You don’t have to be Superman to change the world. Singapore is home to a range of restaurants that serve up delicious fare while championing the marginalised and underprivileged in society.
Take the time to savour each experience all while doing your part to change the world, one bite at a time.
From ex-convict to restaurant chain owner, chef Benny Se Teo is in the business of whipping up both great nosh and social change with Eighteen Chefs. With multiple outlets across the island, the Western food joint continues to take in ex-offenders and troubled youths looking to reintegrate into society.
This success story started off with Benny going from the frying pan into the fryer—as a youth who struggled with drug abuse, Benny tasted first-hand how employers discriminated against individuals with a criminal record.
His big break came when he landed a month-long internship with UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s London restaurant, Fifteen. Eighteen Chefs was conceived a year after.
Items on the menu include Western dishes like Seafood Aglio Olio, as well as local fusion dishes like Angus Beef Fried Rice, perfect for those on the hunt for comfort food.
Eighteen Chefs at Bugis Junction. 200 Victoria Street #04-06, Singapore 188021. +65 6734 9741.
For a full list of their outlets, click here.
Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh
Helmed by Mr Jabez Tan, Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh is all about giving ex-convicts a chance in society. This move was inspired after Jabez climbed his way up from being a kitchen dishwater in prison to the head chef. He was in charge of preparing meals for all the other inmates.
From then, Jabez came up with a secret bak kut teh (peppery pork soup) recipe, which was the cornerstone for his store’s success. Today, all four outlets of Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh continue Jabez’s legacy by hiring ex-convicts who turned over a new leaf.
The food served here is as heart-warming as its origin story, and the store’s signature claypot bak kut teh is best paired with their savoury Ginger Sesame Chicken.
Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh. 302 Bedok Road, Singapore 469460. +65 6273 3338.
Ugly Cake Shop
The Ugly Cake Shop is the brainchild of Ms Lisa Tan, a working professional who quit her fulltime job to pursue her passion for baking. Since its conception in 2014, a portion of the store’s profits goes towards helping malnourished children in Timor-Leste.
Despite the bakery’s name, the cakes on display are anything but ugly. Decorated meticulously with pastel-hued frosting, the desserts are as visually pleasing as they are delicious.
None of her cakes contain fondant, which makes it ideal for dessert lovers who prefer subtler flavours. Must-try flavours include the salty-sweet Salted Egg Yolk and Salted Caramel.
GB Point. 535 Kallang Bahru #01-06, Singapore 339351. +65 8228 8300.
Five &2 is a pet-friendly café that serves up Asian-inspired comfort food and aid for marginalised communities in equal measure.
Nestled amidst the tranquillity of Punggol Park, this socially-conscious café is staffed by ex-inmates and individuals with disabilities. Funds from the restaurant go towards feeding underprivileged children.
The dishes served here are an inspired blend of East and West, with Western staple comfort food like fish and chips sitting alongside traditional Chinese soups and local staples like laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup).
Five &2. 97 Hougang Avenue 8, Singapore 538792. +65 6282 8801.
Mon-Thu 5pm-midnight; Friday 5pm-1am; Sat 4pm-1am; Sun 4pm-midnight.
The Caffeine Experience
If you’re looking to turn your morning cup of joe into a contribution to a good cause, be sure to drop by The Caffeine Experience. As part of its mission, the café hires ex-convicts and ploughs its profit into helping other social businesses.
The café’s founder—Mr Matthew Poh—was an ex-convict and drug addict, whose habit bankrupted his interior design company. After prison and rehabilitation, Matthew committed himself to helping other ex-drug offenders, as well as children and marginalised communities.
Besides fragrant coffee made with beans from Ethiopia and Colombia, the establishment serves up 25 different teas—from chamomile to African rooibos. Regardless of what you order, you’re bound to get good karma alongside your caffeine fix.
I12 Katong. 112 East Coast Road #03-45, Singapore 428802. +65 6636 2122.
A food court with a socially-conscious twist, Dignity Kitchen is run by individuals living with disabilities and the socially disadvantaged.
The establishment’s founder—Mr Koh Seng Choon—was inspired to create a learning space for the marginalised following his experience as a social volunteer. The kitchen now employs and empowers over 60 individuals.
Visitors can pick from a range of seven stores to warm their hearts and fill their bellies, and food options include beloved local staples like wanton mee (egg noodles with dumplings), Chinese rojak (a sweet and savoury salad of vegetables, fruits and dough fritters) and nasi padang (steamed rice served with an assortment of side dishes).
Dignity Kitchen. Block 267 Serangoon Avenue 3 #02-02, Singapore 550667. +65 8189 7678.