9 Places In Singapore To Turn Festive Eating Into Festive Giving

Celine Asril & Sabina Leah Fernandez

Christmas is definitely a season of excesses and even gluttony. Turn sinful eating into christmas good this yuletide season with our list of nine social enterprise restaurants where you can have your dish, and give back too.

1. Garçons

Casual French dining concept, Garçons, has popped up at Timbre+, a 24,000 sq ft ‘gastropark’. The stationary food truck marks chef-owners Enoch Teo and Immanuel Tee’s third outlet. The duo has dedicated their restaurants to training youths-at-risk who have no experience in cooking. Their goal is to equip the youths with a life skill, therefore giving them a chance at a productive, honest life. Garçons at Timbre+ ticks does social good while serving up hearty dishes like pork belly braised for 12 hours, duck leg confit and oxtail stew. We’re glad their excellent escargots are also on the menu.  They’ll also be serving up Christmas faves like Turkey Roulade and French pot roasts.   

73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, #01-37 

2. Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh Without Borders

Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh

If you’re totally over the traditional western fare that’s synonymous with Christmas and want a local treat that does good – you should give Soon Huat a go. We’re not just a fan of their Bak Kut Teh’s dry bak kut teh (pork bone soup), but also of their position as a “business [offering] a second chance.” With their latest outlet at Timbre+, they’ve partnered with social enterprise, Without Borders, to work the pay-it-forward model into their business. Founded by ex-offender Jabez Tan, Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh has been dedicated to giving ex-offenders and former drug users a new start in life and a meaningful career. Soon Huat’s stationary food truck at Timbre+ is where these now-trained professionals reach out to people with disabilities (PWD) – experienced managers, chefs and cashiers (all ex-offenders) train and work with PWDs to equip them with the life skills they’ve learnt.

73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north, #01-34

3. Soul Food

Soul Food Singapore Social Enterprise

This reservation-only restaurant in Bukit Merah’s fantastic Enabling Village was started in 2010 and has trained a total of 9 young people with special needs. The focus is on high-end European soups, sauces and desserts. Think beef medallion with sautéed mushrooms and grilled salmon with lobster sauce. Of the restaurants in this list, we reckon Soul Food tops in terms of five-star service. The Asia For Good team were served by none other than the owner’s daughter who is professional, warm and polite. For table reservations, call 64720266 or email soulfoodenterprise@gmail.com.

Enabling Village, 20 Lengkok Bahru #01-10

4. Bizlink Cafe

Bizlink F&B provides “sheltered employment” to the disadvantaged including persons with disabilities and aims to integrate them into mainstream society, develop their capabilities and allow them to lead meaningful life. Notably, Bizlink offers a variety of catering menus and are worth trying out for any home or office parties this holiday season. Check out this video about the work they do.

Bizlink Café, Institute of Mental Health, 10 Buangkok View, Buangkok Green Medical Park and head office, 

Food For Thought Singapore Social Enterprise Restaurant Asia For Good

5. Food for Thought

A pioneering F&B social enterprise in Singapore this chain of two eateries aims to transform and revive public community spaces. Food For Thought aims to help build community by bringing people together through good food and good causes. Look out for their striploin steak and indulgent Ma Ling Luncheon Meat Fries.

Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Tanglin Gate, #B1-00, and National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road #01-04/05.

6. MINDS Bakers

Pick up your cranberry cookies, mini marshmallows and other sweet treats at MINDS Bakers, where the staff were trained by a pastry chef from Shangri-La hotel, who volunteered their services. Set up by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), this bakery sells delicious, handmade baked goods and takes a healthy approach by using less sugar and little to no preservatives. Their back story is a charming one. What started as a therapy programme for those with intellectual disabilities evolved into a social enterprise offering a wide range of products. Now that’s what I call a winning recipe.

Visit their website to find out more. 

7Joan Bowen Café

Joan Bowen Cafe's Char Grilled Chicken

Tucked away in the quiet neighbourhood of Macpherson is this café serving Western and fusion dishes. Joan Bowen Café was established in June 2009 by Jeanne Seah-Kong and Khong Yoon Kay, parents of Joan Bo-Wen, a special needs girl. Joan works at the café, along with other special needs youths. The home-styled café provides a relaxing, calming environment for diners to eat in and the youths to grow – since its inception, the staff have moved from being servers and cooking dishes to shopping for the ingredients themselves. The effort put into running the restaurant can be seen on the well-executed plates: rosemary lemon chicken, chilli crab pasta, and – during our most recent visit – an off-the-menu buah keluak (black nut) pasta. Dishes are subject to availability.

9 Jln Wangi, Singapore 348359 | Tel: 6281 3629

Professor Brawn Cafe is a social enterprise restaurant in Singapore located at Novena Square

8. Professor Brawn Cafe

Opened in 2009, Professor Brawn was started by parents and friends who want to make a difference to the special needs community. The restaurant trains and employs those with special needs (such as persons on the autism spectrum), and showcases their special talents. Their mission is to provide affordable good food made and served by an inclusive quality workforce comprising people of different abilities, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Like Food For Thought, Professor Brawn now has two outlets – the first in Novena Square and the second on Circular Road. On top of a wonderful social mission – Professor Brawn serves very tasty, hearty meals.

The Asia For Good team enjoyed the BBQ pork ribs and flavourful pasta dishes. The second-floor of their Circular Road branch is ideal for private functions – think Christmas or new year gatherings for your colleagues and friends. And bring the kids! Exposing children to persons with special needs teaches them open-mindedness and acceptance of diversity.

10B Circular Road, and #02-78/79 Novena Square 238 Thomson Road.

9. Eighteen Chefs

Eighteen Chefs

Chef Benny Se Teo was 47 when he founded casual Western restaurant, Eighteen Chefs. The former drug addict, who spent more than a decade of his youth behind bars, wanted to run a business that would give second – sometimes third – chances to ex-offenders. Nine years and ten outlets in, Eighteen Chefs is still a safe and non-judgmental workplace for troubled youths and those who have been formerly convicted to work on turning over a new leaf; the restaurant ties up with counsellors, prisons and boys' homes for recruitment. Chef Benny has come a long way to becoming the face of this social enterprise, and for being the creator of dishes like Open Heart Surgery Fried Rice (a spring chicken filled with sausages, New York striploin, served with a ‘Heart Attack’ fried rice).

Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green, #02-22 | Tel: 6694 5975. 


Hungry for more? Learn how you can cook up your own local favourites at Food Playground or check out tasty, healthy snacks from BoxGreen instead!


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