Why The World Street Food Congress Dialog Matters? #WSFC2017

By Sean



The World Street Food Congress convened for the second year in the Philippines. Chefs and culinary influencers from around the world came together for a 2-day conference that celebrated this year’s theme: “Re-Imagine Possibilities”.   

Talks ranged from preserving street food culture to protecting the rights of street vendors and reimagining heritage foods for the younger generation.  

This year’s conference was made special by a visit from the one and only Anthony Bourdain, who shared his insights on this year’s topic and the impact of street food culture in America.  

Pictured Top: Some of the World Street Food Congress 2017 speakers and presenters — from left to right: Sau del Rosario (co-host), Richard Tan, Greg Drescher (Keynote), Malcolm Lee, Mai Pham, Anthony Bourdain, Wanda Corazon Teo (Secretary of Philippine Tourism), Ulf Tassilo Muench, KF Seetoh (Founder & Host), Claude Tayag,  Peter Lloyd,  Anton Diaz, Odilia Winneke, Arbind Singh, Prof. Nguyen Nha 

World Street Food Congress
The 2-day dialog was a platform where chefs and pioneers could showcase their work and share ideas with each other and the audience.  

Some of the Chefs gave demonstrations as they tried to reinterpret simple heritage foods and cuisine for the modern age. 

Guests were able to purchase various international street food from 28 hawker stalls that made up this year’s Jamboree.

World Street Food Congress 2017: Top 10 Hawker Dishes 

World Street Food Congress 2017: Dialog
Mall Of Asia Concert Grounds
Seaside Blvd, Pasay Philippines 
Metro Manila 
May 31st – Jun 1st, 2017

World Street Food Congress 2017 Series:

World Street Food Congress 2017: Top 10 Favorite Dishes at the Jamboree!
 Why The World Street Food Congress Dialog Matters? #WSFC2017
 World Street Food Jamboree through the Lens of LG G6 (Photo Essay)

Summary of  WSFC 2017 Dialog


Host KF Seetoh (founder of World Street Food Congress and Makansutra) has made a name for himself, having exposed the world to Singaporean street food culture through his popular TV series and writings.  

Sharing his passion and knowledge for great food, Seetoh has drawn attention from all sectors of the culinary industry. The World Street Food Congress has had a large impact on culinary circles and has been a successful platform for awareness, propelling street food into the mainstream, and helping protect Street Food Vendor/Hawker culture in SE Asia.

He believes that street food vendors/hawkers are the “protectors of food heritage”, as they usually perfect one dish that has been handed down to them through the generations.

He also is an advocate for hawker education and government programs and assistance, which can help vendors learn about hygiene and proper food handling, as well as educating them about their rights as merchants.   

He hopes that through open dialog and through the sharing of ideas, attendees will have a better understanding of street food culture and learn what they can do to help preserve it. 

“Hawker” is a term synonymous with “street vendor”, commonly used in most parts of SE Asia. 


Chef Sau del Rosarioowner and Chef of Café Fleur and 25 Seeds in Pampanga, Philippines–Co-hosting this year with Seetoh.  

Chef Sau shared a bit of his childhood and how his mother and father were instrumental in shaping his career (both being well-known cooks). He grew up immersed in the culinary heritage of Pampanga and was taught at a young age recipes that were handed down by his family for generations. Having honed his craft in Paris, he began to explore other cuisines–particularly the flavors of SE Asia–and he has been incorporating that knowledge into his menus ever since.   

In keeping with the theme if this year’s World Street Food Congress 2017, “Re-Imagining”, Chef Sau awed the attendees with a quick cooking demo.  


Sisig Paella! As good and delicious as it sounds–the pork infused the rice with richness and flavor, highlighted by the grilled chicken liver, sauteed onions, and a bit of chili for spice.

Sau’s take on a popular Kapampangan Street Food was a play on tradition, melding classical Spanish cooking techniques with an original Filipino street food invention. His demo perfectly encapsulated this year’s theme and was a shining example of preserving the heritage of a dish while making something new and exciting that speaks to all generations.   

wsfc2017post28aGreg Drescher of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) sits as the organization’s Vice-President of strategic initiatives and industry leadership. 

He gave a fascinating Keynote on the past, present, and future of street food culture and its expanding Asian influences in America. 

Greg argues, “This is the best time to be in the food industry.And that food culture, in general, is being shaped not only by prestigious institutions like Michelin or the CIA, but by technology, innovation, village cooks, and the local street food hawker.  Traveling the world has opened his eyes to the different food traditions and cultures and he brings that shared knowledge back to the US with him. He has created the successful World of Flavour International Conference & Festival, as well as the Worlds of Healthy Flavours and Menus of Change Leadership Conference.



Arbind Singh, founder of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), shared his very empowering story of how he challenged the local authorities in India by advocating for the legitimization of street vendors and merchants. Through hard work and determination, he was able to help the livelihood of thousands of street vendors by teaching them how to secure their rights from the government and helped them organize into a powerful network of “informal laborers”

There are now street vendor organizations in almost all of India’s cities.  

Arbind has dedicated a large portion of his time in helping those who may not know how to help themselves, and he is sure that his model can be implemented throughout SE Asia or in regions where street merchants may find themselves trying to make a living under horrible conditions and government neglect.  

Get to know more about this amazing organization by clicking here: NASVI


Award winning chef, Claud Tayag, has been an inspiration to many up-and-coming chefs in the Philippines. Hailing from Pampanga, he has great pride in his culinary traditions and is a bit of a purist when it comes to Filipino cuisine. He believes that adhering to culinary traditions is the way to preserve Filipino culinary heritage.  

That being said, he is also up for trying new things and new techniques, and he isn’t afraid to put a modern take on a traditional dish–as long as the essence of that dish is preserved. His philosophy is apparent in his menus and paying a visit to “Bale Dutung (his renowned restaurant), you’ll get to see and try this first hand as Chef Claud presents a number Filipino dishes by utilizing traditional cooking techniques. His most popular menu item is the “Lechon 5 Ways.


Chef Peter Lloyd has had an illustrious 24-year career, having helmed some of the most successful restaurants in Britain. Chef Lloyd has worked alongside some of the most influential chefs in the world and has finally branched out on his own, opening the very successful Sticky Mango restaurant in London. 

Chef Lloyd has always had an affinity for SE Asian flavors. He explained how his travels through SE Asia helped him grow as a chef and why he decided to focus his first restaurant on modern SE Asian cuisine, despite being British. 

In today’s politically charged environment where there are debates on subjects such as “cultural appropriation” and globalization is shaping the world in ways that are still not fully understood, Chefs like Lloyd who aren’t afraid to explore new flavors and cuisines are really at the forefront of bridging gaps between cultures. 

His demo exemplified his thoughts on the matter.


He reimagined a classic Thai staple–“Sticky Rice with Mango“–by putting a modern twist on this beloved SE Asian street food.  

It’s become his signature dish and was the inspiration for his restaurant, Sticky Mango. 

Chefs Lloyd’s popular version is a coconut sticky rice topped with a mock egg made from coconut milk and mango sauce.


Anton Diazfounder of ASEAN’s Number 1 Food & Travel Blog, Our Awesome Planet, and Co-Founder of Mercato Centrale, stressed the importance social media has on the food industry, and how vendors, hawkers, and entrepreneurs can best capitalize on its power.

The popularity of Mercato Centrale, along with the trend of Food Parks and Street Food Markets that have been popping up throughout Metro Manila and the Philippines, is a testament to the power of social media, which is helping shape the street food culture of the Philippines.  

Anton believes that social media is a way to thrust Pinoy Heritage food onto the international stage



Ruth Algeria gave an empowering speech on the deep culinary roots shared between Mexico and the Philippines, with booth countries having traded with each other for centuries via the Spanish Galleon Trade network.  

Latin American food has shaped the culinary landscape of the United States and other parts of the world and Ruth is proud to share her culinary heritage.   

Her success in the restaurant business has led her to found the Princeton Cooking School. She is also an organizer of cultural heritage food tours throughout Mexico.    


Michelin-starred Chef Andy Yang has taken the New York culinary scene by storm. The Rockstar Chef is the brains behind the popular Rhong Tiam Thai restaurants and street carts that focus on regional Thai cuisine.

Chef Yang believes that all restaurants and street food vendors have one thing in common that is the key to success: “Mise en Place”, which is a French culinary phrase that means “everything in place”. It is a reference to the importance of proper setup and preparation in the kitchen before actual cooking begins. 

It was through this philosophy, combined with dedication and consistency, that Chef Andy was awarded a Michelin-star.  


Chef Yang took his message further by demonstrating how easy it was to work with almost any ingredient, as long as you are well prepared.  

He showed this by utilizing local Filipino ingredients and making a traditional Thai-style salad.  


Malcolm Lee was awarded a Michelin-star for his modern menu that reinterprets traditional Peranakan Cuisine in his latest restaurant, Candlenut.

The young Singaporean chef was able to capture the spirit of his culinary heritage and translate that into something new and exciting. He is adamant about preserving the essence of each dish while making something totally new yet familiar.  

The Peranakan are the descendants of Chinese immigrants that settled in the Malay Archipelago during the 10th century. The community is primarily made up of people of Hoklo (Hokkien) Ancestry.   


Chef Lee’s reimagined traditional Peranakan Duck Soup, with duck meatballs and mustard greens.  



Odilia Winneke, a food editor at Indonesia’s DetikFood.com, talked about the increasing international demand for Indonesian Halal Food and the presence of Halal food in the Philippines.

She addressed the challenges Muslims may face with the introduction of Halal foods for the international markets, but cited the success of The Halal Guys in New York as proof that Halal is marketable.



Ulf Tassilo Muench, a Chef, Culinary Consultant, and advocate for Street Food has been at the forefront of shaping street food culture in Germany. Having trained in Japan as a ramen chef, he was able to bring Asian-style street foods to the German market.  

His talk entitled “New Market – New Opportunity!” focused on how to efficiently commercialize street food for a German audience who had little comprehension of Asian-style street food and street food culture in general.  


Shen Tan walked away from a cozy corporate life to follow her dream of owning her own restaurant.  

She gave up everything to open her first Hawker stall in Singapore, and it was from these humble beginnings that Chef Tan honed her craft. Chef Shen’s story is an inspiring one and is proof that sometimes, it is better to follow your passion.   

Chef Tan is known for her Modern-Singaporean (Mod-Sin) dishes and her twists on ordinary hawker food. She’s made a name for herself for her fearlessness and willingness to experiment with new ingredients.  

She now works as a Consultant in the Food & Beverage Industry and is eager to help young entrepreneurs. For more information, click here: Madam Tan Consulting


Chef Mai Pham shared her experience of growing up as a Vietnamese immigrant in the US. Her family had lost everything during the war and were forced to flee to America in search of a better life. She now runs the very successful Lemon Grass Restaurant and the Star Ginger chain.  

Food was a way for Chef Pham to rediscover her heritage. She’s introduced Vietnamese food concepts to mainstream America and has been an influential figure in the Asian American community.  

She points to the global trend of eating healthier and how sustainable products are in demand, and how Asian flavors are becoming more commonplace in the West.  

She prepared an iconic dish from her homeland. 


Bánh Xèo is a crispy savory crepe that is a popular Vietnamese street food. It’s stuffed with meats and vegetables and eaten with fresh Thai basil lettuce and dipped in a sweet and spicy chili lime sauce.  


Professor Nguyen Nha introduced us to the world of Vietnamese street food and the women of Vietnam who play a vital role in keeping the traditions alive.

Formerly the head of the Institute for Vietnamese Gastronomic Research, Professor Nha now leads the Vietnam Cusine for the World Project and is developing culinary tourism in Ho Chi Minh City. 


David Yip has led a successful 30-year career in journalism before going into the food industry.  

David has traveled throughout China in search of heritage foods and frequently gives talks and demonstrations on the subject.

He explained how Chinese “Foodie” travelers and young entrepreneurs are a new market eager to try new things.  



Anthony Bourdain made a special appearance this year to share his thoughts on street food, the impact it’s having on the American market, and why the World Street Food Congress is an important event

He opened by sharing how he’s always reminded on his show to “not talk about politics and to stick to the food”But in true Bourdain fashion, he proceeds to talk about politics.  

Bourdain claims that“in fact, there is nothing more political than food”. For him, food is a reflection of who we are, where we come from, and what we love. Food is a statement, an intimate connection to our history, and it’s through humility and hardships that street food is born.  

“Wealthy cultures that have been lucky, fortunate, and prosperous generally don’t cook very well, because they never had to. It’s the cultures who’ve had to struggle and make the most of what little they have who over time, have learned how to make wonderful things.” 

He views street food as an integral part of society and values the knowledge that is handed down from vendor to vendor to customer.  

“Food is something that every culture clings to–someone is always telling you a story when they cook for you…when you allow them to cook for you. When you sit down without judgment or preconceptions, often what you have delivered (in a very human way), is something that you eat with your hands.” 

“The street vendor in Mexico who rolls up a taco and hands it to you, they make it with their hands–there is an intimate transfer going on. They’re telling you, ‘This is where I come from.'”   

He now worries about the future of street food, because according to him, “street food is under threat”, and he uses New York as an example, where street food is still somewhat frowned upon.

Anthony aims to change the hearts and minds of Americans and is in the works of opening a central market or “Real Market” similar to those found in other countries

If you want more Anthony Bourdain, check him out here: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Final Thoughts


World Street Food Congress 2017 was a definite step-up from the last. Having being held at much larger venue really paid off.  

Getting to hear directly from Anthony Bourdain, KF Seetoh, Arbind Singh, and the others was a once in a lifetime experience that won’t easily be forgotten. Their passion and drive to keep heritage food and traditions alive in their home countries and help those abroad is a testament to how even with something as simple as food, we can find common ground.

It was a chance to learn from some of the best and the brightest in their respected crafts–a chance to see how even the lowly street hawker can impact the entire culinary world with a single dish.

World Street Food Congress 2017: Dialog
Mall Of Asia Concert Grounds
Seaside Blvd, Pasay Philippines 
Metro Manila 
May 31st – Jun 1st, 2017


World Street Food Congress 2017 Series:

World Street Food Congress 2017: Top 10 Favorite Dishes at the Jamboree!
 Why The World Street Food Congress Dialog Matters? #WSFC2017
 World Street Food Jamboree through the Lens of LG G6 (Photo Essay)

Live an Awesome Life,

sean signature

SEAN NOLAN of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: We were guests of World Street Food Congress and Makansutra. I wrote this article with my own biases, opinions, and insights. 

P.S. The next World Street Food Congress will be held in the Philippines for the 3rd time in 2018!

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