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Singapore’s Cooking Lessons for the Post-Lockdown World

The Covid-19 pandemic left many restaurants shuttered in the foodie enclave, but others learned to thrive amid adversity.

Restaurants and bars near Orchard Road in Singapore.

Restaurants and bars near Orchard Road in Singapore.

Photographer: Manjik photography / Alamy Stock Photo

As the restaurant world from New York to London and elsewhere reopens in fits and starts, Singapore is a microcosm of both problems and solutions. Within the compact city-state of 5.6 million people are white-tablecloth Michelin-starred establishments, long-running family-owned eateries, pizza parlors, Mexican takeout, the world-famous hawker culture of small specialist stands—a miniature foodie universe. The pandemic struck them all.

The food scene—from highbrow to popular to inexpensive—suffered dramatically. Vianney Massot, a one-star Michelin restaurant run by an alumnus of the late French superstar chef Joël Robuchon, announced it was ceasing operations while it looked for a new home, because its location on Hongkong Street “is no longer compatible with our vision” in a post-Covid-19 world. Founder Bak Kut Teh, which has been serving the pork bone soup that’s part of its name for more than four decades, issued a public plea for customers, saying sales had fallen by more than 85% and if things didn’t turn around in the next two months it would need to shut down.