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Green light again for Anthony Bourdain and KF Seetoh's 'hawker centre' in New York

After stalling for a few years, the restarted project is slated to open in a location close to Times Square in early 2022, bringing Singapore hawkers to the Big Apple.

Green light again for Anthony Bourdain and KF Seetoh's 'hawker centre' in New York

KF Seetoh with the late Anthony Bourdain. (Photo: Instagram/Kfseetoh)

For a while, it looked like Singapore street food champion KF Seetoh's much talked-about US "hawker centre" venture with the late Anthony Bourdain was never going to take off.

But now, the stalled project, halted in 2017 because of leasing issues, has been revived.

In a Facebook post, Seetoh wrote, "Waited eight years for this (since Bourdain tapped me in 2013 at our World Street Food Congress in SG with a "I want you to help me build my Bourdian Market in NYC")... a celebration of what Bourdain did even for our UNESCO Hawkers. This is our hawkers' Noah's Ark headed for Times Square, New York and onwards to the world."

The food guru of Makansutra fame has gathered 18 Singapore vendors for a food court concept that will bring some of Singapore's local hawker centre flavour to the US. The as-yet-unnamed project is slated to open in early 2022 in New York City's Midtown area, not far from Times Square.

The stalls will offer dishes including chilli crab, oyster omelette and nasi lemak, according to US media outlets.

Also in the lineup are Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice, which famously served Bourdain his first taste of the iconic dish at Maxwell Food Centre;  chilli crab by Chris Hooi, whose family is credited with the original dish cooked up by chef Hooi Kok Wai at Dragon Phoenix restaurant in 1963; and Fishball Story with its fishball noodles.

A kitchen demonstration hosted by Makansutra founder (left) KF Seetoh. (Photo: Makansutra)

Although Singapore's hawker culture was recognised by UNESCO last year, for Seetoh, the fight to preserve it is real.

“Singapore’s food scene is dying despite all its accolades,” he said, as reported by Eater. “The number one reason isn’t COVID. The real reason is manpower. No one wants to be a hawker or an assistant hawker. It’s difficult to sustain.”

Bourdain, who was a celebrity chef, writer and television host, famously hit it off with Seetoh during his trips to Singapore, and the two bonded over their shared mission to promote street food culture all over the world. Seetoh is the founder of the World Street Food Congress.

The Bourdain Market was originally conceived of as a vast food hall to be located at the historic Pier 57, with up to 100 stalls.

This new iteration of that vision, at 135 West 50th Street, is opened in collaboration with Urbanspace, a company known for its markets and food halls.

Source: CNA/my