CIA alumnus and One Prawn & Co's chef-founder, Gwyneth Ang, shares how she elevated her humble prawn noodle business to Michelin Bib Gourmand status.
Chef-founder of One Prawn & Co, Gwyneth Ang, had never imagined that she would end up with a career in the culinary scene, much less as founder of a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant. Once an aspiring animator, she ended up enrolling into Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Culinary & Catering Management. She progressed to further her culinary studies with SIT’s Food Business Management (Culinary Arts) degree programme, a tie-up between The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the world’s premier culinary college and SIT.
In 2014, Gwyneth Ang (second from left in dark blue) participated in the CIA’s overseas immersion programme in the US. On her right is former CIA chef-instructor, Assistant Professor Gypsy Gifford. (Photo: Gwyneth Ang)
Gwyneth’s illustrious culinary career began right after she graduated from CIA in 2015. She worked in established restaurants such as Burnt Ends, a fine dining steak house, and eventually became Head Chef at Level Up, a restaurant bar at Robertson Quay within three years.
However, Gwyneth had bigger ambitions. Driven by a deep desire to redefine the possibilities of local cuisine, she ventured beyond the security of stable employment to establish her own F&B stall. Sharing her conviction, Gwyneth said, “Since we are in Singapore, I thought we should do local food, the kind that everyone enjoys daily.” Why prawn noodles, though? “I know I can create an extraordinary bowl of prawn noodles compared to what is currently available in the F&B scene.”
The Birth of One Prawn & Co
The decision sealed the birth of One Prawn & Co. Gwyneth and her business partner opened their first outlet at Golden Mile Food Centre. The duo spent two and half years at their hawker stall perfecting their signature prawn noodle recipe. “It was a continuous process of tweaking and refining. We value our customers’ feedback and preferences. Some said, ‘not enough shallot oil’, so we factored that in. Others said, ‘need more lard’, so we added more of that too,” Gwyneth shared. At the end of two and half years, the duo successfully gained a large following for their prawn noodles. To cater to the increase in demand, they rented a coffee shop at MacPherson Road and transformed it into the thriving full-service open-air restaurant that One Prawn & Co is today.
Operating as a hawker stall at Golden Mile Food Centre from 2019 to 2021, Gwyneth took a leap of faith to move her One Prawn & Co business to a larger shophouse along Macpherson Road – a 60-seat modern open-air concept restaurant. (Photo: One Prawn & Co)
Putting together a full-service restaurant was a synthesis of Gwyneth’s studies and accumulated work experience. “MasterChef Singapore judge Bjorn Shen was my lecturer in CIA. He taught us about menu costing and development – how to price our menu items, what dishes to include, etc. It was something I went back to when we were creating our menu for One Prawn & Co,” Gwyneth recounted. “Burnt Ends taught me how to create my own recipes, the importance of understanding each component in a dish, and how it contributes to the main product. My experience at Level Up gave me insights into planning the restaurant’s kitchen and operations.”
A Road Not for the Faint-hearted
The journey of setting up a full-service restaurant was not without hurdles. Due to inexperience, Gwyneth did not realise that the coffee shop had a faulty exhaust infrastructure. This meant she had to fork out an additional $50,000 to repair it. “On top of that, the circuit breaker was very old, which resulted in many electricity trips. Each time it tripped, some appliances would be damaged, and we had to replace them,” Gwyneth said. Gwyneth also faced criticisms amongst detractors regarding the price point of her prawn noodles. With a starting price of $14, it is one of the pricier prawn noodles in the local F&B scene. “We set up One Prawn & Co with the intention of giving our customers the best prawn noodles that we can achieve. This includes handpicking our ingredients, frying our own shallots and lard, and cooking our own sambal chilli. There’s a limit to how much cost we can minimise as the bulk goes into the broth to make it what it is. You can say that it’s the soul of our dish,” the 30-year-old shared.
The signature prawn noodle dish sold at One Prawn & Co. (Photo: One Prawn & Co)
These criticisms took a toll on Gwyneth’s morale. “It gets demoralising when you are giving your best to the customers, but your efforts are not recognised.” So, what kept her going? “My friends and family,” she said. “My CIA batchmates have been a constant source of support, standing by One Prawn & Co from its hawker days to where it is now. They validated my business decisions and were very encouraging. Many of them currently hold key roles in chain groups within the F&B scene and offer me invaluable insights into running an F&B business.”
Her efforts in improving her recipe and staying true to her vision of elevating the humble prawn noodles paid off. One Prawn & Co earned the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand award for two consecutive years in 2022 and 2023. In addition, Gwyneth also made this year’s list of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia (The Arts). Expansion is also in the works for the brand for next year. In addition to its second outlet at an upcoming lifestyle development space at the former Nan Chiau High School, the brand is also opening its first overseas outlet in Hong Kong next year.
When asked about her thoughts on the accolades and the exciting future that awaits the brand, she shared, “I’m encouraged and proud that my efforts to challenge the stereotypes surrounding how local food can be perceived, presented, and priced have finally been recognised. I want to tell other aspiring chefs out there that if I can do it, so can you."
“We are very proud of Chef Gwyneth Ang’s accomplishments. She maximised her education, put herself in the most challenging and highly competitive restaurants, built her network and stuck to the principles of creating delicious food while embracing her heritage. She is a role model for young and aspiring food professionals,” said Chef Eve Felder, Managing Director, The Culinary Institute of America, Singapore.