In the first month, there were no customers, in spite of the red gingham tablecloths laid out in expectation. Even the neighbouring hawker aunties felt sorry for him and his partner. But the two young chefs were willing to go the extra mile, even re-opening the stall after it closed for a single diner.

Saveur grew from a kopitiam stall in Joo Chiat to a full-fledged restaurant in Purvis Street with queues of people waiting outside each day to dine. Subsequently, it also had a presence at Far East Plaza, The Cathay and Ion Orchard. “It did well… We were the first in the market to do stuff like that,” said Ong of his S$8.90 salmon confit and pasta inspired by bak chor mee.

“But, I was young and learning how to manage a restaurant.”


Even after Saveur started losing money and closed, and Ong opened The Masses, he worked hard to keep his food affordable. The restaurant recently relocated to the Capitol, but he refused to increase prices.

How does he manage it? “By constantly searching for suppliers who can offer better prices” but still match quality, such as fish that comes directly from Malaysia, he said.

“It is a very fine line. The room for error is very small. But, I’m willing to risk it,” he admitted. Last year, “We were constantly making losses. I put in my own savings.” He even considered selling his house to fund the restaurant. “I even thought about where my kids would live,” he said.

Why? “Because staying true to what I believe gives me courage. I want to be true to my vision. Being true means I need to go through the valleys. I know restaurants will always be like that. I’ve been through it. I always believe it’s not how big the wave is; it’s how skilled the sailor is.”


Leave A Reply

© 2024 The News Singapore. All Rights Reserved.