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Passing The Baton

Young hawkers Walter Tay and Keith Koh prefer to see the silver lining behind the tough business.

By Edmund Wee      1 May 2019

Hawkers may conjure up the image of grime and sweat, and these two next-generation hawkers in Singapore get candid about the business and its hard work. For 31-year-old Walter Tay of food stall Father & Son, the trade trains you for life. “It’s the real Ah Boys to Men,” he says. And 29-year-old Keith Koh of food stall Lad & Dad concurs: “We go through so much and make a lot of sacrifices.”

NSMan chats with the pair to find out more about the challenges they face and what it is like to work in father-son pairs.

Keith Koh of Lad & Dad says: “We want to retain our hawker roots, but we also do not mind exploring the possibilities of scaling out/up.”

How did you both get started?
KEITH: The idea came about when I was at university in London. I was studying for a business degree and worked part-time at a hotel restaurant. I realised my passion for F&B, and had the crazy idea of going back to Singapore to introduce an unfamiliar cuisine at a hawker centre – because it provided an affordable platform for dining.

WALTER: I’d failed in my previous ventures. Luckily I had my dad, who pulled me out of depression and motivated me by asking me to help him out at the stall.

Share with us your daily routine.
KEITH: I grab our supplies in the morning before heading to the stall to prepare for the day. Our lunch starts at 11.30am. Then we close between 2.30pm and 5.30pm to prepare more for the following day. We reopen at 5.30pm for dinner, and close at 9.30pm and clean up. Then we leave the stall at about 11.30pm.

WALTER: On weekends, I’m at the stall cooking with my dad. Weekdays, I start my day with a workout. [He is also working on starting up a new fitness brand.] Then I dash off to the stall where I cook from 4.30pm to 8pm.

Walter Tay of Father & Son says he and his dad are proud to help preserve Singapore’s food culture