Dignity Kitchen Serves Up Mooncakes For A Good Cause
Jayson Tang looked down silently and turned to his mentor Masisa before nodding his head. I had asked him what his favourite dish is. Jayson mans a dim sum stall at a food court run by Dignity Kitchen, Singapore’s first social enterprise hawker training centre, which he operates under Masisa’s guidance.
“He is very shy and doesn’t like to talk much. You must ask him yes-no questions, then he’ll answer. Ask him if he likes to make carrot cake the best,” prompted Masisa during my interview with the pair in Mandarin.
Throughout our conversation, Jayson was mostly monosyllabic and would glance at Masisa for reassurance before answering. It soon became clear that Masisa is an important source of support and comfort for Jayson.
He relies on her to communicate with others and you can feel they share a strong bond from their body language. For instance, Masisa will often put her arm around him and prompt or coax him to respond in a warm and motherly manner.
Jayson has autism. He is one of the many individuals with special needs that Dignity Kitchen trains and employs, with the hope that they will regain their dignity and place in society. To date, over 300 beneficiaries have graduated from the social enterprise’s hawker training programme.
Jayson is one of them. He has been with Dignity Kitchen for six years since graduating from Assumption Pathway School, an educational institution for those who are unable to complete mainstream secondary education. Trainees like Jayson earn SGD 4.50 an hour working at Dignity Kitchen and the wages are collected in cash directly at the end of each day.
Jayson was paired up with Masisa, 40, a single mum with two kids, who has been with the social enterprise for the past five years.
Today, the pair is cooking up mooncakes in preparation for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. I was particularly curious about their Vegetarian Golden Pineapple Lotus Paste Mooncakes (SGD 48 for a box of four), a unique twist on a classic mooncake that uses pineapple jam as a substitute for salted egg yolks, which are used in traditional mooncakes.
The unique mooncake recipe was developed by Masisa. She earned her culinary chops from her mentor Mr. Neo, a former chef from Red Star Restaurant, a well-known local dim sum joint, who was employed by Dignity Kitchen after suffering a stroke which severely hampered his fine motor skills.
“Not many people could stand Mr. Neo’s temper as he became very grumpy after suffering a stroke. However, I persevered and learned a lot from him, including the skills needed to make handmade mooncakes from scratch,” shared Masisa.
Dignity Kitchen also offers other traditional options like classic Single Salted Egg Yolk White Lotus Paste Mooncakes (SGD 50 for a box of four) and Double Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Paste Mooncakes (SGD 58 for a box of four).
Each mooncake is handcrafted with love by the staff at Dignity Kitchen, including Masisa and Jayson. All proceeds from the sale of mooncakes will go towards their training fund.
Beside contributing towards a worthy social cause, the mooncakes at Dignity Kitchen are all made from scratch, a rare find in Singapore where most mooncakes are mass produced in factories.
Serangoon Ave 3, Blk 267 #02-02, Singapore 550267
Operation Hours: Daily, 8:00am to 3:30pm
Tel: +65 8189 7678
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