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In the kitchen, he is a chef. At home, he is a husband and a father. But at home, he is also a friend, and a neighbour. Celebrity chef Shahrizal Salleh, or Chef Bob as he is more commonly known, is a well-known and respected chef in the local foodie scene.
But he doesn’t just offer yummy treats, commentaries and amusing anecdotes on his social media.
One recurring post that he often puts up is his interactions with his neighbour he calls Nenek Cina (literally, Malay for Chinese granny).
Over the years, the two second-storey neighbours in their Pasir Ris block have been looking after each other, with Nenek Cina seeing Chef Bob and his wife Kamisah Khamis as newlyweds, then starting a family — the couple have an 8-year-old son, Umar.
Nenek Cina often looks after Chef Bob and his family like her own, looking out for them and making them food like they were her own children.
The two neighbours often surprise one another with gifts such as flowers and food.
They would share food that they have cooked with each other, like tang yuan (glutinous rice balls) for Winter Solstice and satay for Hari Raya. Even on non-festive occasions, they would often share some of what they had cooked with each other.
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The families converse with each other mostly in Malay, though Chef Bob sometimes tosses in some Mandarin phrases from time to time. He often says to her “Wo ai ni, aunty (I love you, aunty)” in his videos.
The cute interactions between the elderly Chinese granny and the outspoken Malay chef prompted local content creator Our Grandfather Story to find out more about their thoughts about living as neighbours.
Why they are so friendly
In many of our HDB estates, especially the newer ones, residents tend to keep to themselves, keeping their doors closed and their interactions small.
So why does Chef Bob spend so much time with Nenek Cina?
Watching the two of them interact, it’s quite obvious that they enjoy each other’s company, with Chef Bob often teasing Nenek Cina and trying to make her laugh.
But there’s a deeper side to their interactions too. Chef Bob shares that he wants his son, Umar to know “how to treat other people of other ethnicities and other religions, background and other races”.
It’s not just about sharing food, but also showing respect and understanding others who live in the same community.
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And it doesn’t take much effort either. For example, if it rains, Nenek Cina would bring in the shoes for both households and draw the curtains in their shared common corridor space.
She believes in doing good deeds to “get good karma”, as taught by her parents, she says.
And her good nature is infectious. Nenek Cina is so well-loved by the other neighbours in their block that when she enters the same lift, neighbours would press the lift button for her because they know which level she lives.
Both of them believe strongly in being kind to others, especially neighbours because they are “the ones you see every day”.
Chef Bob hopes that by sharing their story, he and Nenek Cina can inspire people online to be kind to their neighbours and others around them.
It’s important to show love and concern, not just during the different festive periods, but also during the good times and the bad in everyday life. Amidst these troubling times, it is crucial to love and cherish the people around you.
Chef Bob jokes: “Just by recording what we are as neighbours, that’s one way or another for me to spread positivity, not Covid-19 but spread some positive vibes on social media!”