ASIAN CULINARY EXCHANGE 2018: Learning Notes on How to Address Issues in the Food Industry

Asian Culinary Exchange

The ASIAN CULINARY EXCHANGE is the first ever event where top chefs and restaurateurs from all over Asia come together for a two-day event aimed at improving the countries’ food and beverage industry.

The first day includes a forum tackling the issues in the industry like harassment in the workplace, gender issues, sustainability, managing food waste, and how to set up a restaurant in the social media age. The second day was an exciting collaboration dinner with Asia’s top chefs and Manila’s best restaurants that are up for grabs for anyone interested!

The guest chefs include chef Vicky Cheng from VEA Hong Kong, who earned a Michelin star in 2016, chef Thitid Tassanakajohn of Le Du in Bangkok, which currently ranks number 14 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and MasterChef Asia winner Woo Wai Leong who’s now behind Singapore’s Restaurant Ibid. There will also be local chefs and speakers, such as Bruce Ricketts and Dedet de la Fuente, sharing their knowledge about the industry.

Here’s what we learned from day one’s forum…
How to Improve Regional Pride

Asian Culinary Exchange

Bryan Koh, author of Chalk Farm (Singapore)

Accessibility to more eateries with regional offerings, especially in Manila and Cebu because they are the gateways.
 Food campaigns & Food Tours. Raise your flags hit the road because some of the best Filipino food lies outside the city.
• Appreciation begins with education. Create awareness by teaching Filipino cooking in cookery/culinary schools.
 Education on Filipino cuisine begins at home. Home cooking is where the identity lies.


Sustainability by Going Local (Addressing the global food issue)

Asian Culinary Exchange

Thitid Tassanakajohn, Le Du (Bangkok)

• Make your own small network with local suppliers.
• Three years ago, Le Du restaurant became 100% all ingredients sourced Thai. How did they do that? While supermarkets carry international brands, chef Thitid took his time to connect with local farmers, and fisherman for the ingredients he specifically needed.
• What’s his end goal? Chef Thitid wanted to showcase the best and freshest ingredients the country has to offer in his modern Thai dishes, where customers can not only taste the cuisine but also taste the land. He quoted “Because Thailand has vast Farmlands, it would be a shame not to use it.”

Vicky Cheng, VEA  (Hong Kong)
 There are products around that are beautiful, and you should take time to explore before importing.
• Though Hong Kong has little farmlands, there is beautiful seafood available in the seas. Most of the seafood he used are sourced in HK, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t go to the market and draw inspiration from what’s in season.
 We believe in sustainable. In Hong Kong it happens, when fishing is limited at the moment, they will find fish that is in season or import.

Myke Sarthou (Philippines)
The typical Filipino does not have the budget.
• The problem with the Philippines is that the local market is saturated with lesser seafood types like milkfish and tilapia, while the great seafood and agricultural produce are exported out of the country.
• The best fish rots, because restos tend to go commercial with fishes like the cream dory.
• The best fish rots, because there is no way of storing the fish. It should be the government’s job, and the private sector does not want to invest.
• No facility to process the products to increase its lifespan or distribute it.
 Farmers and fishermen find it more expensive to transport fruits to the market than throwing it out away.


Asian Culinary Exchange

Is Zero Waste Attainable in a Restaurant of the 21st Century?

Vicky Cheng, VEA  (Hong Kong)
VEA has a strong zero waste program. He owes it all to his mentor who showed him to use every part of the ingredient. Be creative with the things that can not be used like the bones and head of the fish for fish sauce.
 It needs to come naturally, something that you believe in and your team believes in. Often have meetings and briefings with the staff and if they forget, remind them again.
 Chef Vicky is very proud that their food cost is very low, not because they use cheap ingredients, but because food doesn’t go to waste.

Sun Kim, Meta (Singapore)
He believes it is his fault if his staff waste ingredients, for not educating the next generation.
Collectively with the chef friend, we can make a difference, it all starts with the leaders teaching their subordinates.

Thitid Tassanakajohn,  Le Du (Bangkok)
 Though Thailand does spoil you, with what the best the land has to offer. But if you own your own restaurant and want to be successful, you have to have little food waste, because it is your money.
 Everyone from the staff needs to support. He urges you to start even if it’s hard in the beginning. If you don’t train them now, you will have other staff from the next generation not following.


What Do You Think of Trends?

Rishi Naleendra, Cheek by Jowl (Singapore)
• The Cheek by Jowl does not follow trends. After 3-4 months the trend dies down- after that where do you stand?
• What kind of a restaurant do you want to be? Don’t abide by the trends, but put yourself out there, and making them like it.
• Once you change the mentality of the restaurant it becomes confusing for the customers.

Keirin Buck, Le Bon Funk (Singapore)
 Trends come and go, but what’s important is the food delivered.
 Make sure before opening a resto, you already have your feet on the ground and stay firm in what you believe in. As long as you serve great quality food and excellent service.
 Take time pondering and listening to your customers, and tweaking a little if needed.
 Be consistent, even with the new offerings, stay true, and keep moving forward.


Asian Culinary Exchange

How to Deal with Social Media Bashing

Eli Antonino, Moment Group (Philippines)
The Moment Group loves it, it’s instant feedback on where they can improve on. For them, a comment is not tasteless, but everyone has a different taste.
We don’t chase millennials, but they are part of the market.

Rishi Naleendra, Cheek by Jowl (Singapore)
• Is The Customer Always Right? No, it’s such an old saying.

Bruce Ricketts, Mecha Uma (Philippines)
In social media, customers are not always right, but if you can do something to make them happy, why not.
Take criticism as it is, it only hurts when you allow it, and then change your perspective in a  positive direction. It’s your chance to be better, and when they come back, show them that you’ve improved.


How Do You Know When it’s Time to Expand the Brand

Eli Antonino, Moment Group (Philippines)
• When you see lines outside the door and you need more room to accommodate, that’s how you know, that’s how you want to spread love in another neighborhood.


Is it Hard to Find Passionate People to Work With?

Rishi Naleendra, Cheek by Jowl (Singapore)
• “The younger cooks nowadays, just because they get a nice Japanese knife, work for three hours a day, think they are already a chef. ” – The younger generation should understand that it takes years of commitment to become a chef.
To find passionate people is not hard, but someone who is committed for 2 years that is hard.


Asian Culinary Exchange

Congratulations Angelo Comsti on your successful event!

Nov 26-27, 2018
Samsung Hall, SM Aura


ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: We were media guests of the Asian Culinary Exchange.  I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.

P.S. Congratulations also to Dedet for sharing her inspiring Lechon Diva story!

Asian Culinary Exchange

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