FESTIVAL OF FOOD
Determined to eat himself to a standstill without gaining a single kilo, glutton Mark Eggleton weighs up his options at Singapore’s food and wine fair.
G eoffrey Bone is in a jovial mood. Gesturing towards what looks like a heated exchange between six chefs, he sidles up to me and says: “They’re arguing over how to present the Sara Lee Pound Cake once they get it out of the box. It’s all Aunty Sara here; the kitchens are for show.” The executive chef at Singapore’s The Ritz-Carlton is in a buoyant mood because the hotel’s cavernous kitchens have been turned over for a week to a selection of chefs billed as the best of the new world, including Bone’s mentor, chef Jacques Reymond, who gave him his break back in 1984 at famed Melbourne diner Mietta’s.
Touted as “a stellar gathering of chefs and an epicurean pairing of sumptuous culinary creations and exceptional vintages”, the New World Food and Wine Festival is a series of dining and wine-tasting events. My sole reason for being there was to be a glutton. And I had a cunning plan to prevent things from going belly up, so to speak. My aim was to eat at all the festival events as well as sample as much local cuisine as possible without gaining a skerrick of weight. My plan was to exercise vigorously between events.
Like most grand plans, at the outset things were looking good. On arrival in Singapore, I stepped onto the bathroom scales and recorded a relatively trim 73.7kg. Feeling rather fit, I went for a jog in the afternoon’s steamy humidity then spent half an hour in the gym. I weighed myself again and had lost 300g. I was ahead of the game.
The first event was a cocktail reception with mountains of food prepared by the guest chefs and a few locals. Each chef cooked at a live station in the hotel’s ballroom and guests ate bucketloads of lobster, oysters, foie gras, the best of France’s soft cheeses and bits of strawberrycovered chocolate mountains, washing it all down with wines from South Africa’s Doolhof Estate. After dinner, I hit the streets in a bid to find a hawker store for a first bite of street food. A rather pleasant nasi goreng and a few refreshing Tiger beers nearly took me over the edge. Those 300g shed earlier were handy to have up the sleeve.
Day two kicked off with exercise. A 2km run followed by a weights session, and no need for a weigh-in because I felt totally in control. Breakfast involved an English starter of bacon and eggs followed by something to get the palate in the mood for a long day ahead – a nice curry. Lunch was a step up. Guest chef Kazumi Uemoto from Osaka had created a tantalising menu matched with three Krug champagnes. A starter of sesameseed tofu with shrimp, caviar and asparagus was followed by five exquisitely delicate courses drawing on Uemoto’s food philosophy: bringing the natural flavours of a dish to the front.
Sampling Salitage wines from the Pemberton region of Western Australia took up the rest of the afternoon before a dinner by Jacques Reymond, whose Melbourne restaurant has won nearly every dining gong in Australia. He’s passionate about food and outspoken when it comes to “culinary faux pas”. His dinner matched with Salitage wines was arguably the week’s triumph.