SINGAPORE: Just two months ago, Mr Chan Hong Meng was one of two hawkers that were first in the world to have their stalls honoured with a Michelin star. At S$2 a plate, his signature soya sauce chicken on rice has been touted as the world's cheapest Michelin meal. Every day, snaking queues can be seen at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle at Chinatown Food Complex, as tourists and locals alike wait for a taste of the famed dish.
Earlier reports suggested that Mr Chan is seeking to cash in on his success once and for all by selling off his secret recipe for S$2 million, but he has since clarified that this is not the case and that he is planning to expand his business beyond Singapore shores.
"I'm not just selling the recipe! In the end, it's the chef that holds the value, not the recipe. If they only have the recipe, it's useless," he said. Describing the S$2 million price tag as "an estimate", he added: "I won't simply sell my recipe to anyone that offers that amount of money. If there is a worthy business partner that meets my conditions, I would work with them."
Mr Chan listed three conditions for potential partners to fulfil: The other party must have the capability and desire to expand overseas; must guarantee that the quality of food will remain the same in every branch; and must be able to provide a guarantee that the recipe will remain within the business.
Mr Chan told Channel NewsAsia that he is currently in talks with five potential partners to take his business to the next level. At the moment, two parties are front-runners, but none fulfill the three conditions he has set out for a partnership, he said.
The world's cheapest Michelin-starred dish. (Photo: Alicia Tantriady)
"MICHELIN STAR HAS OPENED DOORS"
Prior to his Michelin-star fame, Mr Chan did consider partnering with friends to open branches in Singapore, but that was the extent of his expansion plans.
"Michelin has now given me this chance. It has opened up doors to let the world know about us, and about Singapore as a food paradise. The way I see it, we should take the chance to let more know about this dish," he said.
"I want my business to expand all over the world, so people worldwide will know about soya sauce chicken - just like how KFC is known everywhere (for fried chicken). I hope that this dish will live on for generations," Mr Chan added.
"I just want to see my product expand worldwide. Even if there's just one restaurant in each country, I'll be happy."
If talks fall through however, the intrepid chef said he will keep to his initial plan: Work with friends to ensure there is more than one soya sauce chicken stall to his name, at least in Singapore.
Until then, he can be found at Chinatown Food Centre, working hard to ensure curious and hungry customers are fed.