50 Groundbreaking Gastronomes from Around Asia
Whether they are creating award-winning sparkling wine from indigenous Taiwanese grapes, devising innovative ways to reduce food waste in Singapore or reinventing traditional Sichuan chilli sauce, these chefs, mixologists, food critics and entrepreneurs a
Meet the chefs, mixologists, food critics, sustainability warriors and entrepreneurs who are bringing innovation and excellence to Asia’s food and beverage scene
GAN GUOYI AND INDRA KANTONO
WHY THEM? Founders of the Jigger & Pony Group, this husband-and-wife team can be credited with elevating Singapore’s cocktail culture in a major way. Their portfolio of food and beverage companies includes the renowned Italian restaurant Caffe Fernet and such acclaimed bars as Jigger & Pony and Gibson, both of which were included in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2018. Indra and Guoyi are passionate about investing in their staff and are known for fostering inclusive and happy workplaces.
WHY HER? The grande dame of Singaporean cookery and a champion of Peranakan cuisine, Violet is a much loved media personality and the founder, owner and head chef of Violet Oon Singapore at Bukit Timah, Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill at Clarke Quay and National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery Singapore. The former journalist and food critic has appeared on TV shows for the BBC, CNN and the Food Network and has written three cookbooks. Last month, she launched an all-day dining and retail concept at Ion Orchard, which features a 100-seat brasserie and a boutique where she will offer her own line of food products celebrating local flavours and traditions.
LOH LIK PENG
WHY HIM? Lik Peng is the quintessential renaissance man. As founding director of the Unlisted Collection: an umbrella brand for six boutique hotels and 16 restaurants in London, Singapore, Dublin, Shanghai and Sydney, he has brought to life acclaimed eateries such as Jason Atherton’s Esquina, Steve Allen’s Pollen, Dave Pynt’s Burnt Ends, Rishi Naleendra’s Cheek By Jowl, Ivan Brehm’s Nouri and Clayton Wells’ Automata, to name a few.
WHY HER? Nichol co-founded the Food Bank Singapore, which seeks to minimise food waste by encouraging companies and individuals to donate excess food to the less fortunate. With the guidance of a food hygiene consultant, the food bank collects unused ingredients, cooks them in a central kitchen and packs the dishes into meal boxes to be distributed to the city’s hungry. Nichol is also the president of One Singapore, a charity working to eradicate poverty and hunger, promote education and advocate for the rights of migrants.
WHY HIM? Co-owner and chef at Odette, one of the most celebrated French restaurants in Singapore, Julien is famous for his contemporary take on French cuisine. Housed in the National Gallery Singapore, his minimalist pastel sanctuary reflects his less-ismore approach to food, which centres on the purity of ingredients. The restaurant boasts two Michelin stars and is on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Julien is collaborating with chef Alexandre Couillon of the two Michelin-starred La Marine on a one-off four-hands dinner at Odette this month.
WHY HIM? The founder of Yu Zhi Lan restaurants in Chengdu and Shanghai, Guijun is breathing new life into Chinese cuisine. His mission is to reframe classic Chinese cookery—and the dining experience that accompanies it—as luxurious, delicate and intimate in the vein of world-class institutions such as The French Laundry. Declared by The New York Times as the new emperor of Chinese gastronomy, Guijun is particularly known for his virtuosity in Sichuan cookery and his fine, quasi-japanese presentation.
WHY HIM? As executive chef at the Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Otto directs all things culinary at the Shanghai establishment’s three restaurants: The Cook, The Brew, and The Meat. Otto employs French cooking techniques and is committed to using seafood that is sustainably, ethically and, most notably, locally sourced. In September, he introduced seafood from Dalian, Haikou and Zhoushan to his menu at The Cook. He has recently been exploring chilli farming in Guangzhou and intends to incorporate the fiery peppers into his dishes.
WHY HER? Food blogger, critic and cook, Jenny grew up in the West but was drawn back to her ancestral home of Chengdu by her love for the region’s famously spicy cuisine. From her base in Sichuan, she has contributed to multiple publications including New York Magazine and Vice, as well as TV shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. NEXT ON HER PLATE Under her new brand, Fly By Jing, Jenny is selling her own takes on traditional Sichuan sauces, all of them made in Chengdu.
WHY HIM? Provocative, innovative and experimental in his approach to food, this one-time science student is the chef de cuisine at Shanghai’s most avant-garde restaurant, Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, which has three Michelin stars. At Ultraviolet, daring gastronomy is fused with multisensory technology to create a fully immersive dining experience in which light, sound, theatre, scent and temperature are manipulated throughout a 20-course degustation menu. Ultraviolet was placed eighth in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Rumour has it that Paul and his team are working towards a new dining concept with VOL Group, the company behind Bar Rouge and Mr & Mrs Bund.
WHY HIM? A pioneer of upscale vegetarian cuisine, Tony is the executive chef of Shanghai’s Fu He Hui, which has a Michelin star. Specialising in exotic fungi, the three-storey restaurant has earned a reputation as a temple of haute plant-based food that applies French, Indian and British cooking techniques to traditional Chinese ingredients. Tony’s concept of a US$120 tasting menu was initially criticised (the Financial Times characterised Fu He Hui’s prices as “audacious” in 2016), but the restaurant’s popularity has proven that diners are just as willing to fork out on exquisite vegetables as they are on red meat. THAT’S NOT ALL Tony is also a consultant to Yong Yi Ting at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai.
WHY HIM? While studying at a New York university, Hangzhou native Demos had a transcendent experience at an upscale dessert bar called Chikalicious in the East Village. Beguiled by the brand, he decided to bring it to China. Now, as the owner of the Chikalicious outlets in Shanghai and Beijing, he is changing the way Chinese diners think about dessert, with prix fixe pastry menus consisting of an amuse bouche, a main course (the fromage blanc cheesecake is not to be missed) and petit fours. Demos has also garnered high praise for building an extensive list of dessert wines and champagne. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Demos is launching a project that will see Chikalicious boutiques serve as hubs for art exhibitions, wine tastings and tea sharing.
WHY HIM? Andrian opened Indonesia’s first restaurant inspired by molecular gastronomy when he launched Namaaz Dining in Jakarta in 2012. If you manage to nab a spot at the 28-seat restaurant, expect plenty of surprises from the chef’s 17-course set menu, which plays with traditional Indonesian ingredients and flavours.
WHY HER? Vanessa took her family’s traditional herbal elixir business into the 21st century in 2014 when she founded Djamoe Workshop, a pop-up class that travels around Indonesia teaching young people how to make traditional herbal drinks. She has since taken it a step further by founding Jamu Jamu Co to sell her own healthy blends. OUT OF THE KITCHEN Vanessa is also an actress and a Muay Thai fanatic with a black belt in taekwondo.
WHY HER? After studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, pastry chef Talita returned to Indonesia in 2013 to open Beau, a boulangerie and patisserie. It provides goods—all made with natural, local ingredients—to about 100 cafes, restaurants and hotels in Jakarta. THAT’S NOT ALL In 2017, Talita served as the youngest and only female judge in the World Pastry Cup, an international competition that takes place every two years in the French city of Lyon.
STANISLAUS HANS DANIAL SUBIANTO
WHY HIM? The brains behind food blog Eat and Treats, Stanislaus is one of the most popular bloggers in Indonesia. He is renowned for his glossy food photos, which perfectly capture the curl of a noodle being tugged from a bowl or the sheen of a ripe strawberry. They are lapped up by his 200,000-plus followers on Instagram. THAT’S NOT ALL Stanislaus’ editorial work is leading to commercial commissions. He has worked on campaigns for multiple local and international brands, including Starbucks.
HELGA ANGELINA TJAHJADI
WHY HER? A social entrepreneur who is passionate about health, wellness and the environment, Helga established Burgreens, a purveyor of plantbased fast food, in 2013. Burgreens has gone from strength to strength and now has four outlets in Jakarta.
WHY HIM? This former culinary director for the upscale Anantara group of hotels became a bona fide celebrity after appearing on two seasons of the TV series Iron Chef Thailand in 2012. Earlier this year, he opened R.haan, a Bangkok restaurant that serves traditional Thai cuisine based on centuries-old recipes. The menu changes every four months in keeping with his commitment to using seasonal produce. In addition to his role as co-founder and executive chef of R.haan, Chumpol is a culinary consultant for the Singha Corporation, runs the highly regarded MSC Thai Culinary School and works with Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports to promote food tourism for his country.
NOOROR SOMANY STEPPE
WHY HER? As founder and executive head chef at the Blue Elephant Group, Nooror is the proprietor of an upscale Thai food empire that encompasses six Blue Elephant restaurants around the world, from Paris to Brussels to Bangkok. Nooror also runs a cooking school and produces her own line of meal kits and packaged sauces under the label Blue Elephant Royal Thai Cuisine. NEXT ON HER PLATE Nooror’s latest venture, Thai Brasserie by Blue Elephant, is set to open in Phuket in January 2019. Nooror plans to expand this more casual dining concept into a franchise.
WHY HIM? Choti, as he is known,wn, took a big risk when he walked away from his family’s automotive companympany to follow his culinary passions, but the move has paid off. In 2014, he founded the Bangkok cocktail bar Vesper, which has ranked among Asia’s 50 Best Bars sincee 2016. He also established the Portuguese restaurant Il Fumo, which ranked ninth in the Thailand Tatler Best Restaurants 2018 dining guide. Late last year, he opened the pasta bar La Dotta and recently launched Via Maris, a restaurantt serving Mediterranean cuisine. He also works closely with onlinee fundraiser Socialgiver.com, ensuringuring a percentage of revenue from hiss bar and restaurants is donated to charity.harity.
VARATT VICHITVADAKAN (TAE)
WHY HIM? Coffee connoisseur Tae has created an empire of brunch spots and artisan coffee shops across Thailand. He is the founder of Think Beyond Company, the dining group responsible for popular cafes such as Roast, Roots, Ocken, Daily Roast and The Commons. With a particular passion for all things local, his mission at specialty coffee chain Roots is to showcase the best home-grown coffee from single-origin beans produced across Thailand. Furthermore, part of the profit from every cup of coffee sold goes to the farmers and processors to improve their livelihoods and communities.
WHY HER? Known as chef Tam, Chudaree was the winner of the first season of Top Chef Thailand and has since become a well-known figure on the nation’s culinary landscape. An advocate of the farm-totable food philosophy and passionate about curbing food waste, she organises pop-up events with some of Bangkok’s bestknown restaurants for which she creates innovative menus using seasonal, local produce. These exclusive gatherings feature video and sound presentations that allow guests to see where their food comes from and how it has been prepared. Chef Tam studied nutrition and food science, and is interested in showcasing how food can help prevent disease.
WHY HIM? Chef-owner of Michelin-starred French restaurant L’effervescence in Tokyo, Shinobu is leading the fight against food waste in Japan. L’effervescence won the Sustainable Restaurant gong at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Shinobu recently opened Bricolage Bread and Co, a cafe and bakery in Tokyo’s Roppongi district that is trying to create a closed-loop system, turning all of its food waste into compost that can be donated to the farmers who provide ingredients for the restaurant.
WHY HIM? Zaiyu is the chef-owner of Den, the Tokyo restaurant famous for turning Japan’s traditional kaiseki cuisine on its head. At Den, diners can enjoy the format of a kaiseki meal—a multi-course menu of generally delicate dishes—but shouldn’t expect solely traditional plates. One of the restaurant’s trademark courses is Dentucky Fried Chicken, which at first glance seems to be simply a bucket of deep-fried chicken wings but is actually succulent morsels of daisen jidori— a particular breed of chicken— stuffed with ingredients such as red rice, pine nuts and carrot. Earlier this year, Den was named the best restaurant in Japan (and 17th best in the world) by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants committee.
WHY HIM? One of the rising stars of Japan, Yasuhiro was named San Pellegrino Young Chef 2018, an award decided by a panel of the world’s leading chefs. Currently a sous chef at the two Michelin-star French restaurant La Cime in Osaka, he has foodies and food critics eagerly awaiting his next move.
WHY HIM? Mingoo trained under the Spanish culinary star Martin Berasategui and Japanese dining sensation Nobu Matsuhisa, and now young chefs from around the world are hoping to train under him. He is the chef-owner of Mingles, in Seoul’s Cheongdam-dong, which mixes (hence the name) Korean and Western flavours. Think dishes such as doenjang creme brulee made with fermented soy bean paste or kimchi rolls stuffed with foie gras. THAT’S NOT ALL Mingles was named the best restaurant in South Korea by the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants committee earlier this year.
WHY HIM? Since he opened his eponymous restaurant in Seoul in 2009, Jungsik has been the face of “new Korean cuisine”, which refines and elevates traditional Korean dishes. In 2011, he opened the first international branch of Jungsik in New York. THAT’S NOT ALL Jungsik was the first restaurant serving South Korean cuisine to earn two Michelin stars.
WHY HIM? Owner and head chef of Gallery by Chele (formerly Gallery Vask, which featured twice in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), Chele fuses local produce with international flavours to create surprising dishes in a chic, revamped space in Taguig, Manila. His menu includes taste bombs such as tomato mochi with salmon and kesong puti (a soft cheese made from the milk of water buffalo), and brioche buns with shredded Chinese beef stew. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Chele has a number of projects in the pipeline, one of which will see him take charge of F&B at a new luxury resort in Boracay.
WHY HER? A blogger, media personality and food critic, Cheryl is a “tastehunter” for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants—the sole representative in the Philippines and one of only three in Asia. Cheryl wrote the first Wallpaper City Guide for Manila in 2014, is a presenter on Fox Life Asia’s TV show Taste Travels, and founded her own events platform, Cross Cultures, which promotes exchanges between cultures through food to build a global community. This year, she has been focused on promoting Filipino cuisine overseas, organising collaborations and pop-up dining experiences that spotlight the nation’s gastronomy at restaurants in Miami, Boston and New York.
WHY HIM? A pioneer of Filipino fine dining, Jordy is the chef-owner of Toyo Eatery in Makati City. In his minimalist heaven of wood and polished concrete, he offers sophisticated versions of hearty local classics such as Bangsilog—milk fish with sticky rice, free-range egg, chicharon and dried tuna roe. Toyo won Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ The One To Watch award this year, throwing a spotlight on contemporary Filipino cuisine and cementing Jordy as a rising star in Asia’s gastronomic landscape.
WHY HER? A celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV personality, Margarita always has a full plate. The dynamo operates a plethora of Italian eateries across the Philippines, including Cibo (a 10-branch chain of Italian cafes), Alta, Grace Park and Lusso. She recently launched two new ventures: Las Casas Manila by Margarita Forés, which serves classic Spanish cuisine from a revamped heritage mansion in Quezon City, and Islas Pinas, a funky new food hall that showcases Filipino food from around the country. She also hosted her own TV show with CNN, Harvest with Margarita Forés.
WHY HER? As creative director and restaurateur at the Moment Group, Abba has brought to life some of Manila’s most successful home-grown dining concepts such as Bank Bar, 8Cuts, Ooma, Mecha Uma and TMG Test Kitchen. She also introduced international brands such as Din Tai Fung and Linguini Fini to the Philippines. Under her watch, the Moment Group recently took over the F&B arm of the members-only Manila Polo Club, revamping its menu to include favourites from the group’s portfolio of restaurants. Abba, a keen skier, hiker and diver, is now focusing on expanding the company’s booming catering business.
WHY HIM? The author of more than 10 books about wine, and a contributor to countless newspapers and magazines, Yusen is Taiwan’s leading wine critic and has even been described as the best wine critic writing in Chinese. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Yusen is working with winemakers on the third edition of Buvons Nature Taiwan, the first fair dedicated to natural wines in the country, which takes place at the end of this month.
WHY HIM? Thomas worked under Joël Robuchon in Paris before returning to his hometown of Kaohsiung to open his eponymous restaurant, which serves elegant French food made with fresh local ingredients. THAT’S NOT ALL Aside from its food, the restaurant is famous for its guest chefs. In recent years, several chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants have travelled to Taiwan to cook with Thomas, among them Alain Passard and Pierre Gagnaire.
WHY HER? After graduating from Harvard Law School, Liz quickly realised that life as a lawyer wasn’t for her and returned to her first love, food. She began her blog, SelfTaught Gourmet, in 2011 and quickly became one of the most respected food writers in Taiwan. THAT’S NOT ALL Liz recently launched Taster, an online food media platform that industry insiders say is likely to become the Eater of Taiwan.
WHY HIM? The son of Gloria Hotel Group chairman Chen Jin-liu, Fudy grew up in hotel kitchens and dining rooms and quickly developed a love for food and drink. After training in Michelin-starred American restaurants such as Per Se and Manresa, he turned his attention to the origins of ingredients and returned to Taiwan to establish an organic farm just outside Yangmingshan National Park. It supplies his Taipei restaurants—tk Seafood & Steak, and L’idiot—as well as many others. THAT’S NOT ALL East End, one of the bars owned by Fudy’s family and the only one in Taiwan to collaborate with the renowned Japanese mixologist Hidetsugu Ueno, was listed in Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2017.
WHY HIM? Chien-hao is the winemaker behind Moscato Oro Vino Fortificato, a fortified wine made from Taiwan’s golden muscat grapes that has won multiple awards and is served in several Michelinstarred restaurants. THAT’S NOT ALL An experimental project with Glenfiddich saw Moscato Oro Vino Fortificato casks used to finish Scotch. All 301 bottles of Glenfiddich Vino Formosa Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky “Spirit of Taiwan” were snapped up by collectors before the official release earlier this year.
WHY HER? With her late father, Ben Yang, who was chairman and CEO of Sinon Corporation, Vivian founded Taiwan’s Weightstone Vineyard Estate & Winery to create a fine sparkling wine out of indigenous grapes, something some critics said couldn’t be done. The naysayers are now eating their words. Vivian’s wines have been represented at leading international competitions since 2016, including the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine Challenge. In April this year, the quarterly magazine World Finance named Weightstone one of the world’s most innovative and business-savvy producers in its Fine Wine Report.
WHY HIM? A maverick mixologist with a host of businesses to his name, Shawn is on a mission to elevate Malaysia’s drinking culture. In 2013, he co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s hippest speakeasy, Omakase + Appreciate, which is famous for its hidden door and custom cocktails. He also established Rad Impressions, a spirits education consultancy that offers workshops and courses in bartending and spirits appreciation. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Open Bar by Shawn Chong, which will focus on innovative tipples that incorporate local ingredients.
WHY HIM? At Dewakan, a restaurant in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor, head chef Darren pays homage to Malaysian waters, farms, jungles and mountains with degustation menus that eschew traditional luxury ingredients, such as caviar and truffles, in favour of those indigenous to the country. Renowned for his unique food philosophy, Darren travels the world speaking at various gastronomic events, including this year’s Re Food Forum in Bangkok. He will be speaking at next year’s Food & Society International Conference in Paris. Darren is also co-owner of Food Tour Malaysia, which organises excursions to the most authentic places to eat in Kuala Lumpur.
WHY HIM? This gastronome champions haute French-asian fusion at his threestorey restaurant, DC, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. As chef and owner, Darren combines classical French techniques with seasonal local ingredients and flavours typical of the Thai city of Chiang Mai, which he considers his second home. In recognition of Darren’s vision, DC received Malaysia Tatler’s T.dining award for Best Independent Restaurant in 2018. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Darren recently opened a much-anticipated second restaurant, Bref (meaning “brief” or “short” in French), which serves simpler fare in a relaxed atmosphere.
WHY HIM? Perhaps Malaysia’s best-known chef, James trained at Le Cordon Bleu and honed his culinary skills at three-star Michelin institutions in France and Japan before establishing his flagship restaurant, Enfin, in Kuala Lumpur. Opulent decor and an esoteric wine list accompany a refined French menu at Enfin, where European classics such as caviar with pommes soufflé, chopped egg and chives sit alongside Eastern innovations such as abalone with oysters, chicken broth, osmanthus and chrysanthemum. In recognition of his commitment to excellence in F&B, James was named an ambassador for the champagne house Krug in 2014 and is also an ambassador for Hennessey cognac. THAT’S NOT ALL This gastronomic maestro also has a social conscience. When not broiling, charring and dehydrating at Enfin, he works in a local soup kitchen.
WHY HIM? In an age where people are increasingly conscious of nutrition but have less and less time to cook for themselves, food preparation and delivery services like Malaysia’s Dahmakan are becoming wildly popular. Since he founded the company in 2015, CEO Jonathan has taken Dahmakan from start-up to star player, securing early investment from a Silicon Valley-based seed accelerator, Y Combinator, to build and expand the company across Asia. Dahmakan acquired Thai food delivery service Polpa earlier this year. THAT’S NOT ALL The former investment banker was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for pioneers in retail and e-commerce this year.
WHY HIM? No one pulls off fusion cooking quite like Vicky. The chef established his restaurant VEA in 2016 with the aim of making, to use his own phrase, “Chinese and French” food, using French cooking techniques to explore Chinese ingredients and flavours. “Every dish we do has a story and the story is about Hong Kong,” Cheng said in a recent interview with Hong Kong Tatler.
JOSHUA AND CALEB NG
WHY THEM? Twins Joshua and Caleb are the co-founders of cosy Sheung Wan cafe Common Ground, a dumpling bar in Copenhagen called Gao, and, perhaps most impressively, Taste Kitchen, Hong Kong’s first restaurant incubator. Located in PMQ, Taste Kitchen hosts up--and-coming chefs and restaurants for months-long pop-ups, givinging rising culinary stars a space to experiment and refine their ideas before committing to opening a permanentmanent venue. THAT’S NOT ALL Through theirheir consultancy, Twins Kitchen, theyhey work with brands on projects rangingng from restaurant design to finding ways to upcycle coffee grounds.
WHY HER? Sometimes described as the Julia Child of Cantonese cuisine, Theresa is the founder and CEO of Dashijie, a brand that makes traditional Cantonese delicacies such as mooncakes, multiple varieties of XO sauce and pickled ginger slices, among many others. Theresa was taught her craft by the late Pearl Kong Chen, a legendary Cantonese chef who published several famous cookbooks.
JANICE LEUNG HAYES
WHY HER? #Nocharsiunolife is Janice’s Instagram hashtag, but her love of food goes far beyond humble char siu. The respected food critic has been published by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Eater and the Asia Tatler titles. THAT’S NOT ALL Janice’s belief in the importance of sustainable farming and local produce inspired her to establish Honestly Green, a platform connecting sustainable businesses through which she has founded a string of urban farmers markets, including Tong Chong Street Market and Poho Market.
WHY HIM? Craft beer has become a fixture on Hong Kong’s bar scene over the past few years and its meteoric rise is partly down to Rohit. The entrepreneur kick-started the local craft beer movement when he established Young Master Brewery in 2013, making classics such as pale ale and more experimental beers using local ingredients such as salted lime. Brews from Young Master Ales are now stocked in many of the city’s trendiest bars and five-star hotels, and earlier this year, Young Master picked up the most medals of any participating brewery at the annual Asia Beer Awards.
WHY HER? At an age when most of her peers were opting for the cheapest bottle from the wine list, Sarah was honing her nose en route to becoming, at 29, the world’s youngest Master of Wine. The third woman in Hong Kong to claim the title, Sarah is also an associate at the Institute of Wine and Spirits, a Society of Wine Educators certified specialist of wine, and a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, with the latter well suited to her love of Barolo.