Singapore Tatler Award For Culture 2016—Violet Oon
As we laud eight inspiring movers and shakers with accolades for their achievements and individual prowesses, we take a peek into Violet’s life to see what makes her tick.
Hers is a fond name synonymous with authentic Singapore cuisine, whether in the cooking and purveying of it, or when it comes to being the ultimate food ambassador to our little red dot.
It’s hard to keep up with Violet—who says she’s “ever looking forward and lucky enough to still be enthusiastically excited and filled with wide-eyed wonder”—from her mercurial mind to her dizzying accolades. She opened the first Violet Oon’s Kitchen at Takashimaya in 1993, a food counter and glass-enclosed kitchen, where she and her team made their famous shepherd’s pies, curry puffs and Nyonya sweet potato dumplings. This later expanded into a full-fledged Peranakan restaurant at Bukit Pasoh, with outlets at Bugis Junction and Holland Village. At the same time, she was running theatre cafes at Victoria Theatre, Kallang Theatre and the then-Drama Centre.
(Related: #SGTatlerBall2016: The Highlights)
“Then all these closed by 1996, and the business failed. Like many chefs, we got too obsessed with the food and operational details of the whole process that I didn’t actually know how to run a business!”
So from the mid-late ’90s through to the noughties, Violet judiciously concentrated on being an F&B consultant instead.
(Related: Singaporean Chefs Who Make Us Proud)
Fast forward to 2012, Violet came full circle and re-emerged on the F&B scene stronger with the relaunch of the Violet Oon brand. This time, she joined forces with her two children, daughter Tay Su‑lyn and son Yiming, to create a bistro-like restaurant in Bukit Timah that served a mix of Peranakan and Western dishes. In 2015, Violet Oon’s Kitchen was rebranded Violet Oon Singapore and unveiled an exquisite outfit National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery Singapore that marries fine dining decor and service, with a well-thought-out menu of local-centric food.
The irrepressible ex-food journalist already has bigger plans in mind: “Our dream is to launch Violet Oon Singapore on the international arena, in key capital cities such as London, Paris and Tokyo.”
Photography: Darren Gabriel Leow
Fashion direction: Desmond Lim
Hair: Sha Shamsi/Indigo Artisans, using Bed Head by Tigi
Make-up: Cheryl Ow/Indigo Artisans, using Parfums Christian Dior