He says whatever comes to mind, doesn’t play by the rules, and started getting tattoos since he was 15.
This is how Jason Chua says he gained the name, Beng.
Being a boy who wasn’t good at studying in a country that strives for academic achievement, Jason put his time into honing other skills instead, and found that he had a passion for cooking.
After completing a diploma in sport science, he attended culinary school at OSAC International College, where he did an internship at KFC’s R&D kitchen.
Now 26, Jason has opened a hawker stall, Beng Who Cooks, at Hong Lim Food Centre with his partners, Singaporean boxer, Muhamad Ridhwan and gym coach, Fairuz Mohamed.
From Boxers To Hawkers
Jason met his trusted partners through boxing.
Since he picked up the sport at 17, he idolised local pro boxer, Muhamad Ridhwan.
“Muhamad Ridhwan, at the point of the time, probably didn’t care or know who I was when he came down to my gym and whoop asses,” Jason told us. “I was new, so I’m always like wow [when I saw him]!”
As he took boxing to the next level by going competitive, Jason was introduced to Ridhwan, and the two formed a strong bond.
Later on, he also met Ridhwan’s partner, Fairuz Mohamed, when the two opened their boxing gym, Legends Fight Sport.
Having been exposed to Jason’s experimentation, they believed in him and proposed starting a business together.
With fitness still in mind, Jason makes his dishes protein rich with a healthy balance of greens.
He gets the nod of approval from both fighters and gym trainers.
Mixing Up The Food And Flavours
Similar to how he makes his own rules in life, Jason did not want to keep himself reined in by a particular cuisine in his F&B venture.
He invented the ‘Beng Bowls’ which consist of a mix of carbs, proteins, side dishes and add ons.
Customers can choose the contents of their bowls from the selection which Jason switches up every few months.
Maybe [it’s because] I watched my mum cook so often, I like mixing it up. I like the idea of digging for anything I can think of, putting in onto the pan, and showing that whatever happens, happens.
He formulated his culinary creations through lots of experimentation.
“I started selling the recipes I developed to my friends, telling them that they are my guinea pigs,” he said.
Reviews from friends came back positive, and soon one to two orders from them grew into 10 to 15 a day.
Since Beng Who Cooks kicked off in March 2018, Jason has been taking feedback from customers to improve each bowl.
Growing Up Around Hawker Stalls
While it’s a huge step for a young person to manage an F&B business, Jason was not entirely unfamiliar with being behind a hawker stall.
He grew up helping out at his parents’ fruit and dessert stalls since he was eight years old.
Of the lessons learnt from his childhood experiences, Jason said, “Serving customers, taking orders and receiving payments, I’ve learn how to communicate with customers, how to interact with them.”
He also started cooking at a young age of 10, and always enjoyed receiving praise that spurred him on to keep doing it.
Even when comments went the other way, Jason only let it fuel his determination to cook better food.
“When someone [criticises] me, it makes me wanna prove [myself] and make them swallow their words,” he said.
No Pain, No Gain For Beng
“At first, my parents and fiancée didn’t really like to see me in this industry,” Jason said.
Especially my parents, because they know the hardship [that comes with] it.
However, he managed to gain their support as they saw the hard work and commitment he put into Beng Who Cooks.
Apart from investing his life savings, Jason also spends 14 to 16 hours a day at work.
He shared that finding manpower has been the toughest hurdle for him.
“For now, I have a trusted friend working alongside me until August when he heads back to school,” Jason said. “If we can’t find any hands to help, I guess I’m going back to dominating the kitchen myself.”
Although he often has to go solo, Jason feels that his dedication to his customers pays off.
On better days, he sells 90 bowls a day.
Seeing regular customers return gives him great satisfaction. Believing that he’s in the business of making people happy, Jason says he would still whip up a meal if a customer ordered a minute before closing time.
While Beng Who Cooks is still just a few months young, Jason said he has plans to open stalls in more locations in the future.
He also hopes to turn his work into a catering business by the age of 40.
When asked what advice he would give to other aspiring hawker-preneurs, Jason had this to say:
If you’re not used to being in a hot location, getting scolded, saying sorry even if you’re right… f*** off from the kitchen, because cooking is about putting people before you.
Follow Beng on his Facebook here!
Beng Who Cooks
Hong Lim Food Centre
531A Upper Cross Street, #01-44