“You don’t have to be a drug addict, can become a chef”, An Inspirational Story about Ex-Offender, Benny Se Teo



Can’t wait to share this inspirational story with you! I have to say I was totally surprised when I walked into the restaurant Eighteen Chefs and listened to the story of Benny Se Teo, Eighteen Chefs’s owner.

I participated in the exchange program, FASSTrack Asia in this year’s winter school. I studied two short courses in National University of Singapore, one is the Sociology of Food. I have to say how I was lucky in the course! Because I had a chance to visit Eighteen Chefs and knew the inspirational story of ex-offender, Benny.

Eighteen Chefs1

My dear teacher of the Sociology of Food & classmates
We Are Waiting Food, HaHa

Eighteen Chefs is a special restaurant because it is not only a food business but also successfully serves to rehabilitate ex-offenders. “Hire certain group of people I will call ‘beneficiaries’, 36% are ex-convicts or delinquent”, the owner and executive chef Benny Se Teo said. One crucial reason why Eighteen Chefs serves to rehabilitate ex-offenders is that Benny was an offender and had similar experience in finding a job. “I was rejected by 6 job interviews due to a crime record about drug addiction and I knew how it is difficult to find a  job for ex-convicts, that’s why I would like to provide a chance for them to start a new life,” he said.


” You don’t have to be a drug addict, can become a chef,” Benny said. He provides them a chance to be a chef, senior chef or manager in this business.

Benny and his Team


Eighteen Chefs is a useful platform for reintegration of ex-convicts and youth-at-risk. Benny not only offers a training to encourage them obtain new skills but importantly helps them solve the problem of drug addict, recover self-confidence and rebuild relationships with families, friends. “There was once when ex-convicts made up 50% of my staff. I spent more time solving their problems than running the business,” Benny said.

Additionally, he treats them like families, not stranger, and he tells them to trust and love each other. There are a warm working environment and fair treatment without discrimination in Eighteen Chefs.

“On ChannelNewsAsia, we were voted 1 of the Top 3 Social Enterprises in Singapore”, Benny said. Eighteen Chefs creates social values that ex-offenders are able to start a new life independently and don’t have to be drug addict again, which is beneficial for government to rehabilitate them.

Could you find a place like this in Sydney?

Video: Benny Se Teo – “From ‘beng’ to businessman”

Eighteen Chef’s website: http://www.eighteenchefs.com/v2/

I believe you could definitely love it!

-by Xinru Liu


12 thoughts on ““You don’t have to be a drug addict, can become a chef”, An Inspirational Story about Ex-Offender, Benny Se Teo

    1. Yes, he’s amazing! His restaurant is one of Top 3 Social Enterprise in Singapore. I felt really warm when I ate at the restaurant! Many businesses can do more than what they expected once they decide to do it, like this. It’s a long time to change their mind.


    1. Yes, the past is just past, It can’t change anything when we judge what happened in past, the importance we should do is helping them get a new life with positive attitude.


  1. People shouldn’t judges ex-offender’s working ability and passionate just by it’s working record. I regard this as serious as discrimination, Because he is black, he xxxxxx . Because she is Asian, she can’t xxxxx. It’s ridiculous!

    Liked by 1 person

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