<i>Asmah Grant and her mother Rinam "Kak Nong" Arjo</i>An iron chef
of a woman

Asmah Grant, an inspiration for enterprising Sabahans

By Olivia Peter
Pictures by Oliver Majaham

Masidi Manjun marvels at Asmah Grant’s iron will that spells success in anything she does. He knows because she was his secretary when he was a business executive 20 years ago; long before the lawyer turned politician. So, it didn’t surprise him when Asmah turned herself into a cook. And her success was a foregone conclusion, according to the minister of tourism, culture and environment. Asmah’s Kak Nong Restaurant recently celebrated its 11th year in business at a spanking new Harbour City building in Kota Kinabalu.

“She is a persistent lady who has great leadership,” says Masidi. Asmah doesn’t bark orders to show that she is the boss. Instead she works with her staff, leading by example. She is the chef. But she can be seen waiting at tables and cleaning the dishes.

<i>Masidi Manjun</i>Inspired by her mother’s exotic Malay and Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese) food recipes, she started Kak Nong Restaurant in a rented shop at Beverly Hills in Kota Kinabalu in 2000. Kak Nong is her mother Rinam Arjo’s nickname. “Kak” means elder sister in Malay. And that’s how friends and relatives who love her cooking revere her.

Now her restaurant, which serves a variety of hot, spicy and sweet food, occupies two shops at Harbour City which she bought for about 2m ringgit ($654,000).

Asmah says her early years as a restaurateur weren’t easy. And staying in business has been a formidable challenge. The food business is very competitive, she says. New coffee shops and restaurants spring up almost every day. The challenge for Asmah is to keep on improving the quality of her food and service and ensure her restaurant is hygienic to keep diners and attract new ones.

For that, she won the 2009 “Best Outlet and Kopitiam” award of the Sabah Tourism Board.

Masidi says he hopes Asmah’s success will be an inspiration for enterprising Sabahans.

“There are no poor people in Sabah,” he says. “If they are poor, it is because they choose to be so because they give up easily when faced with challenges rather than persevere in all that they do.” – Insight Sabah

Posted on April 6, 2011

Malay 中文
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