Singapore's food culture faces a crisis with a younger generation mostly unwilling to take on the trade as older stallholders retire. Paul Chapman reports.
Hawker centres like this selling street food at low prices are a part of everyday life in Singapore. But the future of such places where diners can pick up a good meal for as little as $2 may be in doubt. As those currently in the business get older and retire, the younger generation has little appetite for the work. Some chefs, like 72-year-old Chen Fu Yuan, says he can understand their attitude. (SOUNDBITE)(Mandarin) CHEN FU YUAN, CHAR KWAY TEOW STALL HOLDER, SAYING: "I will definitely be very heartbroken. Even my grandchildren are unwilling for me to stop. It's a waste that no-one wants to take on but it's not like if I pass the recipe to someone else he will do well at this business." There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Derrick Lee's given up a job in the oil and gas business for a two-month apprenticeship with a 65-year-old chicken rice vendor. Now the two work together under a scheme Lee says should be more widely available. (SOUNDBITE)(English) 30-YEAR-OLD HAWKER DERRICK LEE SAYING: "We need to give them some opportunities for them to see before they can fully realise that, you know, it's something they can take over." There are other problems facing the hawker trade. Once upon a time stallholders benefited from government-subsidised rents. Today's newcomers have to pay the market price but are still expected to sell their wares cheaply and that, for many, is too much to swallow.