MCO: Malaysian flight attendant and family turn to making burgers to make ends meet

Zack (right) and his son Johan Aizey busy preparing burgers under a tent in front of their home in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam. — Zakaria Abu Saim

The airline industry was one of the worst hit sectors when lockdowns were imposed in various countries due to the Covid-19 outbreak. In Malaysia, the same story unfolded.

Flight attendant Zakaria Abu Saim, 50, of Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam, was not spared.

"The aviation industry took the biggest blow as there weren't many flights scheduled. I was only getting one flight a month whereas, before, I was getting at least 10-12 flights," says the leading steward with Malaysia Airlines.

Zakaria (aka Zack) has been in the aviation industry for 27 years and, prior to that, five years in the hotel line.

When the pandemic broke out, and Zack's work was very badly affected, he and his wife Anis Suzanaz Borhan, 49, were naturally concerned, as they have three school- and college-age children to support: Atilla Hanna, 21; Johan Aizey, 17; and Kamal Aizey, 16.

Anis was also a flight attendant with Malaysia Airlines in her younger days. After flying for one-and-a-half years, the then 18-year-old left to work in a hotel. And before her marriage, she pursued broadcast journalism with a local TV station.

"Anis has been a stay-home mum since we got married. We barely managed to make ends meet before, so when the movement control order (MCO) hit, it really affected our household income.

"To support a family of five is tough, especially when the kids are getting bigger.

"We weren't only affected financially but also mentally and emotionally.... My wife and I had to be strong for the kids and support them the best we could."

Their situation forced the family to find other ways to generate income.Zack preparing some orders at his home-based stall.Zack preparing some orders at his home-based stall.

"The boys started working at a nearby cafe and, one day, came to me with an idea to open their own food business. They expressed their passion for burgers, so my wife and I immediately invested in an outdoor kitchen to start the business."

The family has always been enthusiastic about food, especially burgers.

"We've been experimenting on making burgers ever since the kids were little," says Zack. "And yes, all our burger patties are handmade." Plus they have concocted their own special sauce to go with the burgers.

"Our home kitchen is called Bay-6 (pronounced as 'basic'), and our concept is homemade Western food.

"For now, we only have burgers on the menu. We would like to expand to include pastas and maybe more – when the time is right. For now, we're just concentrating on improving our technique and the taste of our burgers."

Every member of the family chips in towards this endeavour.

Zack (right) and his entire family are involved in their home-based endeavour. (From left) Atilla Hanna, Anis Suzanaz Borhan, Johan Aizey and Kamal Aizey.Zack (right) and his entire family are involved in their home-based endeavour. (From left) Atilla Hanna, Anis Suzanaz Borhan, Johan Aizey and Kamal Aizey.

"Our first son, Johan, is in charge of cooking the burgers while Kamal is in charge of the preparation. Our daughter does the social media marketing for the business. My wife and I do the pre-prep and manage the operation."

Operating hours have been scaled back during the MCO and their kitchen is open from 4pm-8pm, Thursday to Sunday.

Western food aside, the resourceful family also offers a Malaysian favourite at their stall on weekends from 7.30am-10.30am.

"Actually, my wife and I started the nasi lemak bungkus business first, then started doing burgers when I found out my boys were interested in F&B," says Zack.

Zack with a homemade burger. When the time is right, he plans to expand the menu beyond burgers.Zack with a homemade burger. When the time is right, he plans to expand the menu beyond burgers.

The family is also prepared for the current MCO implemented in five states and three federal territories from Jan 13-26.

"Our customers mainly do takeaways, and we will also start doing delivery services to nearby areas. We will also engage with food delivery apps such as Food Panda and GrabFood."

So, although the pandemic is going to be around and the MCO is in effect, this resilient family looks set to ride it out.

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