I’ve spoken to quite a number of chefs who’ve dreamt of becoming culinary artists since childhood. Some later lend their expertise to business owners, while others become restaurateurs themselves.
But the head chef at The Red Beanbag (RBB), Chef Fhaizal couldn’t relate to the above, at least not in the beginning.
“My ambition when I was young was to be an accountant,” he laughed. “I’m really good with figures.”
That natural talent in numbers came into good use later though, when Chef Fhaizal started a side hustle to cushion his income during the pandemic. Launched during the lockdown, his brand, Mobster Lobster by MAD Chef (Mobster Lobster) curates and delivers lobster rolls around Klang Valley.
Working his way up the kitchen line
Chef Fhaizal’s introduction to an F&B career came about in his 20s when he picked up a part-time steward job at JW Marriot.
Watching the chefs prepare and cook dishes at the hotel’s restaurant later inspired him, so he approached the chef who headed the Western banquet at the time.
With the chef’s mentorship, he began learning the basics of working in the kitchen as a helper, from peeling carrots to chopping onions and mushrooms.
“From there, I worked my ass up at a few restaurants in KL to where I am now,” said Chef Fhaizal, adding that he’s been in the F&B industry for 18 years now, with a decade of it being at RBB.
As he grew more experienced, he even coached young culinary teams at competitions on the global stage.
They include the FH China Shanghai International Young Chef Cup 2019 where his team took home the gold, and at IKA Culinary Olympic 2020, a large global culinary competition.
The latter was held in Germany, and The Malaysia National Youth Culinary Team won a gold medal for the “Restaurant of the Nations” category, and a silver medal for the “IKA Buffet” category. Overall, Chef Fhaizal’s team ranked sixth out of the 24 countries that competed.
A means to an end
Mobster Lobster was started in July 2020, during the early days of the pandemic in Malaysia.
Chef Fhaizal’s idea of starting his own delivery-based F&B brand came about as he saw a need to sustain himself financially in the event of a job loss.
“Many of my colleagues were losing their jobs due to so many restaurants having to shut down,” he recalled.
He was referring to the dark period faced by RBB’s sister brand, Wizards during the lockdowns. A plummet in foot traffic by tourists caused a 90% decline in sales, pushing Wizards to seek buyers, or risk shutting down. (Today, Wizards has since been bought over and remains in business.)
At the same time, Chef Fhaizal noted a hike in Malaysians starting their own food delivery businesses to survive. Since creating dishes was already within his area of expertise, he thought it’d be a good idea to join the crowd. The choice of building his brand around lobsters was because he noted a lack of such options around his area.
“I didn’t want to [do the same thing as] others, I wanted to create something that no one else was doing yet, or something that’s difficult to get in KL,” he explained. “That’s how the idea creating lobster rolls came [about, as] I’m also a seafood lover.”
With his years working in the F&B line, Chef Fhaizal already had access to the necessary suppliers, so he faced little issue in the area of sourcing lobsters. “The only problem I faced [was that] its prices kept increasing [because of the] MCO,” he pointed out.
While dine-ins were halted, he was given permission to operate and launch Mobster Lobster within RBB’s kitchen.
By the time dine-ins were allowed again, Mobster Lobster moved its operations to a cloud kitchen at COOKHOUSE, Glo Damansara Mall in 2021.
To maintain his role at RBB, Chef Fhaizal has now hired full-time staff to manage Mobster Lobster’s operations at the cloud kitchen.
No longer such a rare menu item
Back when Mobster Lobster was conceived, lobster rolls options in Malaysia were in fact lacking if compared to other seafood dishes.
At the time, players offering this delicacy included Kay’s Steak & Lobster at Putra Heights with lobster rolls priced between RM95-RM115, and Burger & Lobster Malaysia in Genting for RM98-RM138.
On the more affordable end, you’ve got Baby Lobster Lab selling its smallest roll at RM19.90, which our sister brand has reviewed. Its prices can also go up to RM108 if you get the full-sized lobster roll.
Another player who later had the same idea as Chef Fhaizal to leverage the sparse lobster roll scene is Nox Everything Lobster. Also born amidst the pandemic, its lobster rolls cost RM98-RM165, but certain rolls come in a smaller size, priced at RM78.
Thus, Mobster Lobster’s rolls which cost between RM91-RM101 are within the expected price you’d pay based on the comparisons above, if not slightly cheaper.
And while there’s more competition now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it points to a growing demand that these businesses are equipped to supply for.
On the consumer’s end, it provides them with more options to compare different offerings that may suit varying tastes better, among other things.
Plus, even with the competition, Chef Fhaizal seems to be doing well for himself.
As of now, Mobster Lobster has reached profitability selling an average of 20-30 rolls per weekday, and 40-50 rolls per weekend. Cumulatively, the brand is pushing out about 800-900 rolls a month.
As COOKHOUSE takes on a hybrid cloud kitchen model that allows for dine-ins at the outlet, Chef Fhaizal is holding onto a dream of one day opening his own restaurant. But for now, he’s content with taking things slow.
Featured Image Credit: Chef Fhaizal, founder of Mobster Lobster