Early mornings, long hours and tedious manual work – the life of a hawker may not be suited for everyone.
But one man originally from Albania decided to become one and has even opened his own stall, HapiHa, at Bukit Timah Food Centre. HapiHa translates to "Eat, drink, eat" in Albanian.
Wanting to learn more about 40-year-old Klevis' hawker journey, Singapore-based Japanese YouTuber Ghib Ojisan visited and interviewed him in a video uploaded this past Monday (July 17).
Klevis is a Singapore permanent resident who grew up in Italy and moved here in 2012 to get married.
He opened HapiHa in August 2021 and chose Beauty World Food Centre in Upper Bukit Timah as he lives nearby. In fact, he frequented the hawker centre before opening his stall here.
"I kept coming [here] and I always realised [the hawker centre] is missing something that I could do," he told Ghib Ojisan.
Currently, the stall sells a mix of Mediterranean and Italian food, with dishes like pork souvlaki ($15), tzatziki ($6) and Margherita pizza ($7 for six inches, $11 for nine inches).
"[I don't sell] Albanian food because I grew up in Italy, and Singapore's culture is a mix itself, so the food is mixed," Klevis explained.
Prior to setting up his own hawker stall, he worked at several restaurants in Singapore, most of which were Italian.
In his video, Ghib Ojisan admitted that he was surprised to see someone like Klevis working in the hawker scene.
"I think it's my first time eating hawker food made by an ang moh (white person)," he said frankly.
He works around 15 hours a day
Klevis starts his days bright and early at 7am as he needs to start preparing the food.
His day ends at around 9.30pm to 10pm.
But while the hours are arduously long, Klevis isn't too fussed about it.
"Whoever works [as a] hawker knows what's going on," he said with a smile.
Ghib Ojisan also noted that while preparing the food, Klevis was very enthusiastic.
To that, Klevis simply said: "Cooking is an art. If you don't make your art with passion and enthusiasm, it doesn't work."
So, is starting a hawker stall as a foreigner tough?
Surprisingly, Klevis revealed that it was not as bad as one would anticipate.
"To be honest, I did not find any challenges," he said.
However, he did admit that "it was a bit scary in the beginning", especially when he heard rumours that people thought his business was going to do badly.
But he believes that with hard work, determination and faith in his own abilities, he will pull through.
Apart from that, his love for local food and his prior experiences in other F&B businesses have helped as well.
Inspired by other hawkers
However, that doesn't mean that Klevis doesn't feel demoralised once in a while.
But when he does, he looks up to his fellow hawkers grinding away.
"When I sometimes feel ... down because it's very hot, the hours are long and it's very hard, I just need to see my colleagues working at the hawker centre," he shared.
"Some of them are 75 years old and still coping and still working. And I get the energy from them!"
So, when he "feels down", he pays these hawkers a visit to say hello.
"They're still smiling! They're still cutting chicken or doing something. Like, wow!" praised Klevis.
In fact, Klevis is so close to the community of hawkers there that he even considers them family.
"We are family. We spend most of our time together. So, we cannot be enemies. We are all friends, we all know each other, and it's a good feeling," he said.
"I'm not Singaporean, but I feel local."