If swimming was your favourite past-time or sport of choice from the late 1990s, the sight of Pg Patra Pg Hj Othman and his sizzling burgers was a welcome sight as you exited the blue steel gates of Brunei’s National Swimming Pool.
Pg Patra, along with a small collection of no more than 10 vendors would set up in a row behind cars parked closest to the pool. By 5pm, Pg Patra, who works routine hours as a caretaker, would pull out his table, fresh ingredients and canned drinks from his beat-up Tata, and begin cooking.
Almost always, Pg Patra (pictured above R) would bring along one of his kids, initiating them into the frontline of doing business. 2017 is a special year for Pg Patra, now in his 40s, as it marks 20 years since he first decided to set up what his regulars now affectionately call the stadium burger.
But since 2015, Pg Patra no longer leads the hot stove; his youngest, 17-year-old Ak Md Iffat (top picture), has taken up the reigns.
Dressed casually in white flip flops and football shorts, Ak Iffat arrives at mid-day to his father’s stall -now inside a trailer parked over a cemented plot not much bigger than an acre, infront of the Padang Balapan, some 30 to 50 metres from where his father first set up in 1997.
“We (the food vendors around the stadium) were moved here in 2013 (by the authorities),” said Ak Iffat, who’ll turn 18 next month. In plain sight, the cemented area has about 15 vendors, as evidenced by the number of trailers and huts, but regulars to the place share that it’s rare for it to be fully occupied.
The sight of seemingly unused chairs and tables mar the appearance of an otherwise ideal location for selling fresh food and drinks – for those working nearby, finishing an evening jog or attending a game of football.
The Stadium Burger, along with a handful of others however, have continued to plough forward, regardless of their surroundings. Pg Patra doesn’t mince words when he shares his trials in business he ultimately had to close; a tailor, a card shop and a restaurant. But he’s always imparted to his son that consistency, and showing up, is rule number one when it comes to business.
“We cannot show up one day and go missing the next,” said Ak Iffat, who began tending to the store full-time after finishing his O-Levels at Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien College. “Even if we’re not having a good day of business, we make sure we’re always around.”
The menu is simple, and affordable; prices are between $1 to $5. Three types of burgers are offered: chicken, beef and lamb. You can have a single or double patty – and then decide if you want an egg and a slice of cheese to go with it. The other staple is fried omelette served with minced meat over long baguette-type loaf – known to many as roti john – as well as indomie.
For drinks you have the standard canned sodas, but customers are now preferring iced milk teas made by Pg Patra – the Thai variety (either red or green) and the local teh tarik.
As the sun sets, and night begins to fall, Ak Iffat pulls the starter cord on their diesel generator to power the trailer’s lights, and continues to wait for customers with his father. The four street lights at the edges of the squared lot are supposed to illuminate the area, but they haven’t been turned on in a while, so aside from the Stadium Burger’s stall and two others, we’re in near darkness.
“Tomorrow I’ll be joining my friend at the Centre of Capacity Building’s (PPK) Market Day,” says Ak Iffat with a smile. The 17-year-old is still waiting on an answer from vocational and technical institutions – where he hopes to take welding – but he seems doubtful of being accepted; he points out that he left secondary school without an O-Level credit to his name. “I hear there will be jobs and training (at PPK). But if I don’t get it, it’s okay. I still have this.”
Stadium burger is open from Monday to Saturday, from 1pm to 7pm. To get in touch directly contact +6738894300.