Journey of a Community-Trained Peranakan Chef: Bonding Kitchen

6 min read
Ler Ka Leng

From the Kampongs of Malaysia to Singapore's bustling cityscape, Singapore-based chef Danny Chew's culinary journey is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. Today, he is a respected chef, driven by his love for traditional Peranakan cuisine and the community that shaped him. As the owner of Peranakan restaurant Bonding Kitchen, Danny strives to serve his unique brand of dishes and share his love for Peranakan cuisine with more people.

Beyond the physical space of his restaurant, Danny and his wife Celine have also established a strong online presence with GoDaddy’s offerings. This has helped more people within Singapore and beyond learn about Bonding Kitchen. Their website remains an important tool to help them reach new customers consistently.

Let’s dive into Danny and Celine’s inspiring story of entrepreneurship and passion for Peranakan cuisine!

Danny’s origin story

Born and raised in a village (Kampong) in Malaysia, Danny was always surrounded by a rich culinary culture. His family and relatives, who were avid cooks, sparked his fascination with spices and herbs. On top of that, Danny had the privilege of living in close proximity with many Peranakans. He recalled his younger days, where he sought advice and learnt from the Nyonya ladies in his village. Their willingness to share recipes and cooking tips, handed down from generations, helped lay the foundation of his culinary journey.

“He was very fascinated with spices and herbs, and had such sharp tastebuds,” recalled Celine. Both Celine and Danny met at a young age, growing up in the same neighbourhood. Now married with two children, Danny’s impeccable sensitivity to flavour and aroma have been passed on to their young ones.

However, Danny's path was far from straightforward. School was not his forte, and he eventually found himself on a journey out of Malaysia. His uncle, owner of a local Malaysian cuisine restaurant in Liverpool, UK, saw potential in Danny and took him under his wing. Starting out as a kitchen helper, Danny began to formally develop his culinary skills.

Venturing out and starting his own business

Upon returning to Malaysia, Danny continued to pursue his passion for Peranakan cuisine. He eventually ventured to Singapore, where he did his further studies and graduated from At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy in Singapore in 2011.  

Upon his graduation, Danny continued to pursue further culinary experiences in Singapore, where he worked in various Asian restaurants and F&B establishments, even running his own hawker stall.

In 2018, Danny took a bold step and started his own private dining business, renovating his house in Johor to evoke a restaurant ambiance. This was a plan that Danny initially had for his retirement, but he decided that the time was ripe for a new venture.

Danny’s private dining experience was a hit amongst customers, and word spread across to Singapore, where many customers crossed the borders into Johor for Danny’s homecooked Peranakan cuisine. It was during this time where customers started asking Danny to start his own restaurant.

The birth of Bonding Kitchen

Despite the encouragement from his customers to open a restaurant, Danny was initially reluctant due to the lack of a supporting team. However, through word of mouth, his reputation grew. In 2019, he signed a lease to take over a restaurant in April 2020, only to be delayed by the circuit breaker.

Danny's journey was not without challenges. Assembling a reliable team and finding the manpower were significant hurdles.

“Danny, you are crazy! How can you achieve this without a team?” Danny recalled earlier days when his loved ones expressed concerns at his ambitious plan.  Despite the concerns of his loved ones, including his wife Celine, who worried about Danny's ambitious plans, he pressed on to set up his restaurant in the height of COVID.

He christened his venture "Bonding Kitchen," a nod to the bonds formed over shared meals and cooking experiences. Every Peranakan dish served has its own story, and these tales become topics of discussion over dinner, enhancing the dining experience.

Bringing Bonding Kitchen into the digital world

When it came to establishing an online presence, Celine, Danny's partner in business and life, took the reins. Having quit her job in May 2021 to assist with operations and marketing, she built the Bonding Kitchen's website using GoDaddy, despite initially contemplating hiring a developer.

“I wanted my brother to help me build Bonding Kitchen’s website. But given his busy schedule, I decided to look for external help. Little did I know that it would cost me SGD$5,000 to engage a developer to build our website!" recalled Celine.

With the prohibitive cost of engaging professional help. Celine decided to build the website on her own using GoDaddy’s Website Builder.

"I watched tutorials online and got my website up and running without any help. It was easy and I got the website up and running in a couple of hours,” said Celine. "I joked with Danny that he should pay me $5,000 for building Bonding Kitchen's website."

When they first started Bonding Kitchen, Celine did not see the need for a website. However, as their business started to pick up, having a website became critical.

The decision to create a website was motivated by the desire to lend credibility to their brand and improve their SEO.

“Having a website will give people a professional impression of Bonding Kitchen, which is important for our brand image. Even if you are a home-based business, it lends credibility to the business.

Given that we are running a local business, having a website has also been immensely helpful for our SEO, which eventually led us to getting more new customers to visit our restaurant.”

Secrets of a successful venture

Looking back, Danny and Celine believe that patience, perseverance, and planning are key to starting a successful business. Despite the challenges they've faced, they've chosen to focus on the future and their dream of strengthening their brand's presence, selling sauces globally, and collaborating with other restaurants.

Unlike most Peranakan restaurants that rely on family recipes passed down generations, Danny's unique culinary approach is a result of his community-based learning. He prides himself on his ability to cook with precision, improvising and constantly adjusting his recipes to suit his customers' palates.

Danny lights up when he speaks of his customers. Many of them are loyal followers since the beginning, and have brought their families to dine at Bonding Kitchen. Being able to satisfy tastebuds of elderly patrons and Peranakan matriarchs with discerning tastebuds brings Danny a lot of joy and pride. He recalls a time when a customer pre-ordered $1,000 worth of food for their family. Their mother, who had mobility issues, loved the food at Bonding Kitchen. This trust and loyalty further solidified Danny's resolve to continue his culinary journey.

The journey, while difficult, has been rewarding. Danny's story is a testament to the power of community, passion, and the magic that happens when the two collide in a kitchen. His dream continues, one Peranakan dish at a time.

Products Used

DomainsLearn more

More Articles