A lifetime closely intertwined with two humble ingredients - flour and water - has allowed Mr Lai Chee Peng to follow his passion for baking bread, and earn a crust at the same time.
His father was a baker who owned a traditional bakery in Serangoon, so Mr Lai grew up loving the smell of freshly baked loaves.
His childhood was spent picking up various tricks of the trade and making deliveries with his father.
He joined the family business in 1984 after completing national service.
Mr Lai, 58, now runs Sing Hon Loong Bakery, which used to be managed by his two uncles.
The business at 4 Whampoa Drive, in Balestier, has been operating for more than 50 years, making it one of the last traditional bakeries here.
It churns out hundreds of loaves of soft, handmade bread with no added preservatives daily, and customers can request spreads such as butter, kaya and peanut butter.
Mr Lai tastes the different types of bread that are made to ensure their quality is consistent.
The bakery stays open 24 hours and closes for only four days in a year during Chinese New Year.
Most of his 15 staff are old-timers who have been working there for more than a decade, with 83-year-old Neo Wee Seng the oldest.
Mr Lai is married, but, with no children, his bakery faces an uncertain future as he does not have a successor in mind.
"Good hires are hard to find," he says.
"Most youngsters prefer to work in an air-conditioned environment, and the toughest part of the job involves taking the bread out and standing in front of the hot oven."
But bread lovers can relax - he plans to keep the bakery going for as long as his workers are willing.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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