The Stories Behind Each Puff
With over 70 outlets islandwide, Old Chang Kee’s bright yellow storefronts are a familiar sight we’ve grown up with. Their signature curry puffs feature crumbly pastry encasing a fragrant curry mixture of potato chunks, tender chicken and my favourite - the hard boiled egg. And with Old Chang Kee being awarded top brand status in the F&B Kiosk category again in this year's Influential Brands awards, we talked to more people at Old Chang Kee to find out what goes on behind the scenes.
This is a follow-up on an article we did last year (10 lessons we learned from Old Chang Kee aunties) which did extraordinarily well, striking a chord with many fellow Singaporeans. This year, we talk to members of the Old Chang Kee family that most of us don't think twice about: their backend staff.
Inspired by Humans of New York and Humans of Singapore, we brought our cameras down to have a heart-to-heart with the unsung heroes who ensure we get our daily dose of piping hot puffs.
Lee Suan Tee (“Aljunied Auntie”), 63 years old | Production Supervisor
"Is your name Aljunied?"
“No lah! That’s just what everyone calls me. Everyone here greets by saying “hello, Aljunied Auntie!”. We also have “Sembawang Auntie, Bedok Auntie”. Where you stay will become your name!”
“So you stay at Aljunied?”
“No, I stay at Hougang. (laughs) You see when I first joined Old Chang Kee I was staying at Aljunied. Now I moved to Hougang, and I’m still working here. I started working here when I was 36, now I’m 64 years old already. Last time, in 1987 when I first got the job, there were only two outlets. And I’ve worked all the way until now.”
“What made you stay throughout all these years?”
“You get used to a job...and you just don’t feel like changing. I’m already familiar with everything here, what’s the point of starting all over again somewhere else? Plus, the people working here are always nice. No matter which branch I go to, the staff are nice, and the boss is nice. They really take care of the workers, especially us older ones. As long as I’m happy working here, I can’t think of a reason which would make me want to leave.”
Nagarajan A/L Kannan (Naga), 39 years old | Storeman
“What do you do here?”
“I used to be in charge of the warehouse and delivery, but my bosses gave me a chance to focus on what I'm good at. What I love doing, and what I’m good at, is housekeeping and arrangement. I pride myself on being able to take a messy place and making it beautiful. Just like when I’m cleaning up my own house. When I do it I tell myself, don’t kanchiong, must do properly. And it’s no different when I do it for work. ‘Cause to me, my company is my home.”
“Before my job here, I was working at a convenience store for about four years. I applied here in 2009 and immediately after the interview session, I just knew I wanted to work here. The location was perfect, I liked everything about the place, and the bosses were all so nice. My boss, manager, and supervisor. I’ve never met bosses like that. So humble, sporting, and good people overall. I said, “give me one chance. I must join this company!” And three days later, they called me and told me I got the job. Just like that, I’ve been here working happily ever since.”
How Chue-Yong (Rong Jie), 52 years old | Production Supervisor
"Tell me about your happiest moment."
“My happiest moment working here was in 2013. There was an “I Love SG” event overseas in Sydney. Old Chang Kee set up a booth there and they sent me, along with seven other people, to take part in it. I don’t know why I was chosen, or how they chose the people. I was just happy that I got to be a part of it!
It was really a very good experience. I felt a lot of pressure to do a good job, and everyone collaborated to make it possible."
"Any plans for retirement?"
“I plan to semi-retire by 55. I’ll be leading a simple life, but more importantly I want to devote more time to volunteering. Although I do it now, it’s hard to balance it with my job. The volunteering I’ve done so far has been at prisons, or dealing with victims of drug problems. From the people I’ve met and the stories they’ve told me, it’s really taught me to treasure the present and value the people in our lives. It made me realise that I’m blessed and living a good life.”
Mohd Azwan Bin Mohd Nor (Azwan), 37 years old | Driver
“I’ve been working here for two years and I think the main keyword about working here is “family”. We’re like a team of brothers, helping each other out whenever there’s problems. I show up for work every morning, and it’s the small moments that are the happiest. Like a colleague getting kopi for you and you guys sharing a conversation over drinks before starting your shift! Even when I make my deliveries, the aunties at all the outlets are very friendly. They’ll ask, “have you eaten?”
“So what would you say is your favourite part of the job? Or the thing that makes you happiest.”
“Wow...I think there’s so many that I can’t pinpoint it to just one thing. The thing about it is, there’s no negativity here. When problems arise, we’ll settle it with a sincere “sorry” and go back to being friends by the end of the day. I guess that’s the best part of the job - there are too many good things to see the bad.”
The Old Chang Kee Family
"I’ve always associated the brand with values of joy and tradition, but speaking with Old Chang Kee’s backend staff amazed me with how close-knit the entire team is. If ever there was a company that seemed like a real “family”, Old Chang Kee would be one.
There’s something to be said about a group of workers who love what they do, and the people they get to do it with. Next time you’re picking up a curry puff, spare a couple of minutes to have a chat with the friendly aunties behind the counter. Chances are, your heart will be warmed just as much as the fluffy potato pastry, prepared with love for your enjoyment."
About Old Chang Kee
Old Chang Kee was established in 1956 and has since evolved. It now specializes in the manufacture and sale of a wide range of very affordable high quality food products including the signature curry puff. Production is carried out in a modern factory and high-end technology and stringent quality control measures ensure that the exacting standard, that is synonymous with the Old Chang Kee brand, is consistently achieved. All production processes and facilities are certified to have met HACCP and Halal standards. Old Chang Kee now markets its range of snack products, including its signature curry puffs, through kiosks along the road and retail outlets at petrol kiosks and shopping malls. Check out where your nearest Old Chang Kee outlet is here.
About Influential Brands
Influential Brands is a consumer insight driven awards programme which provides a platform for brands to celebrate their achievement; for consumers,, businesses and stakeholders to recognise the brands’ efforts in arriving where they are today. The study conducted by Influential Brands is purely consumer drive and the Top Brands are selected by consumers through their perception and preference, demonstrating the level of impact and influence of the brands in each consumer’s life.
Influential Brands seeks to identify consumer preferences, their behaviors, values and to understand how the ever-changing environment affects consumer experience in the purchase journey. The Programme is tailored to enrich the brands’ relationship with their consumers through ongoing meaningful conversations and engagement.
For more information, like and follow Influential Brands on Facebook for more updates!
This is part of Influential Brands 2015, where we highlight the most influential brands in Singapore.