Swee Kee’s Cedric Tang: ‘People don’t expect heritage businesses to close down’

Swee Kee’s Cedric Tang: ‘People don’t expect heritage businesses to close down’

6/12/2021 1:45:00 AM

Swee Kee’s Cedric Tang: ‘People don’t expect heritage businesses to close down’

In the eighth and last episode of CNA Luxury’s podcast series Next Gen, Cedric Tang of Swee Kee/Ka-Soh restaurant shares how he and his brother had to take over the family business after their father’s health took a turn for the worse.

Following the closure, most of the staff were redeployed to Swee Kee’s two sister restaurants, Ka-Soh in College Road and Ka-Soh in Greenwood Avenue, to alleviate the manpower crunch that the group was facing. Some of the long-service staff chose to retire; others chose to return to their home countries.

Longtime customers were dismayed. “For a lot of heritage businesses, because we have been running for so many years, people do not expect you to close down,” said Cedric. Regular customers shared their memories with him, like the lawyer who started his first job in a law firm around the time that Swee Kee moved to Amoy Street. Swee Kee was the first restaurant he patronised on the street, and he had been coming back ever since.

“He said that the food brought him comfort. And when he pulled late nights or did OT (overtime), we were the restaurant that he came to for dinner.” Swee Kee was best known for its Cantonese-style fish head noodle soup, as well as familiar favourites like prawn paste chicken and sweet-and-sour pork. These have found their way onto the menu at Ka-Soh, so as to keep the spirit of Swee Kee alive. headtopics.com

Covid-19 rules breach: 56 businesses, 360 people caught; authorities taking extra precautions at Chinatown

Swee Kee Eating House circa 2017. (Photo: Cedric Tang)Ka-Soh in College Road. (Photo: Cedric Tang)Related:From roadside stall to thriving chain: The story of Haig Road Putu PiringGROWING UP IN AN F&B FAMILY WAS ‘VERY NORMAL’Cedric and I are chatting in Ka-Soh in College Road. It’s a weekday afternoon and the lunch crowd has evaporated, giving the staff a bit of a reprieve before the dinner rush. Some are packing takeaway orders and receiving supplies, while those on break sit and stare at their mobile phones or nap on benches.

Growing up in a F&B family “was very normal”, he shared. “Especially when you’re younger. You don’t think much about it. It’s just your reality.” It was only in his late teens that he began to be aware of his family’s circumstances, and even more when he began to get involved in the business.

Today, Cedric takes care of operations, marketing and PR (public relations) while his brother handles admin and finance. They took the helm five years ago after their father, Tang Tat Cheong, was discovered to have stage four lung cancer. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and is “trying to manage it himself”.

Healing the Divide founder Iris Koh hospitalised at SGH after being warded in IMH, gets charge upgraded

Cedric and his dad. (Photo: Cedric Tang)When Cedric found out the news, he did not let his emotions get the better of him. Instead, he shares, he approached the situation very pragmatically. Some of the questions that ran through his mind were, “Do we have enough money for treatment? What is the cheapest source of medication? Should we go through the public or private healthcare system?” headtopics.com

His mother and siblings did not break down either. “Within my family, we are not as open about our feelings to one another. We do what we can to help alleviate the situation and make things better.”Related:Kwanpen’s third-generation leader, Jonathan Kwan: ‘As children, we take things for granted’

Despite appearing strong and resilient in the face of adversity, Cedric is very candid about his experiences dealing with mental health issues. On his Instagram account, he openly discusses his depression and suicidal tendencies. These were brought on by a number of factors: The loss of a loved one; his father’s ailing health; and the stress of running a family business as well as his own PR consultancy (which he has since given up).

Sembawang White Bee Hoon Founder Opening Prawn Noodle Eatery With Lok Lok

“It was really full-on in terms of managing work and clients, and at the same time trying to suppress emotions,” he shared. He tried to bury himself in work to forget about his problems, but ended up pushing himself to a breaking point. “So one day I just stopped answering emails, I stopped answering phone calls, and locked myself in my room.”

His reached his lowest point when he contemplated suicide. “I live on the 13th floor. It came to a point where I just really wanted to fling myself out the window. I wanted to just end everything. I wanted to stop thinking, to stop feeling. I wanted the feeling of being free. For me, death isn’t just about ending my life; it’s ending how you’re feeling.” headtopics.com

Ka-Soh in Greenwood Avenue. (Photo: Cedric Tang)Related:‘Our dad is like a rare Pokemon’: B P de Silva scions Navin, Rehan and ShanyaThat was in 2019. Today, Cedric keeps his windows firmly shut in case temptation strikes again. His suicidal tendencies remain, although he says they are a bit more controlled now.

To take his mind off things, he turns to social media. “I use TikTok quite a bit. It’s an interesting platform where you can do a lot of silly things. Trying to dance or do choreographed dances is not as easy as people make it out to be!”A post shared by Cedric Tang (@ceddyt)

In spite of his struggles, Cedric tends to project a positive vibe, a trait he thinks was passed down from his grandfather, who passed away in 1997. “I remember how he always had this cheerful demeanour about him. I think maybe that’s something that also passed on to me. People have always seen me as being cheerful, very happy, never sad.”

With things slowly returning to normal, what’s in the pipeline for Ka-Soh? “For now it’s really just about trying to stabilise the business, trying to hold on to the heritage, trying to contribute to the food culture and the scene in terms of what we’re offering.”

The Next Gen podcast is brought to you by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Read more: CNA »

Greenridge Crescent boys’ deaths: 48-year-old father taken back to scene where bodies were found

SINGAPORE — Police officers on Thursday (Jan 27) took Xavier Yap Jung Houn to the scene where the bodies of his two sons were found. The 11-year-old brothers were found dead near a playground in Upper Bukit Timah last Friday. Read more >>

The 5 best business books of 2021Including some of the biggest revelations in print about business from Silicon Valley to Wall Street.

Commentary: Why COP26 was a watershed moment for business, banks and the financial sectorMany may be quick to brush off the Glasgow climate conference as a failure, but the NatWest Group chairman argues that progress has been made in sustainable business and finance.

CNB cracks down on drug buyers who use encrypted messaging apps including TelegramHe had sought drugs on encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, which promised anonymity and security, and the windows at the back of his flat in Bukit Batok were darkened to hide his activities. But like the 49 others arrested in a two-week-long islandwide operation, officers from the...

Stolen gods: Nepal seeks to bring home lost treasuresWhen Virginia Tech professor Sweta Gyanu Baniya saw an ornate 17th-century Nepali necklace in the Art Institute of Chicago, she burst into tears, bowed down and began to pray.

Covid-19: 3rd time in a week new cases fall below 1,000; 2 more deathsSINGAPORE — Singapore on Saturday (Dec 4) recorded 743 new cases of Covid-19, down from 766 the day before.

People are enamoured with Biden’s Secret Service agent after viral videos: ‘I’m in love’‘I suddenly feel the need to run for president,’ one viewer joked Being cancer-stricken and begging CPF Board to repay overdue debt; that which in any case cannot be done as the money had been commingled and funneled to private entity Temasek Holdings for Ho Ching to wager on unviable, untenable and ultimately, invariably doomed gambles