Almost everyone knows Eighteen Chefs – the successful local food chain started by Chef Benny Se Teo who takes ex-offenders and at-risk youths under his wing.
Just one of the many empowering social enterprises springing up across Singapore, talks about the island’s potential to become an emerging hub for social entrepreneurs and investors have surfaced. With the probability of more innovative businesses driven by social good, we take a look at five existing ones foodies in particular may take a fancy to.
Opened in 2013, Crossings café cooks up Western cuisine with a local twist. A stone’s throw away from Bras Basah MRT station, the café teams up with Assumption Pathway School to provide work and internship opportunities to its students as servers, cooks and baristas. Not to mention, profits go to charity. Set up by 11 Catholic church members who wished to do good through the establishment, Crossings’ must-try is its signature chilli crab pasta among a variety of offerings which include small bites, all-day brunch, and tasty mains such as honey berry ribs and Australian sirloin.
Crossings café: 55 Waterloo Street, Singapore 187954
Run by Project Dignity, which won the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year award last year, Dignity Kitchen is both a food court and training ground for the disabled and disadvantaged. Having trained more than 300 individuals through its Hawker Training Program, Dignity Kitchen provides an on-the-job learning experience which equips them with sustainable skills and work placement once they graduate. Among its list of social outreach programs includes a lunch treat and city tour with the elderly, and getting acquainted with the challenges that the disadvantaged face through games and puzzle solving. Online takeaways of their handmade bento box and muffin also contribute to helping their beneficiaries.
Dignity Kitchen: Blk 267 Serangoon Ave 3 #02-02, Singapore 550267
Food For Thought
Part of The Thought Collective, a group which currently consists of five unique social enterprises, Food For Thought aims to transform shared spaces and bring the community together to partake in good food for a good cause. With distinct menus at its two main restaurants, Food For Thought’s setting is part of its draw. Its Singapore Botanic Gardens branch is a favoured location for weddings, given the wide indoor and outdoor space nestled in the heart of Singapore’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, while its National Museum of Singapore branch is a quieter spot offering museum-special dishes inspired by the gallery exhibitions. The restaurant space also regularly hosts community events such as Share A Meal.
Food For Thought at the Singapore Botanic Gardens: 1 Cluny Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Tanglin Gate, Basement 1, Singapore 259569
Food For Thought at the National Museum Of Singapore: 93 Stamford Road #01-04/05, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore 178897
Joan Bowen café
A café that gives youngsters a place to develop their culinary skills and empowers them for their future, the Joan Bowen café was named after the owners’ daughter who has special needs. Helping not just Joan in achieving her dreams of becoming a cook, the owners have also assisted others like her live out their passion. Six years since its inception, the café has introduced new additions to its menu. While classic favourites such as chilli crab pasta (Yet again!) and lemongrass char-grilled chicken remain to whet its regular patrons’ appetite, Italian-styled dishes such as pasta capretto and pork roulade have been picked up by the young team.
Joan Bowen café: 9 Jalan Wangi, Singapore 349354
Part of the Enabling Village, Soul Food is a European restaurant which also functions as a training ground for young ones with special needs. Inspired by his daughter who possesses a learning disability and is now one of the kitchen staff, its founder focuses on serving up quality food, with extensive training undergone by its trainees. While walk-in patrons enjoy a regularly revamped set lunch menu, weekday dinners and Saturdays at Soul Food are only by reservation. A simple yet cosy place to hold a private party, its barbecue prime pork ribs make for a particularly hearty and satisfying treat.
Soul Food: 20 Lengkok Bahru #01-10, Singapore 159053
Doing good isn’t just about donating or showing sympathy for a cause. As these social enterprises demonstrate, there are myriad ways to lend a helping hand, and transform lives for the better. For those looking for a great dining experience with delightful company and delectable food, this is surely the icing on the cake.