Last night, I ordered dinner at a foodcourt in a shopping mall.
It tasted appalling. Perhaps I should have hesitated when I saw the mainland Chinese cook manning the kitchen.
Before you raise your heckles, I have nothing against foreign talent. And I don’t expect authentic kick-ass cuisine from a foodcourt chain. But I do expect to get what I pay for.
My main gripe is this:
I believe that gross greed and commercialization is killing Singapore’s highly-prized food culture.
Greed, ranging from exorbitant rentals to the now accepted practice of cutting corners in the name of “cost-effectiveness”, has resulted in the legions of unskilled labourers manning our foodcourts, restaurants and hawker centres. Cooking our food, many of them, rather badly.
My mom and her generational peers still wax lyrical over how wonderful the food they grew up with used to taste in the “good old days”. Sadly for them – and the rest of us – many of the true culinary artisans of their time have either retired or been driven out by many of these chain eateries.
I don’t blame these workers. They are giving us EXACTLY what their meagre salary and training allows. I blame greed – the kind of greed that maximizes profits at all costs, and just providing the barest minimum of standards you can get away with.
Singapore has always prided itself as a cosmopolitan food haven, and even promoted as such by the local tourism authority. With the proliferation of such sub-standardness, I worry that this may no longer be the case. It’s ironic how we’re trying to export Singaporean food culture overseas – such as the Tiger Beer Chilli Crab Festival in Dubai – when our food industry is hurtling towards mediocrity.
If you’re a local entrepreneur in the food business, I beseech you. Take pride in the food you serve, train the people you have, and honor the customers you serve by giving them the best that you can. You can still be profitable – and best yet – help Singapore to reclaim our reputation as a food destination.