We couldn’t claim to be feeding people right if we didn’t set out to thank the very hands and minds that helped to bring Grain Traders to life, and that’s just what we did on 11th November 2015.
Some of these people were: Ben, Nicholas, and Andy, who had our kitchen fitted out with all the right equipment; Ah Sheng, the main contractor for Grain Traders; Daniel, the man responsible for fabrics and textiles in the space; and Ah Hwa, our very handy handyman.
(above; left to right) Our parter Ken, with the kitchen guys Nicholas and Ben.
They joined our founder Javier and partner Ken for a catch-up session over dinner, and for some of these men, it was their first time returning to Grain Traders after completing their work. “We’re very proud of the project,” Ben said, “and we’re honoured to be working with such a talented team.”
(above) Andy, all smiles before dinner.
Ben and his colleagues said that their biggest challenge was that they found the space to be smaller than they had initially thought it to be.. “Grain Traders was going to serve such a wide variety of dishes, so our job was to take note of all the requirements and see how we could best put out whatever is possible,” Nicholas said.
Ah Sheng’s concern was the consistency of the craftsmanship of the furniture that his workers were building for Grain Traders — everything from tables, to chairs, to countertops.
“My trade deals with people from a lot of different backgrounds, and although my sub-contractors are always the same few people that I use, the workers, the hands-on guys, that come in are always different.” Was he worried and stressed out about it, however? “I’m very used to it!” he laughed. “I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years.”
It was fascinating to find out that some of these men have been plying their trades for decades. Daniel, affectionately called the Sofa Doctor, has been in the furniture industry for over 30 years, and has branched out to do his own thing.
(above) Daniel and his wife Kaleen speaking to Javier during their first visit back to the completed space
Although he is responsible for all the cushions and seating in Grain Traders, Daniel’s proudest creation is the canopy which hangs overhead the coffee counter. “Ken and his team gave me the visuals for the canopy, and they were wondering how to fasten it. I looked at it and figured how to put it together; I guess I’m an expert when it comes to things like that!”
Another man whose handiwork can be found all around Grain Traders is Ah Hwa, who basically does anything and everything. He brought his daughter along for dinner, but he was still on the job, running around and into the kitchen. “There was a power trip,” he said, matter-of-factly.
(above) Ah Hwa could hardly keep still during dinner.
A man of few words, Ah Hwa’s work ethic can be summed up in one sentence: “Whatever my boss asks me to do, I do!” He was an electrician for 6 years before going into the maintenance and management of condominium buildings, and now he runs a one-man show. “I do everything by myself. If I need help, I’ll call someone to help, but most of the time, it’s just me.”
This one man does everything from hand-treating the standing tables outside Grain Traders with water from the Kallang River to get that aged, rusted effect, to fixing loose locks and of course, power trips.
He met Javier about one and a half years back, and did work for Javier’s Kilo restaurants before starting on Grain Traders. Now, his 14-year-old daughter has taken on a part-time job here, working three times a week during her school holidays.
It really seems to have come full-circle for these men, some of whom finally got a chance to see their finished work and to taste the fruits of their labour. “After I finished the project I didn’t have a chance to come back,” Daniel, who brought his wife Kaleen along for dinner, said. “They had a friends and family gathering when they first opened but I wasn’t in town, and since then, Javier has been saying, “You must come! I’ll buy you lunch!” This is my first time back here and it’s so interesting; the decor, the food. It’s a bit like European nasi padang.”
It was amazing to see these men coming together and having become more than just coworkers through this project, each in equal respect for each others’ trade. “Ah Hwa is such a helpful, nice guy,” Daniel said. “He’s so innovative.” Moving forth, our dinner guests each have their own ideas of what’s to come.
“We’re looking forward to Javier and Ken’s expansion plans; I know they have a lot of things on their minds,” Ben said. “If we can work together it’s a win-win situation.”
“I think if Grain Traders can open until even later, it would be nice,” Daniel said. “You could have umbrellas outside and an outdoor bistro kind of thing. It’s not very far from Boat Quay so people could come here to chill.”
Once again, we’d like to thank you all for being a part of our journey so far, and for helping to bring our vision to life. Grain Traders wouldn’t be what it is without any of you, and this dinner was just our small, inadequate way of giving back to everyone who has helped to do things right.
For more images from the evening, visit the Facebook album here.