Author Blurb: As a person living in the northwestern United States for 4 years, I will be honest, I have never found the appeal of food there. Maybe it’s too heavy, which isn’t my alley, and I prefer more seasoning to my meals.
But I was surprised to learn that some Malaysians fell in love with this cuisine, so much so that they opened a restaurant, Betty’s Midwest Kitchen to serve her.
Located in the small PJ neighborhood of Aman Suria, this quaint restaurant debuted at a time when American cuisine was still served primarily by chain restaurants like Chili’s and TGIF, as well as fast food brands like KFC and McDonald’s.
The life of the small town captured their hearts
“The cuisine of the west center is loved by our family. When we visited my sister [in Minneapolis, Minnesota], we fell in love with the agricultural markets, the diners on the road and the various establishments in the Midwest. It’s simple and forceful, ”Kevin told Vulcan Post.
Dictionary time: Midwest is a region of the United States with a more agricultural (agricultural) and rural lifestyle. Some notable cities in the Midwest are Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and so on.
At the time, Kevin was still working at a Malaysian restaurant with his wife, and the couple had ambitions to start their own. Eventually, the parents encouraged them to finance their business and Kevin’s mother also teamed up to help the business.
“I had formal training in the kitchen of Taylor’s College Hospitality and my mother [culinary skills are] totally self-taught. The recipes are a struggle of wills between me and my mother and, if we convince each other that we like it, it is activated “, recalled Kevin.
Finding your place in Malaysia
Betty’s Midwest Kitchen began in 2009 and today remains a popular place to eat for the local community.
“Choosing a location was difficult, but we were motivated by the price and the traffic. Aman Suria used to be a very young meeting place with a celebrity mamak restaurant nearby and was relatively unexploded, ”Kevin explained.
Although they did not share figures, Kevin considered that his cuisine has been well received by Malaysians. Their meat dishes are mainly pork, which they believed helped in the reception of the customers.
“Our most iconic dish would be our dog food,” Kevin shared, but before freaking out, it’s basically baked poutine (cheese, chips, and sauce) served on a cake plate that is it looks a lot like a dog food dish.
From the beginning of their restaurant until now, they have stayed pretty much stuck on the same menu, which includes a variety of burgers and ribs. And recently they have also been making their own bacon and gingerbread.
Expansion is not a priority
Despite all her years of operations, I was surprised to learn that Betty’s Midwest’s kitchen never expanded beyond her only Aman Suria outlet.
“We have previously rejected franchise offers. This restaurant has been more of a way of life for us than the income it brings. I don’t think it’s the same if it becomes a chain, ”Kevin shared with Vulcan Post.
In a way, they embody what is on the other spectrum of American capitalist culture by staying small, portraying the charm of the welcoming diners of the Midwest. In my experience, the latter was always found close to neighborhoods and families as a basic place to hang out.
Thanks to this charm, Kevin believes that he doesn’t quite compete directly with diners like Chili’s and TGIF, also because they don’t serve the same types of cuisine.
“In any case, I would say that the competition is new local restaurants that serve the neighborhood like us. It is not the product, it is what we represent in our neighborhood “, he concluded.
Take diners down the memory lane
Since their point of sale is the welcoming diner experience, there is an expectation for Kevin and his mother to always be there in person for their customers. But they also get something in return.
They have had a lot of customer support in R&D, most of which are American, but not necessarily from the Midwest. “While their input is valuable, we also weigh this against local opinion, but that rarely differs,” Kevin commented.
And it seems that these unofficial collaborations have borne fruit. Kevin shared that some of his proudest moments are when customers thank them for taking them down the memory path of their time in the Midwest.
Even though it’s a family business, Kevin has no plans to turn it into a heritage, as it feels like it’s a way of the past. That said, he plans to run it as long as possible.
Bottom line: As someone who has had food from the Midwest for four years in a row, I can attest to the authenticity of Betty’s Midwest Kitchen food. With time running out, it would be a shame to see how the diner ends up when Kevin decides to retire. However, not all small businesses are built with the goal of expanding or pursuing profits, and Betty Midwest’s kitchen is an example of this.
- You can learn more about Betty’s Midwest’s cuisine here.
- You can read about more F&B related pieces we’ve written here.
Featured Image Credit: Kevin Woon, founder of Betty’s Midwest Kitchen