New Straits Times
A platform to educate
From page 13Despite the absence of any grand plans, they all agreed that the restaurant should have some plants to make it look lively.
“We added these big trees and then we thought the place still feels too empty, so let’s add some sheers that would cut between some of the tables so that people could have some space of their own,” remembers Danial, adding: “We wanted the place to feel homey and exude a feeling of lightness — that’s why we never covered the windows.”
The piece de resistance here, aside from the menu of course, is definitely the giant plants/trees that tower inside, looming over diners like a protective guardian.
They really are a conversation piece, I muse in amazement to Danial, who’s one of the directors here at Staple Eats. His head bobs happily in agreement.
“Actually, a lot of people have asked us
how we even got them in here! I guess we’re lucky because our ceiling’s very high,” he replies, before excitedly sharing: “You know, at one point the trees died but miraculously, after some time, they came back through a life of their own. I guess they represent how the restaurant felt at one point. We were struggling too and then miraculously, everything came back to full swing again!”
He’s referring to the early days of the business. Just like many amazing ventures that have sprouted up during these unpredictable climes, Staple Eats, which opened its doors in September last year, was also born from the pandemic.
The affable 20-something had been studying Architecture in Melbourne but had returned home for a break.
The pandemic took a turn for the worse and the Movement Control Order (MCO) was declared. At the time, renovations for the restaurant were still in progress but their food delivery business had already been running for a year.
“After a few months, sometime in mid2020, we realised that we weren’t seeing much progress and we knew that things were getting very grim. But we thought, well, if we didn’t open now, we might never open. And we certainly didn’t want to remain a food delivery service forever.”
So, despite the uncertainties, they made the decision to open their restaurant in September.
Has the gamble paid off, I ask, in between sips of my cappuccino, made from organic coffee beans.
A pause ensues as Danial contemplates the question. Around us, I can see some of the hitherto vacant tables beginning to fill up with customers.
“I think so,” he eventually replies, adding: “Of course, we were concerned whether we’d made the right decision or
not. To be honest, there were plenty of arguments too in the early days. But then we thought, well, people should definitely be eating the right food — healthy food, especially at times like this.”
His expression earnest, Danial, who worked as a part-time barista and bartender during his time in Melbourne, continues: “If we just keep what we have to ourselves, what’s the point? People would continue to get sick. We wanted to offer them a healthy and wholesome alternative.”
And therein lies the rationale behind the restaurant’s name — Staple Eats. The idea was essentially derived from making good food a staple diet.
Smiling, Danial elaborates: “Sounds cliche, I know, but we want people to eat this kind of clean food on a daily basis. Also, we aspired to use this place as a platform to educate people about our message — staple food but also organic gourmet.”
The restaurant was initially supposed to be run by another body, while the family would be on the side of the investors, shares Danial.
But then the latter decided to take over so they could create something that was more in line with their lifestyle, which was essentially all about healthy eating.
“We’ve found some friction between people in the health industry and those in the fitness industry, especially when it comes to this new diet, keto.
“But I think more people are becoming knowledgeable about what they’re putting in their bodies these days and are coming round to the idea that we should go for healthier options of food,” says Danial, voice low.
The Rawang-born restaurateur wants to smash the preconception that organic food isn’t tasty or is dull. And that’s why at Staple Eats, which prides itself on being an organic gourmet restaurant, they have on board a head chef with a fine dining background.
The goal is to make sure that people understand organic food too can be delicious and exciting.
An Iban from Sarawak, chef Jerry Siah, elaborates Danial, has worked all over the world and amassed so much experience, which is why the restaurant is able to offer such a variety of cuisines in their menu, from Thai to Italian and of course, delectable local fare, albeit with a twist.
“The menu can be attributed to Jerry but the ideas originate from the owners’ cravings!” says Danial, grinning happily.
His sister, older by a couple of years, is also a whizz in the kitchen, says the laidback Gemini, palpable pride lacing his voice.
Although she doesn’t possess a background in F&B, Mimi, who studied Public Relations instead, is familiar with the food scene, having travelled the world checking out cafes and restaurants, and sampling a diversity of cuisines.
“She’s also a great home baker and chef,” adds Danial enthusiastically, continuing: “Some of the recipes that she’d created are also served in the restaurant. She really does bring a lot of her ideas to the table.”