The recent retirement of our beloved Western Stall Aunties in October 2017 sent a wave of sadness across Victorians of different batches. After 33 years of wonderful food and smiles, the Victorian Experience will not have been the same without them! On the final day that the sisters, Mdm Chong Wai Har and Mdm Chong Wai Leng prepared their last plates, many Victorians lined at the stall to get a last taste — and memory — of the warm and crispy food made with love.
For some background information, Mdm Chong Wai Har, 68, is the elder sister who mainly prepared the meat and cooked them. Mdm Chong Wai Leng, 64, is the younger sister who took the orders of students and plated the food.
In this feature, we take an inside look at the Chong sisters’ thoughts and opinions. Reagan Tan from 17S45 has made an intimate video complete with an interview with the legendary sisters themselves.
Now, it really is remarkable what the Chong sisters have accomplished with their stall. There are so many things we can learn from them! Here are five of them…
1. Dedication – Extraordinary Service
The Western Stall is one of the longest-serving canteen stalls in VJ, having establishing their business in the college since our genesis. 33 years of extraordinary service, from early in the morning until late afternoon, tirelessly preparing meals for the day. One can tell from the aunties’ efficient teamwork as they dart around the stall, focused on relaying orders to each other, that they truly treasure and take pleasure in their job. No matter how taxing it is, the sisters always do their best to contribute to the college through their plates of piping hot Western food.
The sisters never backed down from putting new items on the menu to cater to more students. Introducing potato wedges in the late afternoons as students mugged in the canteen was a great business decision, being well received by all. They also had snacks like cheese and mushroom omelettes which were definitely very popular among students who were able to beat the snaking main queues by queuing at the separate queue for sides.
The aunties’ bright and cheery spirits when serving Victorians with a hearty meal restores students’ energies to go about a mundane day at school, and definitely, never fails to make their day. Of course, who could forget Mdm Chong Wai Leng’s smile as she went down the queue asking for orders? She never showed frustration even when students were distracted and took very long to decide. Instead, she was simply happy to do what she enjoyed! Let’s take the same spirit into our daily lives.
Despite being out of the classroom for quite a few years, the sisters want to continue their journey in learning. When asked what she would do after retirement, Mdm Chong Wai Leng responded that she was keen on learning IT and computer skills. Lifelong learning is so important. Don’t be afraid of exploring things that you might have never done before. Go and take a dance class even if you have two left feet, go and take a coding class and create your very own mini game!
Warm-hearted and jovial, the Chong sisters are always friendly and generous despite the exhausting long hours they work, especially when there are long queues of students waiting for food. From asking students about their day, to giving us encouragement (and sometimes a few extra potato wedges), they never run out of patience or become irritable. They send a strong reminder that even when life gets you down, it’s important not to forget to be kind to others.
Their 33 years of service at VJC have brought us so many meaningful insights and learning points! They are an integral part of the Victorian family and we’ll definitely miss them! We wish them a happy, fulfilling, well-deserved retirement.
We have included a summary of the fourteen minute interview Reagan conducted with Mdm Chong Wai Leng.
During the one of the days of filming, I sat Mdm Chong Wai Leng down for an interview while her elder sister Mdm Chong Wai Har mended the shop. From the 14 minute interview, I learnt that the Chong Sisters had a few reasons which led them choosing to end their 33 year run.
Mdm Chong Wai Har is relocating from Whampoa to Yishun, and this meant that it would take the sisters a longer route to reach VJC, as the elder sister would fetch her younger sister from her home in Serangoon before heading down to VJC.
The Certificate of Entitlement of Mdm Chong Wai Har’s Daihatsu was due to expire, creating another barrier for the sisters to travel to VJC.
The lack of manpower also meant that the sisters were heavily relying on each other with no external support, taking a huge toll on both of them.
The restriction on the sale of deep-fried products also heavily affected their sales and profit margin.
When asked if they were going to visit Victoria Junior College after their retirement, Mdm Chong Wai Leng responded positively that they would definitely come back if they have the time. Mdm Chong Wai Leng also added that the new stall replacing the Western Stall would be Halal certified, and that she would be interested in tasting the difference in the style of cooking by the new stall holder.
There would be an incentive to them revisiting Victoria as the owner of the fruits stall is their cousin.
Asking what would Mdm Chong Wai Leng do after retirement, she responded that she was keen on learning IT and computer skills. She substantiated that after working in VJC for 33 years, she did not get the chance to pick up these skills. She felt that if she did not pick up these skills she would be an computer illiterate in the 21st century.
She also added that if she felt bored after retirement, she would consider doing part-time, but will never get back into the western food industry.
Reagan Tan Jing Hng, 17S45
Yong Hwee Shi, 17S62
Lois Kok Yu Qin, 17S62
Niyanta Chowdhury, 17S46