Hotel owners bounce back after MCO with nasi lemak business

Head chef, Nani (left) and sous chef Shereen. (Chantique Nasi Lemak pic)

PETALING JAYA: When the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented in mid-March this year to stem the spread of Covid-19, hotels in Malaysia were forced to stop accepting guests.

Naturally, business was hit badly. Incomes plummeted but costs still had to be covered.

The owners of boutique hotel Langkawi Chantique were not spared either. Azureen Rashid and her mother Nani Baharudin found themselves in the same boat as others in the industry, and were forced to shut their beloved hotel, located close to Cenang and its popular beach.

Left with little choice, they began renting out the rooms for long-term stays. “We did this to attract the foreigners who were stuck in Malaysia, unable to return home because of travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.

“Unfortunately, renting out the rooms does not make as much money as running it like a hotel,” Azureen told FMT.

So, mother and daughter began to look around for a way to earn extra income to keep the business afloat.

Career gurus say that in order to succeed, one must find that something one is really good at. And Nani, who had worked as a chef before getting into the hotel industry, was known in her family for her fabulous nasi lemak.

So, the decision to put her culinary skills to work was a no-brainer and Chantique Nasi Lemak was born.

Chantique Nasi Lemak is located at the entrance of Langkawi Chantique along Jalan Bohor Tempoyak. (Chantique Nasi Lemak pic)

But two pairs of hands were hardly enough to pull it off. The mother-daughter team roped in a relative who had come for a visit before the MCO.

Lan Hydra (Sayed Sahlan Sayed Hamid), lead singer of the popular local band Hydra, had taken his family along for a visit to Langkawi where he had accepted a gig before the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Lan’s wife, Shereen, had originally planned to retire to Langkawi sometime in the future and being stranded on the island because of the MCO, proved a golden opportunity to remain there for good.

“We were just so comfortable with Nani. During the MCO, she taught me how to cook and fry chicken too.

“So, when she decided to start the nasi lemak business, I was more than enthusiastic to lend a hand. It’s tiring work but extremely fulfilling,” Shereen said.

Together, they launched Chantique Nasi Lemak on July 27, and it has been a hit with customers.

“In the following week, more new faces eager for Nani’s nasi lemak began popping up. I believe they came thanks to the power of social media.

“Langkawi is a great place, we have small communities and Facebook groups such as Langkawi Sana Sini to help spread the word,” Azureen said, adding that she made it a point to post pictures and updates about their nasi lemak business on all these groups.

They also tagged Shereen’s adorable son, Rafeeq, to help promote their nasi lemak business, which undoubtedly worked wonders thanks to his natural charm.

Rafeeq with a plate of Chantique Nasi Lemak. (Chantique Nasi Lemak pic)

The family usually spends Saturdays cooking the side dishes for the nasi lemak for the entire week. On Monday, the vegetables are prepped, a fresh batch of Nani’s fragrant rice is cooked and the air is filled with the tantalising aroma of freshly fried chicken.

But keep an eye out for Fridays as the team usually comes up with a special offering to spice things up – how does nasi lemak sambal udang petai sound, eh!

(L-R): The Chantique Nasi Lemak family – Nazrin (assistant cook, waiter), Azureen (marketing, promotions, accounts), Nani (head chef), Lil Rafeeq (waiter, promoter), Shereen Jaafar (sous chef) and Lan Hydra (promoter). (Chantique Nasi Lemak pic)

Business has been good for Chantique Nasi Lemak. The team received an order of over 100 packets for lunch recently and the tenants at Langkawi Chantique have been faithful customers.

“When we started this business, we thought it would be a good side income, we never thought it would become such a big thing.

“Thanks to our friends and family in Langkawi, who are constantly supporting us, our business is doing really well,” said a pleased Azureen.

Chantique Nasi Lemak offers the full range of favourites, from the original nasi lemak-bilis-telur combo and nasi lemak-ayam goreng set to nasi lemak-sambal sotong. The crowd favourite however is hands down, nasi lemak rendang daging.

The Nasi Lemak 3 Jenis comes with generous portions of sotong sambal, fried chicken and beef rendang. (Chantique Nasi Lemak pic)

Their nasi lemak is on sale Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5pm to 8pm. Takeaway is available too and those who bring their own containers get a discount.

Azureen says the decision to only open for dinner was to avoid competing with the many locals on Langkawi island who sold nasi lemak in the morning to earn some extra income too.

Chantique Nasi Lemak
2346 Jalan Bohor Tempoyak
Kampung Lubok Buaya
07000 Langkawi
Kedah