|Chefs in the soup, hotels in a tizzy|
Some cite need to tighten purchasing systems; others worry about fallout
By NISHA RAMCHANDANI
(SINGAPORE) Too many cooks may spoil the broth but the recent scandal where chefs from top hotels and Chinese restaurants are being investigated for allegedly accepting kickbacks underlines the need for stricter checks and balances.
'We don't condone such behaviour so we want to make sure this won't happen again,' said Marriott's director of marketing, Julie Yeong. One of the chefs from the Marriott is being investigated.
|Mr Teo: 'If there's a system in place and the company is strict, you cannot do any hanky panky.' |
'The investigations will not affect the running of the Chinese restaurant,' she added.
However, the hotel declined to comment on what additional measures might be put in place in the future, citing the ongoing investigations.
'The purchasing manager and the chef must work together. You cannot prevent this but you can set a system in place. If there's a system in place and the company is strict, you cannot do any hanky panky,' said Eric Teo, president of the Singapore Chefs' Association.
Some restaurants even change their supplier every three months to prevent such mishaps, Mr Teo pointed out.
At least 20 chefs - and potentially as many as 30 - from hotels and Chinese restaurants have been questioned by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) for allegedly taking bribes from a food supplier in Bedok.
BT understands a chef from the Meritus Mandarin is also involved in the investigations, as is a former chef from the Four Seasons Hotel. The chef from the Meritus Mandarin is still an employee of the hotel.
When contacted, a CPIB spokesman declined to reveal any information as the case is still underway.
While operations for affected restaurants may not be disrupted in the short run, they could suffer further down the line since the chef is often a huge draw.
Chef and culinary consultant Daniel Koh, who previously ran the Atrium kitchen at Holiday Inn, stressed the importance of stringent checks when it comes to supply procurement, especially at a point when the economy is struggling.
You have to control your variable costs such as food, he said. As it is, 'fixed costs in Singapore are very high', Mr Koh added.
The chefs are believed to have received kickbacks - ranging from 3 to 10 per cent - from the supplier for shark's fin, abalone and other foodstuff.
According to Mr Teo, a single kilogram of shark's fin can cost as much as $300.
One chef, who runs his own Chinese restaurant, told BT that the supplier in question had sent him product samples but he decided not to take on the supplier after finding the goods to be of poor quality. The supplier then tried to initiate a meeting. 'They told me, can we meet outside for drinks?' he said, adding that he had declined the invitation.