste. Be it soup, sauce, meat or wontons.

Similar Profiles: The Stressed Stop Founder’s Story & The Stressed Stop Chef’s Story

What is the best advice that a mentoring entrepreneur gave you?

“Do not allow yourself to be limited by beliefs.”

What is your typical working schedule look like?

Very long hours.

We come in at 7.30am and start preparing immediately. It will be a mad rush. We will start with our broth over a rolling boil as it takes time to release the flavor and for the gelatinous stuffs to turn creamy. We use a lot of meat in our broth and so it’s very tasty

Next, I will marinate the wontons with our market-bought fresh minced pork. I insist on using only fresh Indonesian pork because that’s the best. My trusted supplier will grind for me my secret ratio of lean meat to fats because that’s the juiciest. While I’m marinating the wontons, Ben will slice the 36 hours cha-su. This will be cooked beforehand and chilled so that it is easier to slice.

It will be almost 9am when I start to cook the eggs. Over the years, I’ve managed to refined my technique so that our eggs are always consistent. In fact, A Noodle Story is renowned for our ‘Hot-Spring Egg’. At the same time, Ben will wrap the wontons.

After that, Ben will start peeling the eggs. Peeling the eggs is a delicate process and requires skill and patience as the eggs are very liquid in the center. At this point I’ll be slicing the scallions. The spring onions will be slice very thin, like paper, so that we can mound them high for aesthetics.

By the time we are finished, it almost lunch service which starts at 11.15am. We will have our first meal of the day around 3-5pm. Following with more prep and dinner service will start at 5.30pm. By the time we finish and pack-up, it’s almost 9pm.

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This is Singapore-Style Ramen.

If you could go back in time, what would you like to do differently?

I would charge a higher price. We undercharged in the beginning as not too sure how customers will take to our product. We’d revised our price 3 times since inception. It would not be so painful if we’d the right pricing for our product in the beginning.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I have plans to launch the “Singapore-style ramen Version 2.0” soon. Besides that, I Have some interesting concepts up my sleeves and hope to expand by then.

What do you do to maintain your work-life balance?

I do not have work-life balance as yet. We are still in the growing stage.

That said, when it’s family time, I devote myself fully. No mobile, no thinking of work, distractions and such.

What is the greatest pride you take with regards to your stall?

The high standards and consistency which I set and had been able to achieve. This probably is the secret sauce to our success.

What are some key aspects do you look for when selling new dish?

Food is meant to be eaten. So firstly, it must be delicious. Secondly, food that looks pretty is a bonus.

How did attaining the title of Michelin Bib Gourmand affect your business?

It is good to be recognized. There are more tourists coming now as the guide is internationally recognized. Customers’ expectations are now higher when they come and we have a greater pressure not to let them down.

Other than that, nothing changes much. We sell-out everyday even before Michelin came into town. Quality, standards, numbers of bowls remained the same. Maybe the crowd starts coming earlier than usual.

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Amazing looks and amazing taste!

Are there any other things you would like to share to our readers?

Be persistent, willing to accept feedback and continuously improve. This works across all industries.

Similar Profiles: The Stressed Stop Founder’s Story & The Stressed Stop Chef’s Story

More About A Noodle Story

Facebook: @ANoodleStory

Website: A Noodle Story

Address: 7 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069111 #01-39 Amoy Street Food Centre

Featured Image Credit: A Noodle Story

 

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