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.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Front Page -

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.

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