From The Straits Times    |

Photo: The New Paper

Six months ago, Mr Richard Chak, 60, was resting at home after a 16-hour work day when his chest ached. Suspecting it was a heart attack, he told his wife, who took him to the hospital. A cardiologist confirmed that it was indeed a heart attack.

That was why Mr Chak decided to close his 55-year-old business, well-known Chakey’s Serangoon Salt Baked Chicken, this Sunday.

He has been working 16 hours daily for 362 days each year since he took over the business from his father in 1995. The business, then known as Heong Kee Salt Baked Chicken, was started by Mr Chak’s grandfatherin 1962. To appeal to younger people, Mr Chak changed the name to Chakey’s Serangoon Salt Baked Chicken. The outlet was in Serangoon Road.

Two years later, he opened a second outlet at East Coast Road. At 7am daily, Mr Chak would go to that outlet to prepare the chicken, which is washed, then marinated before being baked in large industrial ovens with rock salt. The process takes about six hours. Mr Chak said 150 chickens are sold daily on weekdays and 300 chickens on each weekend day.

With only five employees, Mr Chak has to work till 11pm daily. The heart attack changed everything.

Said Mr Chak: “It gave me a scare. I realised I had to change my lifestyle. My wife told me, ‘If you love me, you have to stop working’.”


Photo: The New Paper

Customers told The New Paper they were sad they could no longer buy their favourite chicken. Mr John Lim, 53, who has been buying the chicken weekly for the past 16 years, said: “It was heartbreaking when I found out they were closing down. The chicken has a special place in my heart.” Another customer, Madam Adeline Ong, 62, who has been eating it for the past 50 years, said: “I rushed down the next day to buy the chicken when I found out it was closing soon. Each bite is nostalgic and brings back memories.”

Mr Chak’s son Samuel, 24, a final-year student at university, has not decided whether to take over the business. He recently launched a Facebook page and website for it to keep customers updated about the future.Said the younger Mr Chak, who has helped out in the business since he was a child: “I think it is time for my dad to take a well-deserved break.”

Mr Chak plans to take a picture with his last customer on Sunday. He said: “I am touched to know many of my customers will miss our chicken and that it has played a special part in their lives.”


This article was first published on The New Paper.