Man quits high-paying bank job to sell BBQ seafood at Yishun: "This is a proper job too"

To ensure that his family recipe would live on, a man left his high-paying bank job to become a hawker.

Mr Chew Zhi Jie, 27, now runs Jiao Cai Hotplate BBQ at Yishun Park Hawker Centre, situated between Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Ring Road.

The dashing man told Shin Min Daily News that he started working in a bank when he was 22, and was focused on personal loans.

He worked for three years, during which he studied part-time, managing to secure a bachelor degree in Economics and Finance.

Mr Chew said: "At that time, my income was based on sales. The minimum amount I took home each home was about $6,000.

"During better times, I could fetch up to $10,000 a month.

"However, work was tiring. Every day I started work at around 7am, and only came home close to 11pm.”

After he got his degree, Mr Chew left his job as it was too tiring, opting to help his mother with her BBQ seafood business instead.

He said: "My mother has a BBQ seafood stall near Chinese Garden. After I left my job for about eight months, I went to help out at her stall.

"That’s when I learned how to prepare BBQ seafood.”

Mr Chew revealed that during his time at his mother’s stall, he experienced how good food can touch customers, and he felt a deep sense of satisfaction. 

Eight months ago, he decided to set up his own BBQ stall at Yishun Park Hawker Centre.

He added: "Our specialty is using fresh stingrays coupled with my mother’s special sambal sauce. 

"There are always customers who ask if they can buy the sambal sauce directly." 

Mr Chew insists on only using fresh seafood. 

He cited an example during the recent Hari Raya when was a decrease in the fish supply from Malaysia, forcing him to look for other suppliers elsewhere.

However, some customers later told him that the fish tasted funny, and Mr Chew did a refund for them.

Mr Chew said that he normally runs his stall from 4pm to 9pm, but lately, he has also started selling set meals between 11.30am and 4pm.

The transition from a bank job to a hawker had not been a bed of roses, he said.

Mr Chew said that when he initially started working as a hawker, there was always an urge to wash his hands.

He only started getting over it about a month into the job.

Many have asked him why he would forsake a high-paying, stable job to work as a hawker instead.

To these people, Mr Chew replied: "I don’t think it is right to put it that way. This is still a proper job. After all, Singapore is a place that is filled with hawker culture. 

"Every day, so many of us go to hawker centres to have our meals. They are a part of our lives."

Mr Chew added that his girlfriend, who works as a financial consultant, also helps out at his stall on the weekends.

He quipped: "She is good at talking and communicating with the customers. All the customers like her."

In addition, Mr Chew’s girlfriend also helps in the planning, designing and marketing efforts of his stall.

Mr Chew said that he is touched by his girlfriend unwavering support: "Sometimes I feel very guilty that I don’t have a lot of time that I can spend with her. We usually have supper together late in the nights."