Peranakan food icon and private chef Jeffrey Chia dies at 75, Latest Makan News - The New Paper

Peranakan food icon and private chef Jeffrey Chia dies at 75

Private chef Jeffrey Chia, who is known for his Peranakan cuisine, has died at the age of 75 on Jan 1.

Commenters on his Nonya Bong private dining Facebook page – many of whom were his customers – remembered his mantra, “eat until pain”, which encapsulated his passion for food.

Mr Chia is also remembered for his interactions with his customers, who recounted in their posts his humour and stories exchanged during their dining sessions at his home.

Food blogger Jill Sara shared the news of his death on Facebook on Jan 1, along with details of his wake.

Nonya Bong, Mr Chia’s brainchild, is the banner under which he served authentic Peranakan cuisine. The former engineer named the business after his mother, and operated out of a coffee shop in Balestier Road before closing it down in 2005.

The self-taught chef then ventured into a catering business, and in 2017 started offering private dining sessions, takeaway and delivery services from his home kitchen in Choa Chu Kang.

Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh said in a Facebook post on Jan 1 that he had recently partnered Mr Chia for a pop-up event in Paris, and the late chef had wanted to do it again in 2024.

Mr Seetoh, who has known Mr Chia for about 20 years, told The Straits Times: “He is my kind of person. Brutally honest, frank and without much formality. He is quite determined in his ways.”

Mr Seetoh also lamented the loss of another icon in the local food scene.

He said: “There aren’t many Peranakan stalwarts still there to guide, protect and light the way, being a link to an old school class of food.”

Separately, Ms Sara told ST that she remembered Mr Chia as someone whose “whole life revolved around his immediate family, long-time friends and of course, his pride and joy, Nonya Bong”.

She said that she first knew "Uncle Jeffrey" about five or six years ago while dining at Nonya Bong.

“The first time I met him, I remember trying his peranakan recipes. And that took me back to my childhood years growing up and having similar food,” she said.

The second time she dined there, Mr Chia asked for her name, and told her that she had the same name as his daughter, said Ms Sara, adding that he did not forget her after that.

From then, she regularly visited Mr Chia’s home with her husband, spending time with Mr Chia and his wife.

“Uncle Jeffrey would also take the opportunity to feed us and share cooking tips with my husband,” she reminisced, adding that he had been a fatherly figure.

“The legacy he left, we hope, will stay on.”