A street vendor in Singapore is being recognized as one of the best chefs in the world.

For over 100 years, the Michelin Guide series has represented the gold standard for fine dining all over the world.

If you've never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant, your imagination has probably conjured up something like this:

If you knock those napkins over you feel like you're about to be arrested. Photo via iStock.


You might be seeing tablecloths, candles, and menus with words like "reduction,"  "consommé," and "foam." Your dishes are tiny yet mysteriously filling "deconstructions" served "over" this with a "drizzle" of that. You walk away feeling less like you had a meal, and more like you just had your tastebuds wistfully guided through a symphony of flavor, texture, and harmony the likes of which you may never be able to experience again. Mostly because you can't afford it.

In recent years, however, the Michelin-star experience has been changing.

Many have criticized the Michelin company and its rating system, saying it's too biased or its methods too secretive, or that it's just generally not an accurate measure of the planet's "best" restaurants, as it claims to be.

British chef Gordon Ramsay isn't just a loudmouthed reality show host. He has 16 Michelin stars. Photo by Gerry Penny/AFP/Getty Images.

Yet the Michelin star remains a coveted symbol of excellence for chefs all over the world. They work toward it, fight over it, and clammer for it like nothing else. It's their Nobel Prize.

In response to some of that criticism, Michelin has been expanding its reach to include food from more and more corners of the globe.

One of the most recent inclusions is Singapore, the Southeast Asian nation most known (culinarily speaking) for its street food.

A street vendor in Singapore. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

The streets and markets of Singapore are filled to the brim with so-called "hawker stalls" — tiny, intoxicating food stands serving up spicy, savory, sticky, fried, baked, and steamed flavorful bits of magic. The stalls are a national treasure in Singapore, and they're slinging out some of the best food that money can buy.

Singapore just became home to the first Michelin-starred street vendor in the world.

In a tiny park neighborhood called Outram, sits a hawker stall called "Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle."

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

It's run by Chan Hong Meng, a Malaysian born, Hong Kong trained chef whose chicken, pork belly, rice, and noodles have been known to create three-hour lines around the block in Singapore for years.

Meng recieved a phone call from Michelin in July 2016, inviting him to a gala. He was surprised, to say the least.

"Are you joking?" Meng recalls in a video for Michelin. "Why would Michelin want to come to my stall?"

Chan Hong Meng at work in his stall. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

They weren't joking, and they awarded him one of the highest honors in all of food.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

The Michelin guide's expansion into Singapore represents a significant shift in what is widely considered the "best."

For decades, Michelin-starred food was synonymous with "expensive." Now you can get a Michelin-starred dish for under $2. That isn't just affordable ... it's symbolic.

Chef Meng winning his Michelin star. Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

The standard-bearers for what counts as "fine cuisine" have begun to recognize that the best food in the world is not limited to Western countries, or to posh restaurants with tablecloths and napkin towers.

You can find culinary and cultural magic in the hidden corners of the world. You can find it in the smoke-filled markets where chefs are serving simple cuisine on paper plates to massive hungry crowds.

You can find it wherever you look. You just have to be looking for it.

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

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