Tucked away inside a quaint heritage shophouse along Sago Lane in the heart of the Chinatown district of downtown Singapore is an award-winning social enterprise with humble beginnings and an inspiring story like none other. Incorporated since 2012, Food Playground is a zesty culinary cooking school that offers fun-filled cultural cooking classes and corporate team building workshops. What makes this brilliant enterprise so special is their unique approach and honourable mission of providing flexible work employment opportunities for stay-at-home mothers, as well as senior citizens who would otherwise have limited avenues to return back to the workforce as active contributing members of society.
Writer Luke Elijah (far left) enjoying a cooking class at Food Playground
The unfortunate reality and obstacles that many homemakers and active senior citizens still face today are the social stigmas and overwhelming rejections in finding meaningful and fairly compensated employment due to being penalised for their age, as well as being marginalised because of their intrinsic need for flexible working arrangements. Founder and Managing Director of the Food Playground Mr Daniel Tan firmly believes that this group of underdogs has so much to offer and contribute. In fact, Daniel is so passionate about creating impactful changes and championing the underdogs that he quit his successful corporate career in the travel industry in order to start up Food Playground.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
The idea to set up his brainchild was conceived way back in 2011. While on his epic travels across South America and Southeast Asia, Daniel learned how to cook Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian and a variety of Latin American cuisines, and discovered that cooking classes enabled him to immerse deeply into a country’s core roots by connecting with the locals and appreciating the cultural stories behind how they prepare their indigenous culinary fares.
Through Food Playground, Daniel has inspired many domestic mothers to return back to the productive workforce by providing them with much needed training, skillsets, and development so as to regain back their confidence and rediscover their hidden innate talents. Daniel adds, “ We deliberately select passionate people and groom these hardworking individuals through structured skills training in workshop facilitation and public speaking in order to develop them into confident culinary instructors and event facilitators.” Food Playground runs a different cultural cooking class every morning from Mondays to Fridays, and is closed on weekends so as to allow staff members to rest and recuperate. This balanced system accords the staff members to be able to have ample quality time to spend with their family members and loved ones.
Founder and Managing Director, Daniel Tan
Food Playground offers a cultural immersion experience for both visiting tourists and expatriates alike to learn more about Singapore’s food heritage through informative educational quizzes and guided hands-on cooking instructions. Participants get to try their hand at making mouth-watering local Singaporean culinary favourites such as Nasi Lemak, Char Kway Teow, Laksa, and the ubiquitous national dish Hainanese chicken rice. Daniel sums it up by saying, “Food forms an integral part of our Singaporean identity and one of the joys of travelling is to be able to appreciate local food from the perspective of a native heart lander. We want visitors and tourists to come to our cooking school and walk away with a deeper understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of our Singaporean food history and cultural heritage. We invite you to come support and join us in this meaningful cause while having an unforgettably jovial and savoury cooking experience.”
24A Sago Street
Photos: Luke Elijah