In meeting Violet Oon’s daughter, Su-Lyn, one is first struck by her quiet beauty. But once she begins speaking, you are then enraptured by her business savvy and undulating love for her mother’s legacy.
That is, after all, the primary reason why Violet Oon Singapore exists today in its current glory.
“We grew up with this culinary icon in our kitchen, and just hearing her stories of Peranakan heritage day in and day out. The thought of losing her wealth of knowledge on recipes and the like was just daunting,” Su-Lyn says.
“So, we decided to turn her life’s work into a restaurant business. My mum had a brand so what I’ve done with my brother [Tay Yiming] is essentially give her a platform to elevate it.”
Having carved a culinary empire out of food, Violet already has several cookbooks, TV shows and magazine columns to her name but what her children aimed to do with their new venture (an iteration of Violet Oon’s Kitchen) is give Singaporean food the best treatment, environment and respect possible.
“You know that Peranakan hospitality where you invite people into your home to makan? We wanted to keep that DNA alive with the branding of Violet Oon’s Kitchen,” says Su-Lyn.
“But at the same time, we want to give diners an experiential dining experience and give Singaporean food the respect it deserves. It’s not fine dining per se, but we want to offer something that comes from the heart, that will attract people from all generations.”
It’s worked a charm because the family currently has three outlets and counting in Singapore, including the latest Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill in Clarke Quay.
The swanky new outlet is a result of Su-Lyn’s eclectic vision for the brand, which she can thank her background in fashion and interior design for.
The 41-year-old has been instrumental in spearheading this drive to modernise the Violet Oon brand to appeal to a broader audience by overseeing the establishments’ delicious interiors, which blend colonial influences with Peranakan elements.
Su-Lyn worked with Singapore interior design firm Laank and the restaurant’s co-owner Manoj Murjani, founder of the TWG Tea company. The renovations took seven weeks and cost about $500,000.
But for her, the Violet Oon brand has much deeper significance than what you see on the surface. “This business is really close to my heart, because I’m also doing it for my kids. I want to have something to pass down to them,” she confesses.
Words to live by: “Never take shortcuts or make any compromises.”
Next up: “There are plans to expand the brand overseas, into European markets. I can’t give too much away, but things are in the pipeline.”
The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is proudly presented by Lancôme.