KUALA LUMPUR: Ho Sing Fong, 89, does not fly a plane or steer a ship but he is the undisputed captain of one of the city's culinary icons.
The octogenarian used to be the head of the Coliseum Cafe and Hotel in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman before he retired last year after a brief illness.
The grandfather of seven, whose name has been listed in the Malaysia Book of Records as the longest serving captain of a restaurant, is fit again and wants to return to work.
“This place keeps me young at heart. I am strong enough to keep working and I really love it here,” he said at the restaurant yesterday.
Ho clocked half a century at the Coliseum before he left last year.
He has countless stories to tell about Kuala Lumpur's transformation over the years and his numerous experiences with the customers he has served, including the country's prime ministers.
“Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir used to be regulars here.
“Tun Abdullah Badawi's favourite was the sizzling steak and he liked to sit at this place,” he said, pointing to a table.
He has also served a number of international superstars including Andy Lau.
Former British war veterans who return to Malaysia with their families also make it a point to eat at the restaurant and look for the familiar figure whom they have known since the British colonial days.
Ho, who was born in Hainan, China, fled the country when the Communist Party of China took over.
Then only 18, he ended up in Kuching and tried to start a career as a photographer.
But the Second World War soon broke out and he had to flee for his life once again when Kuching came under heavy bombardment.
Ho made his way to Kuala Lumpur where he abandoned his dream of becoming a photographer and took up a job at the restaurant instead.
“Times were hard. I was lucky because I met the owner of the restaurant who was also from Hainan. He gave me a job as captain,” he said.
Ho said he sometimes wished that he had the chance to further his studies, but he has no regrets working at the Coliseum.
“I have always been very happy here,” added Ho.