If you find this two-month-old beef noodle stall at a nondescript coffeeshop near Holland Village familiar, well, know that it has a two-decade-old history.
Towkay George Cheok, 67, first started selling Hainanese-style beef noodles at the food court of the now-defunct Orchard Emerald mall in 1997. The stall was popular but had to relocate after almost a decade, when the building was torn down for redevelopment (into Orchard Gateway). George went on to operate his stall at a few locations over the years before securing a spot at the Holland Drive coffee shop in 2010. However, he closed shop again in 2013 as he had to accompany his younger son to America as the latter pursued a professional golfing career. When that didn’t work out due to visa issues, they returned to Singapore, and George reopened his beef noodle stall again at the same coffee shop (where Supreme Xiao Long Bao is also located) — but this time, with his photogenic two sons and wife helping out full-time.
"My sons said they didn’t want my recipe to go to waste, and that they wanted to be part of this business, so we revived it and opened our stall in February,” a soft-spoken George, who learnt how to cook beef noodles on his own, tells us. “If my children didn’t want to join us, I think I would’ve retired.”
George’s wife, June Cheok, who worked as a branch manager at Tupperware Singapore before retiring last year, says: “I’ve always told my husband that the two of us can sell beef noodles together after I retire. So, I was delighted when our two boys decided that they wanted to be involved and this plan materialised.”
The 62-year-old adds: “That’s the best thing any parent can ask for — to be able to work with their children and have them carry on the family business.”
The couple’s older son, Jonathan, 34, says he grew up enjoying the beef noodles his dad prepared. He adds: “There’s a sense of pride knowing that many of my friends have eaten at my dad’s stall at Orchard Emerald when they were younger, and having them tell me that it’s good. It would be such a pity if we don’t introduce it to the next generation.”
Jonathan, who has a YouTube channel where he shows comedic videos about the daily lives of Singaporeans, does social media marketing for the stall, and also helps out at the shop thrice weekly. Meanwhile, his younger brother, the baby-faced Gabriel, 28, is at the stall almost daily.
Gabriel used to play golf professionally for six years before he stopped in 2017. “It’s hard to sustain my golf profession ’cos it requires a lot of money. Plus, it’s getting tougher to find good beef noodles in Singapore these days. My dad has been doing it for so long — I felt we shouldn’t let it end there.”
Besides helping his dad out, Gabriel also owns another business dealing with app development. However, he’s been spending more time honing his skills as a hawker the past two months.
He explains: “My [app] biz partner is understanding, so he’s handling that business for now while I focus on the beef noodle stall. Of course being a hawker is tough. We work really long hours and there are many things to learn, but what motivates me is the idea of working together with my parents.”
These days, George still does most of the cooking, while his sons assist. June is in charge of taking orders and cash collection.
But doesn’t working with family often result in arguments? Gabriel laughs and says: “Of course we have squabbles every now and then, especially when we first opened. There was a long queue and we mixed up some orders, so we argued over things like that. However, we always make it a point to talk things through, and everyone is happy at the end of the day.”
The goal is for the Original Orchard Emerald Beef Noodles brand to become a successful franchise model in future. FYI: A franchise outlet opened briefly at Tai Thong last year, but is now operating under a different name.
Check out the photo gallery above for our low-down on the food here.