Violet Oon



Violet Oon (b. 1949, Malaysia–) is a food critic, consultant, chef and cookbook writer. She is said to be one of the most recognisable names in Singapore’s food scene. Oon made her name as a food columnist and was later appointed a food ambassador by the Singapore Tourism Board in the late 1980s.1 She has made appearances on local and foreign television and radio programmes.2

Early life
Oon was born in 1949 to a Peranakan family. She grew up in Malacca, and the family later moved to Singapore, living in Kuo Chuan Avenue in Katong. She remembers living in colonial bungalows during her childhood days and her time in England as a child.3


Oon’s interest in cooking began when she was young. Her mother, who was a liberated woman in Oon’s opinion, never cooked. She therefore turned to her nonya (Peranakan) aunts for cooking tips.4 Her Peranakan heritage was a great influence on Oon’s cooking style.5

Career
Oon began her career as a journalist writing for the afternoon paper New Nation in the early 1970s. Penning mainly articles on music throughout her days with the New Nation, her editor then, David Kraal, asked Oon to pen a column on food by her editor in 1974. This marked the beginning of her illustrious food career. Oon recognised Kraal role in shaping her life in a dedication in her cookbook, A Singapore Family Cookbook (1998).6 She praised her first boss and editor who taught her how to “dream great dreams”.7


For the next 25 years, Oon was a dominant voice in Singapore’s food scene. She conducted cooking classes, appeared on radio and television programmes locally and internationally, and ran her own food publication from 1987 to 1996.8 She also started a food business, selling her cookies and spices, and even opened a few cafes in the mid-1990s.9 Oon was appointed as Singapore’s food ambassador by the then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now the Singapore Tourism Board) in the late 1980s, participating in food events such as the Singapore Food Festival, and leading culinary teams to the United States on food tours that showcased Asian and Singapore cooking.10 In addition, she began her own food consultancy service in 1995,11 and created her own brand of products such as nonya kueh, cookies, shepherd’s pies and curry powders.12

A consummate hostess, Oon often throws parties, and starts cooking early in the morning in a makeshift outdoor kitchen so that the smells can dissipate into the open air.13 She had moved into a semi-detached house at Seletar Airbase, following her divorce from her architect husband in the mid-’90s. There, she cultivated a fruit and vegetable garden and continued her cooking career.14

Timeline
1971:
Begins journalist career writing music articles for New Nation.15

1974: Starts writing as a food critic for New Nation.
1987–1996: Runs her own food publication.16
1988: Appointed Singapore’s food ambassador by Singapore Tourist Promotion Board.17
6 Aug 1993: Opens her first food outlet, Violet Oon’s Kitchen, at the basement of the Takashimaya department store.
1995: Violet Oon’s Kitchen at Takashimaya closed, and Violet Oon Consultants, a food consultancy, established.18
Jun 1995: Opens three theatre cafes – at Victoria Theatre, Drama Centre and Kallang Theatre.19
1996: Cookie business launched.20
Mar 1996: Theatre cafes closed due to poor business.21
2001: Begins selling her own range of products such as nonya kueh, cakes, snacks, cookies, jams, sauces, shepherd’s pies and curry powders.22
Nov 2002: Invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York, an American gourmet institution. She spent 10 days in New York promoting Singapore with her culinary skills.23
Aug 2003: Appears on the American Fox News Channel’s morning magazine programme, Fox and Friends, during which she cooks a three-course Singapore dinner comprising chicken rice, chilli prawns and iced fruits.24

Family
Parents: Oon Beng Soon and Nancy Oon.25

Children: Su-Lyn, a fashion designer who lives in Los Angeles, and Yiming.26



Author

Nureza Ahmad




References
1. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet’s spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lee, S. (2003, August 9). Violet cooks on US television. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet’s spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Culinary cupids. (1995, July 15). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tee, H. C. (2001, November 18). From recipes to kueh and spices. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Kraal, D. (1999, January 20). One and only Violet Oon. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Oon, V. (1998). A Singapore family cookbook. Singapore: Pen International. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 OON)
7. Kraal, D. (1999, January 20). One and only Violet Oon. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Kraal, D. (1999, January 20). One and only Violet Oon. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lum, M. (1995, March 26). New food outlet is a dream come true. The Straits Times, p. 15; Tee, H. C. (2001, November 18). From recipes to kueh and spices. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet’s spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46; Lee, S. (2003, August 9). Violet cooks on US television. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Yong, S. H. (1998, November 18). S’pore burp. The New Paper, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet’s spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46; Tee, H. C. (2001, November 18). From recipes to kueh and spices. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. I can pluck a vegetable or fruit and cook it right away. (1998, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Gwee, E. (1997, September 6). Helicopters, soldiers, tomatoes. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet's spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Kraal, D. (1999, January 20). One and only Violet Oon. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Lee, S. (2003, August 9). Violet cooks on US television. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Yong, S. H. (1998, November 18). S’pore burp. The New Paper, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lum, M. (1995, March 26). New food outlet is a dream come true. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Koh, B. P. (1996, December 29). You can now take your wife to Keong Saik Road. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Koh, B. P. (1996, March 21). Poor business so Violet Oon closes three theatre cafes. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tee, H. C. (2001, November 18). From recipes to kueh and spices. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Toh, E. (2003, March 15). Autumn in New York. The Business Times, p. 20; Lee, S. (2003, August 9). Violet cooks on US television. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lee, S. (2003, August 9). Violet cooks on US television. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Lui, J. (2009, December 14). Violet’s spice of life. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Kraal, D. (1999, January 20). One and only Violet Oon. The Straits Times, p. 6; Toh, E. (2003, March 15). Autumn in New York. The Business Times, p. 20; Yong, S. H. (1998, November 18). S’pore Burp. The New Paper, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Food: Buy from cheap markets, have reunion dinner at home. (1998, January 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Kwek, D. (2000, November 4). Wanted: Granny’s secret recipes. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Teo, P. L. (2002, December 1). Bibik bowls over James Beard. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Violet Oon plays chef, too. (1996, December 12). The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Wong, A. Y. (2001, September 2). Bites. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
 

Subject
Cookery>>Food
Personalities
Women cooks--Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies