Lee Syafiq

cleo-bachelors-2019-lee-syafiq

Age: 26
Occupation: Co-founder of Burgs by Project Warung
Instagram: @leesyafiq

Syafiq is the co-founder of local burger brand, Burgs by Project Warung. It all started three years ago, when he and his two partners opened a burger stall at a hawker centre at Beach Road. Now, they have two branches and are working to expand the franchise. One of his goals is for the brand to be a household name like Ramly Burger. And we reckon that isn’t impossible, given that their burgers are highly-raved about online and have been served to ministers and foreign delegates at big events like the National Day Rally. Read on to find out more about him.

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He used to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant

“Before opening my own business, I was working at a one Michelin-starred restaurant, Terra Tokyo Italian.” It was through that job that he met one of his business partners. “We discussed and I thought to myself, ‘Why not take the next step and be a young entrepreneur?’”

 

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Being a business owner changed him

Syafiq admitted that prior to starting his business, he was shy to approach strangers. His confidence grew after he had to interact with his staff and customers. His aim is to create a family-like team where everyone helps one another out. “That is why one of our hashtags is ‘good vibes with Burgs’. Every time customers walk in, they can see us enjoying ourselves. … And once they get their burgers and eat them, they would really enjoy themselves as well because a happy team will cook a happy product.”

He has won cooking medals

When he was still in school, he joined a cooking competition at a trade event, Food & Hotel Malaysia, all because he wanted to earn a medal. He trained in Kuala Lumpur for four months at a convention centre to prepare for the competition and competed in two categories. He scored a silver medal in the individual category for “Main Course – Seafood Preparation”, and a gold medal in the team category for “Best Apprentice Team”.

His love for cooking started since young

Remember the good ol’ days of Home Economics lessons? While some of us were grateful enough to get through those lessons without burning down the kitchen, Syafiq enjoyed the subject thoroughly, having discovered his love for cooking when he helped his aunt at her food stall when he was in primary school. In fact, he found it so interesting that he decided to take up a cooking course in ITE. “I thought maybe there’s more to cooking than what I learned at home.” He admits, “I didn’t know much about French and Italian cuisines back then; I thought pasta dishes were just considered Western food. I wanted to learn more, so I decided to join ITE Clementi, majoring in Culinary Arts.”

 

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He hardly has any breaks from work

We all know being a business owner is tough, and Syafiq reinforces that when he told us that he works seven days a week. “After this shoot, I’ll go out for lunch and then go down to the shop to see the guys,” he says. “And when I’m on holiday, people still call me.” He says it has gotten to the point where he thinks about work when he’s asleep—and even dreams about it. “Once, I woke up laughing to myself, like, ‘What is this? I’ve brought work back home,’” he says. “Sometimes, you want to relax your mind, but you can’t—you’ll automatically keep thinking about it.” But he sees the silver lining: “It’s good ‘cos sometimes, you might come up with a new idea while you’re asleep.”

He wants to bring hawker culture back to the millennials

Millennials love café-hopping, but Syafiq is hoping to attract young people to join the hawker scene by working with the National Environment Agency to make hawker culture hot again. “I can say it’s slowly dying off because the younger generations no longer go to hawker centres anymore; we would rather go to restaurants and cafes.” He adds, “What we are trying to do is bring in more youngsters to join the hawker scene. If you have ideas to open up your own business, why not start in a hawker centre?” Burgs by Project Warung bridges the gap between a hawker stall and café by serving halal gourmet burgers in a hawker setting. “It’s like giving people a new experience in a hawker centre concept. You can get restaurant or café-standard products in a hawker setting.”

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