Author’s record: As someone who has lived in the Midwest USA for 4 years, I will be honest, I have never found the appeal of food there. Maybe it’s very heavy, which I didn’t quite like, and I prefer spices in my meals.
But I was surprised to learn that several Malaysians fell in love with this cuisine so much, that they opened a restaurant, Betty’s Midwest Kitchen to serve him.
Located in the small PJ neighborhood of Aman Suria, this quaint restaurant debuted at a time when American cuisine was still served mainly by restaurant chains like Chili’s and TGIF, as well as fast food brands like KFC and McDonald’s.
Life in small towns won their hearts
“The kitchen of the Midwest is dear to our family. When we visited my sister [in Minneapolis, Minnesota], we fell in love with agricultural markets, roadside restaurants and various establishments in the Midwest. It’s simple and cordial, “Kevin told the Vulcan Post.
Dictionary time: The Midwest is a region in the U.S. with a more agrarian (agricultural) and rural lifestyle. Some important cities in the Midwest are Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, etc.
At the time, Kevin and his wife were still working at a restaurant in Malaysia, and the couple had ambitions to start their own. Eventually, they were encouraged by their parents, who financed their venture, and Kevin’s mother also joined to help with the business.
“I had formal kitchen training at Taylor’s College Hospitality and with my mother [culinary skills are] I have fully learned. Recipes are a struggle of will between me and my mom and if we make sure we like each other, then that’s it, ”Kevin recalled.
Finding your place in Malaysia
Betty’s Midwest Kitchen started in 2009 and today they are still a popular family place to dine with the local community.
“Choosing a location was difficult, but we were guided by price and traffic. Aman Suria used to be a pretty young place to gather with celebrities mamak a restaurant nearby and was relatively unused, ”Kevin explained.
Although they did not share numbers, Kevin felt that their cuisine was well received by Malaysians. Their meat dishes are mostly pork, which they believed helped them in receiving clients.
“Our most famous dish would be our dog food,” Kevin said, but before you go crazy, it’s basically a baked poutina (cheese, french fries and sauce) served in a pie dish that strongly resembles a food dish for dogs.
From the beginning of their restaurant until now, they have pretty much stuck to the same menu, which contains various burgers and ribs. And lately, they make their own bacon and breasts.
Enlargement is not a priority
Despite all my years of work, I was surprised to learn that Betty’s Midwest Kitchen never expanded next to its only outlet, Aman Suria.
“We have already rejected franchise offers. This restaurant was more of a way of life for us than the income it brings. I don’t think it will be the same if it becomes a chain, “Kevin told the Vulcan Post.
In a way, they embody what is on the other spectrum of American capitalist culture by staying small, displaying the charm of cozy restaurants from the Midwest. From my experience, the latter has always been close to neighborhoods and families as a major place to hang out.
Thanks to this charm, Kevin believes that they are not in direct competition with big restaurants like Chili’s and TGIF, also because they do not serve the same types of cuisine.
“Anyway, I would say the competition is new local restaurants that serve the neighborhood like we do. It is not a product, it is what we present to our neighborhood “, he concluded.
Reducing snacks with memory tape
Since their place of sale is a pleasant dinner, there is an expectation that Kevin and his mother will always be there in person for their clients. But they also get something in return.
They had many clients who helped them with research and development, most of whom were Americans, but not necessarily Midwestern. “While their contribution is valuable, we also weigh it against local opinion, but that rarely differs,” Kevin commented.
These unofficial collaborations seem to have paid off. Kevin said some of their proudest moments are when customers thank them for turning their memory tape of their time in the Midwest.
Although this is a family business, Kevin has no plans to turn it into a legacy because he feels like it’s part of the past. With that in mind, he plans to run it as much as he can.
Conclusion: As someone who has eaten food from the Midwest for 4 years in a row, I can vouch for the authenticity of Betty’s Midwest Kitchen food. Given how long it takes, it would be a shame to see the restaurant end when Kevin decides to retire. However, not every small business is built for the purpose of increasing or seeking profit, and an example of this is Betty’s Midwest Kitchen.
- You can learn more about Bettyn Midwest Kitchen here.
- You can read about more F&B related articles we have written here.
Featured image: Kevin Woon, founder of Betty’s Midwest Kitchen