Phuket route to couple’s culinary dream
It started with a short getaway to Phuket, Thailand. There, culinary-trained Elin Boh and her boyfriend Linus Loh chanced upon a well-known local dish, Thai charcoal-grilled pork neck.
Blown away by the taste of the meat, the couple felt compelled to recreate it back home. Recalled Linus: “We thought, hey, we really have to sell this in Singapore. It’s so good!”
Just three months ago, the 26-year-olds launched their very own takeaway kiosk called Chalong – a name that pays homage to the source of their inspiration.
The partners serve up charcoal-grilled meats as a specialty, complete with a half-cooked mi cuit egg and premium Japanese Yamagata Haenuki rice. Chalong takes on Thai-style cuisine with French techniques, producing elegant charcoal-grilled meat bowls for takeaway.
The Thais typically use an open pit for charcoal-grilling, but Elin and Linus use an enclosed charcoal oven which works better in a shopping mall environment. Incorporating the sous vide culinary method for consistency, meats are grilled in a charcoal oven and smoked with apple wood for mouth-watering flavour and depth.
Previously in private banking, Linus said a longing to try something new and the thought of giving his blood, sweat and tears to something he could call his own held greater meaning.
For Elin, though, her interest in gastronomy took root almost a decade ago. The culinary bug first bit her after secondary school – which was when the couple first met each other. But it was not till Elin completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Business that she received her parents’ blessings to pursue the culinary arts.
Leaving Singapore to learn French cooking in France, she returned almost two years later with accolades which included a grand diploma in pastry and cuisine from the famed culinary school Le Cordon Bleu Paris as well as a grand diploma in pastry from Oliver Bajard International School of Patisserie. Elin conquered culinary school without being well-versed in the French language, and even emerged top of her Le Cordon Bleu Paris class of more than 50 students.
Back home, Elin took on stints at Canele patisserie and The Fullerton Hotel before she joined forces with Linus on Chalong. She explained: “I knew I wanted to open a shop. I just didn’t know how to move forward. It wasn’t easy.”
After settling on the idea of a takeaway kiosk, the couple spent months just sampling meats to work out a menu. Trying different cuts of meat and testing how the meats would taste and last over time, they developed their menu through trial and error and even made four more trips back to Phuket to familiarise themselves with Thai flavours.
The delivery of affordable, high-quality fare such as its roasted grass-fed black angus sirloin topped with house red wine sauce (the dish is priced at $14) was a big challenge. New to the food and beverage industry, and without any prior experience or connections in the trade, Elin and Linus were without a bargaining chip in their negotiations with suppliers. It also took them a while before they found the perfect spot in the Central Business District to launch their newly-minted brand.
Sitting in the basement of mixed-development skyscraper Tanjong Pagar Centre, Chalong runs its lunch service from 11.30am to 2pm and dinner from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. One of its signature menu items is a 18-hour sous vide pork jowl that requires preparation work to start the night before, and the couple find themselves on their feet almost 15 hours a day.
While their menu draws inspiration from their travels, Elin and Linus joked that the only travel they do nowadays is between their home and the stall. And although life for them now may seem to revolve completely around their takeaway kiosk, being busy is good news. Seeing a continued rise in patrons and having slowly built a pool of regulars since their opening, Chalong’s rising reputation by word of mouth is clear affirmation that the couple’s heart and soul’s work has paid off.
Check out Chalong at
Tanjong Pagar Centre, Wallich Street, #B2-21, Singapore 078884.