Here at Eighteen Chefs, we strive to provide our customers with good quality food at an affordable price - freshly prepared and fast everytime! Without compromising our service standards, we hope you will enjoy yourself in our own unique ambience and be spoilt in a great variety of food choices.
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What prompted us to come here was the poster of their newly opened branch in the lifts at cineleisure, with a featured comment from ieatishootipost saying its the best cheese baked rice in Singapore. That piqued our curiosity and we just had to try it out.
Was there with a big group of friends so we had a good feel of all the food as we tried several dishes. Prices were extremely cheap, in particular the student meal that comes with a drink (home made ice-tea), ice cream and a main costing only $6.40. And there is no service charge! Unbelievable! Unfortunately i realised they did not indeed have the best cheese baked rice in Singapore, and my friend did not like the heart attack fried rice either which was steak + fried rice. But I must say that dish had a super clever name!
Overall we found the food not bad either and I can imagine students loving it, its a great affordable western option and extremely good for its price. It's not particularly healthy since most of their dishes have excessive use of cheese and sauces, like their chili cheese fries we had which was basically half a bottle of chili sauce and cheese. Service is sub-standard - I mean its just a cafe after all, one staff was great while one wasn't and service standards probably varies much more here than at other cafes. I am glad we tried it out though and I hope it does well, I believe this was its third branch. Its great to see initiatives like this in Singapore and when paired with good food its hard not to like them.
The food is very affordable, especially for students. For instance, a student meal consists of baked pasta/ rice + drink + ice cream at only $6.40. In fact, the restaurant is so famous that is has several outlets in Singapore today - one at Orchard and a newly opened one at Nex, Serangoon. Their outlets are often packed and waiting time is approximately 30 minutes.
Overall, I love the place! As a student, I am very pleased to find a restaurant where the cheap food does not come at the expense of its quality. Highly recommend!
The restaurant is a social enterprise that facilitates the re-integration of troubled and youths at-risk, as well former convicts into the community. They do this by offering them employment, opening the door to more wholesome and happier lives.
From a student’s point-of-view, it is heartening to know that Chef Benny’s lofty aspiration is not achieved at the expense of food quality. My friend thoroughly enjoyed their Bolognaise Cheese Fries ($5.80), and I found my Dory with Lemon Caper Sauce ($12.80) satisfying enough. The innovation of 18 Chef’s social vision is also cleverly expressed in its menu, which entices one to “design your own dish to suit your own taste”.
In sum, 18 Chefs is great value for money - perfect for students like myself who often have to manage daily food and beverage costs within a tight budget.
The recent years saw more outlets opening, namely at Cineleisure and Cathay. With the whole back story of hiring ex-convicts to give them a second chance, it's definitely heartwarming to see them doing so well. After walking past the new outlets many times, I recently decided to try it again before catching a movie at Cathay.
The concept of "Be Your Own Chef" is pretty interesting since you get to customize your own meal to your liking. My friend enjoyed her Double Cheese Baked Rice thoroughly. I know of many people who enjoy customizing their own dishes but personally, I always end up in a bigger dilemma when I’m being presented with so many choices. Decided on the Heart Attack Fried Rice ($15.80 for 1) in the end since it was new to me and I’m glad to say that I wasn't disappointed! The rice was really tasty, beef was juicy and I loved the chili as well. I thought the chili went really well with the rice. Later on, I read a couple of not-so-good reviews on this dish and my friend also told me that she didn’t like it when she tried it at AMK. I'm not sure whether the quality of the dish varies across the different outlets and to be honest, I find it rather pricey as well. However, I’m pretty sure I'd get cravings for this dish so I'd still indulge in it once in awhile when I'm around the area. ^^
Overall, I must say Eighteen Chefs has changed a lot over the years in terms of their store outlook but I'm glad they still have their student meals and discounts. $6.40 for a main, drink and ice cream is really a great value for money. Not surprising that the place was packed with students during lunch time. It's heartwarming to see such positive initiatives in Singapore and I do hope they’ll keep providing us with affordable and good food! :)
The concept of it being a restaurant run by ex-cons allows it to tap into the entire "second chance" idea which really is a win-win situation because people are given a second chance and as the diner, you feel good about giving them a second chance. I have to admit that the first few times I dined there, I felt extra good - over and beyond the fact that the food was also really great.
It's clear, however, that nobody dines there out of the goodwill of their hearts or because they were feeling charitable - in fact many of the diners that dine at 18 Chefs today probably don't even know the story behind its founding or the policy it adopts.
The real reason that 18 Chefs is so good is because it epitomises what Singaporeans look for in their food: cheap and good, which often sounds too good to be true. For students however, this ideal is very real in the $6.40 student meal they offer which comes with a drink and ice-cream. Any additional topping for students also comes with a free additional topping. What really seals the deal, however, is that this promotion is available all-day, everyday, including weekends (unlike most other restaurant student promotions that are only valid for weekday lunches)
Even with the addition of toppings and upgrading of the bases (of which there are multiple to choose from: cheese baked pasta, double cheese baked rice, etc.), the meal remains affordable and firmly under $15, helped along by the fact that there is no service charge.
There is no compromise on the flavour either, as cheese is present in abundant amounts and toppings generously cooked into one's baked rice/pasta. The "do-it-yourself" approach may also appeal to some people, though for myself it presented more of a dilemma of choice - 6 different bases, 7 different sauces, and over 12 toppings.
Having been to both Eastpoint and Cathay outlets, the ambience of the outlets tend to appeal to youth. They can be comfortable environments for eating since they do have sofa chairs/stalls, but arrive at a peak period and the experience may be significantly less comfortable, or even cramped. No complaints about the service, however, especially since no service charge is present.
For a cheese lover, 18 Chefs will certainly provide the oomph that we so crave - less so perhaps to someone who is not so fond of cheese. Non-cheese options are available, however (I have yet to try any of them), and from the looks of it, they look highly appealing as well.
8/10 would recommend.
It was a weekday lunch hour, and the restaurant was packed to the brim with just 2 spaces left. My partner and I were both students, so we ignored the rest of the menu and went straight for the student meal promotion selections. We were given a choice of having baked pasta or rice, with double cheese options at additonal cost. There was a wide selection of ingredients to go with, ranging from button mushrooms, chicken sausage and scrambled eggs to items with extra charges such as minced beef.
The accompanying sauce had fascinating choices such as the mango cream, which was an interesting hint of fruity sweetness to the saltiness of the cheese. I sticked to the traditional tangy tomato, which was a little too sour for my liking, though refreshing. The generous portion of mozzarella cheese atop the warm baked rice was so good and chewy, especially love the crispy "chaoda" sides!
The portion was just nice for a satisfying meal, with enough stomach space left for a complementary scoop of chocolate ice cream, though I wished I was given a choice for the flavour. To my delight, the set meal also include what tasted like a home brewed ice lemon tea (like Carl's junior), because I absolutely detest having restaurants serve me can drinks.
Service wise, the staffs were amicable when taking orders and clearing our queries. We had to self service our cutlery, which was actually not much of a biggie since there was no service charge!!
Our total bill for 2 set meals, which include 2 servings of baked rice, ice cream and ice lemon tea only came up to $15! I can hardly contain my excitement about this new affordable place, so coming back to curb my baked rice cravings!
This was because, to my dismay, there were so high changes made to the price of items on the menu! I do understand restaurants jacking up their prices a little to upkeep with expenses, but I was shocked at how much they blew up the prices for their food. They literally jacked it up the prices by $5+.
In my brutally honest and ever frugal opinion, I just thought that was a little much. I used to go to 18 Chefs as a great lunch-hangout place when I was a student in secondary school for their wonderful cheese AND student-friendly prices!
Well, either way, I did proceed to have my dinner there and ordered with their adorable self-order sheets which we’re supposed to fill out and waited for my food after payment. I'm happy to say, I wasn't disappointed. They still have kept the same quality they had years back and they continue to have the best home made ice lemon tea I've tasted.
Bravo to 18 chefs for their success on branching out and quality food especially for us cheese lovers. Take it easy on the prices though!
It's hard to get a seat if you go during peak hours, and their service is much slower then. I remember having to wait for more than half an hour for seats even though my friends and I were already at the front of the queue.
I liked the idea of customizing your meal, that was creative. But apart from that, it really is just average.
Service Wise: what I admire most about 18 chef is that it is run with the sole ambition of giving ex offenders a second chance. Thumbs up to them! I've been eating here for the past 7 years and their service never fails me. No rude staff nor unpleasant experiences, perhaps only their choice of heavy metal/rock music that's slightly Urgh to the ears. Please tone it down if possible!
Food wise: Truth be told in the around fifteen times I've patronized 18 chefs, I've never ordered anything other than baked rice/double cheese baked rice although I've tried other of their selections as my partners have shared their food with me. This is how great their baked rice is. More so is their double cheese baked rice (topped with nacho cheese sauce). BUT you can be sure that I've tried all their baked rice sauces, my favourite being spicy garlic and creamy mango! Highly recommended for you to try both sauces.
The food is also served fairly quickly, usually within five or ten minutes of order placement. The atmosphere of the restaurants are also very friendly, and the staff are also very friendly. Once, I entered the restaurant and it was someone's birthday. The whole restaurant was in action to celebrate, with the staff even singing the birthday song.
The only complaint, however, that I have is the ice cream, which my friends agree do not taste particularly nice.
Now if my cheese sauce was not yellow-orange in colour (and not from a bottle), I'd expect it to be made from real cheese. Smelt cheesy it did, tasted cheesy it did not. It tricked me with its smell!
I'm going to get a little technical here. Cheeses when heated too much shrink and the fat is squeezed out, resulting in clumpy, lumpy, frumpy cheese sauce. So to say the least, my dining experience was not a smooth one. I would advise future diners to dine with a pinch of salt (and maybe some pepper), do so in support of the cafe's cause and perhaps set the expectation bar slightly lower.