In sunny Singapore, the barbeque is a well-loved activity. But when we think barbeques, we think over-marinated satays, otahs, and chicken wings.
Many of us, however, forget that barbeques can be so much more.
Enter Stoke, the brainchild of foodie couple Chris and Ruth, who love barbeques but are tired of the limited choices available to us in Singapore. They want to make healthy artisanal produce easily accessible to Singaporeans, by delivering the best “gourmet BBQ parcels” straight from their website to your barbeque pit.
We speak to Chris about the inspiration behind Stoke, and how it aims to invade Singapore’s BBQ pits from the digital space.
Satays And Chicken Wings Aside
Living in a land of imported goods, the produce we get often aren’t the freshest or the healthiest choices; meats available for the coals are either processed to the point where the makeup of the meat itself is uncertain, or so expensive that one family barbeque could break the bank.
“The sad reality is that living in a city like Singapore, it’s hard to find native produce; everything is imported. And when you buy food from supermarkets, you aren’t sure of the origin, how it’s been grown and manufactured,” said Chris. “In the age of smart phone living, we tend to lead stressful and unhealthy lives — stuffing ourselves with whatever processed foods are within reach, and losing the taste for natural produce.”
Chris and Ruth both love travelling — their years of travel have allowed them to taste incredible artisanal produce, and helped them understand how differences in the way animals are reared can affect the taste and quality of their meats. And as a couple that loves their food, they are dedicated to bringing a new experience to Singaporeans who love BBQs too.
“Yes, we do enjoy chicken wings and satay from time-to-time, but we think BBQs could be so much better — if we could have the same great food as we do when we travel, visiting farmers’ markets and in farm stays.”
And for those of us who hardly know what to buy beyond the usual chicken wings and satays, Stoke is choosing to make the shopping experience simple and quick by selling their produce in packages — from standard to premium. These packages come with a handpicked selection of meats, sides, and even recipe cards, so that you know how to prep and prepare the food with little fuss.
A life-saver for fire hazards like me.
From Farm To Fork
Chris and Ruth have both travelled extensively to source for the best quality meats and produce. And truth be told, when I heard about some of the food included in their packages, I was surprised at the excessive effort that went into it. A type of pork in their arsenal, for example, has naturally marbled meat due to its unique diet of acorns — and can only be found in some parts of Spain!
According to Chris, the work they put in is all dedicated to what they call the “farm to fork” experience — bringing real produce to Singapore with the most personalised curation.
“We want to put time in with the producers to understand how they farm, what are they passionate about, the care and love they give their animals,” said Chris. “This cannot be done by Google research, but by spending weeks visiting and interacting with producers to get the heart of their business.”
Their produce isn’t just about freshness, but also about ethicality. The treatment of animals before their slaughter determines the quality of their meat — from the food that they eat to their mood before their slaughter. According to Chris, this is what Stoke looks out for in their produce, and while this commitment may seem excessive to some, it is heaven-sent for others.
“We really want to bring back food that our grandparents had — at the farms, with no preservatives and barely any processing. Seriously, cattle are supposed to be raised for years, not a month!”
Kickstart This Startup
To begin a functional business, Stoke is following in the footsteps of many other startups by using Kickstarter to fund their project. They will be launching their crowdfunding campaign on 23 February. It’s an interesting and possibly tricky choice for a food-centric startup, especially when the nuances of food quality are tough to translate through pixels.
When asked why he chose this form of funding, Chris replied, “It allows us to test the viability of Stoke while serving as a marketing springboard. We feel that Kickstarter will also help us gain the trust of our audience, which is important because you don’t just buy stuff, especially food, from any stranger.”
And it is this trust factor that Stoke is hoping to win from its supporters. While counting down to its Kickstarter launch, Stoke is holding a BBQ party, where it is inviting lucky winners from their Facebook page to taste the difference for themselves.
“We want people to fall in love with food for the right reasons — because it tastes good, and it’s good for them. With our free home delivery service, Stoke is making choice meats and gourmet appetisers, that don’t cost the earth, accessible to every Singapore home.”
It seems Chris and Ruth are placing a lot of trust in the palates of the people in Singapore. While artisanal quality, ethical farming, and organic foods are slowly but steadily creeping up on perceptive foodies, the question remains whether it’s fast enough for a business like Stoke to take off.
Singaporeans may be a long way from learning an important fact that we have forgotten: that organic and gourmet does not — and should not — have to be expensive. But for all our sakes, I hope Stoke sticks around to remind us.