While men usually get most recognition in the food industry, support for women restaurateurs is equally as important. Running a food business is not easy, as it requires a lot of hard work, patience and determination. Malaysia has been producing some great chefs and restaurateurs over the years, and the numbers are growing. Here, Top 10 of Malaysia takes a brief look at its list of the nation’s top 10 talented women restaurateurs who are shining stars in the food industry and have made a refreshing impact for food lovers.
Mac Chung Lynn
Mac Chung Lynn, the founder and Group CEO of Nando’s Chickenland Malaysia and Singapore knows all about hard work and determination as these are the keywords that drove her to success. Nando’s now has 74 restaurants throughout Malaysia and 11 in Singapore, providing chicken lovers with 18 years of delicious peri-peri chicken served in casual dining style. The company has even won a number of awards throughout the years, including Gold in the Malaysia Effie Awards in 2012.
Datin Nancy Liew
The founder of Marrybrown is a familiar figure in the food industry. The brilliant and visionary Datin Nancy Liew has been in the industry for over three decades and has even led Marrybrown into the Malaysian Book of Records as the first Malaysian fast food franchise. Marrybrown started running 35 years ago and it is one of the most successful food-chains in the country today. Liew works very hard to ensure the company sustains its success and as a local franchise she is proud to put local delights on a global pedestal. She aspires to bring her food to a more international scale to become a global food service organization with excellence.
Eating on the go is practiced regularly these days, and if you’re constantly on the move, Hot & Roll is there to cater to all tastes. Tracy Ing founded Hot & Roll which has since expanded to over 100 outlets. Drawing inspiration from apam balik, she decided to come up with something similar but with a modern twist. Hot & Roll has been a hit with not only the locals but also foreigners. With the variety of tasty flavors cooked before your eyes in the small kiosks, people seem to be always coming back for more.
Yuen Sze To, Lissa Yeoh and Way Cheng Yeoh
The Good Food Trio consisting of two best friends and a sibling, Yuen Sze To, Lissa Yeoh and Way Cheng Yeoh, have been feeding local food lovers for over a decade with their popular restaurants, La Risata, The Daily Grind and Bijan Bar & Restaurant. Yuen, a petite non-cook, surrounds herself with those who feed her well, including best friend Lissa who put aside her business degree to pursue her love of cooking. The childhood friends became business partners and were eventually joined by Way Cheng. They are now a very successful trio in the food business and constantly seek the best food trends in contribution to the KL food industry.
Enak owner, Sherena Razaly, is the epitome of someone who turned dreams and passion into reality. From spending a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother since young, she developed her passion for Malay cuisine and that is the path she still finds herself on. Her trick is keeping things simple and keeping the food as the main focus. Since Enak first opened in 2005, it has been serving authentic Malay cuisine with a contemporary twist. It serves dishes with recipes hailing back four generations and despite adding a twist, Sherena stays true to the culture and cuisine heritage.
Bowery Petit, BOWERY Kitchen & Bar and Bowery Metro are under The Bowery Group of which Aneesha Veriah is the Director. The idea came about due to her passion for quiet luxury and customer experience. Growing up in a family that savored great food, loves cooking, travel and hospitality, she spent much of her childhood eating, entertaining and visiting places. Slowly, her passion for food grew and a budding career in the hospitality industry kicked off. Aneesha draws inspiration from the great metropolitan cities such as New York City for new ideas and creative energy. She also has an events and catering arm called Made by Bowery and supper club called Untitled by Bowery.
Gaik Wong & Wong Kah Lin
Having been in the industry for over 40 years and opting for early retirement in 1995, Gaik Wong decided that hainanese chicken rice was something that can be developed into a chain store to cater for all Malaysians. Therefore, in 2002, together with her only daughter Kah Lin, they opened The Chicken Rice Shop (TCRS) in Malaysia based on the concept of a local halal family restaurant with global growth potential. Today, the TCRS chain has marked its presence in not only Malaysia but in other parts of Asia as well. With grandmother’s traditional secret recipe being passed down from generations, it is now the leading halal chain of chicken rice restaurants. In recognition of her contribution to the F&B industry, Wong was awarded “The Innovative Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 2004. In addition to The Chicken Rice Shop, they also run other restaurants Sepiring, Pancake House, and DubuYo.
The Serai Group consists of a family of restaurateurs with a passion for food, led by Rina Abdullah. She was first exposed to the industry in 1990 serving Northern and Thai cuisine. As the years went by, the restaurant became known for the authenticity of each dish from homegrown recipes delicately prepared with the freshest ingredients. Rina constanly explores new culinary concepts and the utmost priority is the delight of guests. The Serai Group now has 5 restaurants under them, Serai Thai, Satay Bar, Jibby East, Jibby Chow and the popular Jibby & Co.
Founder and director of Kechara Oasis, a restaurant that serves traditional and innovative twists on Chinese, Tibetan and Nepali cuisines, Irene Lim is well-versed in Buddhist philosophy and has led several pilgrimages to the world’s most sacred Buddhist sites. The core of her life has been the spiritual connection with her teacher, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche and his teachings, leading her to find inner peace. Prompted by His Eminence to start a vegetarian restaurant, Lim embraced the idea and turned it into a reality. With an award winning team, Lim has now opened 2 outlets in Malaysia, also offering banquets, catering services and full-fledged event management.
Born in Sibu, Sarawak Roselyn Ling was raised to not only excel in her studies but also to prove to a male-dominated society that she is just as good at doing business as the men. She learned to be independent and a sense of responsibility was inculcated in her at a young age. While she was overseas in the 90s, Ling developed an interest in exploring food culture, eating and learning to cook different types of cuisines. Years went by and she felt Sibu’s resources were limited. She then met husband, former chef George Ling, and they started Junk Restaurant which displayed ‘junk’ collections. Gaining success, they decided to take two abandoned old shop houses and made them into Junk Bar and Red Room. They have since expanded the business further with the opening of Bla Bla Bla Restaurant, serving Malaysian cuisine.