FOOD & BEVERAGE | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Singapore

Meet a former DJ who ended up wanting to cook

At age 30, he now has 3 restaurants in Singapore.

Back when he was still in radio, former 987FM deejay Darren Wee dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur and run his own business. He knew he wanted the freedom to decide his own path. But most importantly, he knew that if he’d wanted to do his own thing, he had to start early. So he left his job as a Radio DJ and took the leap of faith to start Chillax Café at Serangoon Gardens 4 years back. Darren, now 30 years old, has two other establishments under his own company The Astronauts Group - the Babette at Tyrwhitt Road and the latest is Ninja Bowl.

“I pretty much plunged into the business.I think my learning curve was almost a perpendicular right angle rather than a slope. There were so many things I didn’t know. I remember so many of my friends telling me that I was crazy to be doing this because it’s so risky considering that I was only 26 years old then, and with zero F&B experience at that,” said Darren.

As to why the F&B industry - as opposed to starting an advertising agency or a PR company, which might have been closer to his job as a Radio DJ, Darren said that his radio segment that brought him to a number of media tastings where he got to meet many culinary professionals and restaurateurs, was a major factor.

“I remember being in awe at the tremendous amount of skills and efforts that go into every single plate of food. That intrigued me, and made me want to read up more about cooking techniques, ingredients, service operations etc. I did all that research just so that my radio segment could have been more insightful for my listeners – who would’ve thought that it would one day lay the foundation for my culinary understanding that brought about Chillax, Babette, and now, Ninja Bowl,” he said.

In starting the business, Darren had a 1-week crash course on basic renovation know-how, Government licences, manpower regulations, service SOPs, CPF requirements, legal matters, F&B marketing, time management, human resource management, financial accounting procedures, kitchen setup/layout standards, suppliers/vendors, etc. You name it, and I probably didn’t know a single thing about it at that time.

The Ninja Bowl

Ninja Bowl is a casual dining concept serving a comprehensive range of EIGHT one-bowl meals and several all-day brunch items all prepared with a distinct Japanese slant. Bowls start out carb-free and customers have the option to choose add-ons such as Ninja Rice; a blend of Japanese pearl rice, brown rice with seaweed flakes, Orzo Pasta; Garden Greens and White Quinoa.

It held its soft opening on 9 April and it is open daily from 9.30am to 7.30pm on weekdays, and 9am to 6pm on weekends.

Ninja Bowls is set in the heart of the CBD enclave. As customers here are always on the lookout for a hearty, healthy and quick meal in a comfortable, fuss free setting, Ninja Bowl answers all these needs in three ways. First, it offers one bowl meals filled with premium proteins such as beef cheek, yaki unagi (grilled eel), sous vide chicken and aburi chashu (flamed grilled pork belly) – all perfectly married with a myriad of vegetables and wholesome grains. Secondly, food preparation is fast and easy with a quick order system and a la minute prepared meals. Lastly, everything on the menu is kept below an affordable $20

According to Darren, they spent close to $300,000 to put together Ninja Bowl as they customised quite a bit of their kitchen equipment and decided to invest in more high-end equipment to make sure that the food quality is not compromised.

Darren hopes to expand and bring their concepts into other parts of Asia like KL, Manila, Tokyo, and Taipei.

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Meet a former DJ who ended up wanting to cook

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