Reinventing Authentic Chinese Zi Char at Yam’s Kitchen

Words by Julia Chan


Yam Kitchen revolutionises the well loved zi char institution by freeing up time and manpower to engage with customers.

For a decade, Yam’s Kitchen has been dishing out authentic zi char (home-cooked Chinese cuisine) to customers in its flagship outlet in Pasir Ris. It is helmed by chef Kelvin Yam, who has more than 20 years of experience in culinary experience.

Chef Kelvin himself was inspired by his father, who was also a chef in Ipoh, to enter this trade in Singapore. He worked his way up to become a head chef in the restaurant industry here before he opened Yam’s Kitchen in 2011, and subsequently House of Yam in Kovan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lobster Yuan Yang Hor Fun (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)

Popular specialties by Yam’s Kitchen include its award-winning Fish Tail, Yuan Yang Hor Fun, Peking Duck, Salted Egg Fish Skin, and Lobster Seafood Broth with Crispy Rice. To further engage customers, Yam’s Kitchen reinvents its daily special set menu and weekend menu frequently and offers special monthly promotions and free gifts.

Yam’s Kitchen ran a recent Mother’s Day campaign with carnation and gifts to appreciate all female staff and mothers (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)

Running a restaurant for 10 years requires hard work and dedication from its 36 employees, whose age ranges from 21 to 69 years old. To ensure consistency in food quality, and improve productivity in the restaurant, Yam’s Kitchen engaged NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to redesign its jobs to be easier, safer and smarter, especially for its ageing workforce.

With funding from the WorkPro Job Redesign grant, the restaurant purchased several equipment to automate some of its manual processes. For example, its new automatic deep fryer and combi oven could cook food at a desired temperature for a pre-set time, which prevents over-cooking of the food.

According to Karen Teo, admin director of Yam’s Kitchen, “Previously, food was prepared manually and older workers had to rely on their memory in terms of timing of cooking. Temperature control of food was also based on the experience of these older workers.”

“With the partnership with e2i, for example the combi oven – where workers pre-set the desired temperature and cooking duration – the oven will automatically switch off to stop the cooking process. With the combi oven, different cooking methods such as grilling and roasting can be performed. The cooking process is also consistent and faster.”

With the time saved, kitchen staff could make better use of their skills such as experimenting with new recipes and trying out different cooking methods and styles. There was also lesser wastage of burnt or overcooked food.

Fresh lobster and seafood with crispy rice in seafood broth offered at House of Yam (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)

Teo also explained how Yam’s Kitchen’s investment in a dishwashing machine made work easier for its staff. “Choo Lye Hoon, a dish washer, previously had to scrub crockery to remove the soiling. With the dishwashing machine, she merely rinses the plates and bowls, places it in the basket and proceeds to wash. It is cleaner and faster with no extra drying required,” Teo described.

With Yam’s Kitchen’s new dishwashing machine, Ms Choo Lye Hoon, a dish washer, only needs to rinse crockery instead of scrubbing hard (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)
She then loads the dishes into the machine and presses the start button for the automatic dishwashing to proceed, making her work easier compared to manual washing (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)
The dishwashing machine also dries the crockery, hence when the tray exits the machine, Choo only needs to arrange the clean crockery on the shelf, saving time (Image courtesy of Yam’s Kitchen)

With the new dishwashing machine, employees such as Choo shaved off half the time needed to wash dishes. Employees who had more productive jobs due to the new equipment also received a wage increment. Teo emphasised, “It is important to take care of your employees – take care of them and they will take care of your customer and business.”

The improved productivity has freed up valuable staff resources to support Yam’s Kitchen foray into new promotions for delivery or take away, which caters to shifting customer preferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant also plans to expand more outlets, create fusion zi char food, and hire more older workers to tap on their cooking talent and experience.

For more information on Yam’s Kitchen, visit www.yamskitchen.com.sg

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