ROOM FOR MORE
A good way forward is to have a diversity of perspectives in the F&B awards scene, muses Konstantino Blokbergen, industry veteran and chef-owner of Firebake - Woodfired Bakehouse & Restaurant
Konstantino Blokbergen, chef-owner of Firebake, offers his perspective on the F&B awards scene
We chefs can be a cynical lot. We complain about the stalemate of lists featuring the same handful of restaurants year after year. We gossip about the financial backing behind certain awards and question their credibility. For all our disdain and grumbling, whenever a new edition is set to launch, everyone is excited. The reality is that these lists, despite their imperfections, are generally beneficial from a business point of view. They create awareness. They remind diners that our restaurants exist.
International organisations such as the Michelin
Guide and World’s 50 Best Restaurants may get flak for not being savvy enough with the local scene, but they have certainly raised the bar in the industry. They are also instrumental in elevating Singapore’s profile to the global audience since these are the main resources that many travellers rely upon—we cannot survive on the Singapore audience alone.
But it’s always important to remember this: Each of them simply represents one viewpoint, one editorial ‘voice’. Whether you agree or disagree with their results, it’s their prerogative. There are other awards and lists, and you can always try again for the following year.
I’m old school at heart. In spite of all its controversies and shortcomings, the Michelin Guide has been around for over a hundred years. We need to respect that heritage. Some might argue that Michelin’s fine dining bent may be outdated in an era where fine dining is falling out of fashion, but I believe there’s a time and place for the approach they take. Just like how the technology discovered for Formula One trickles down to consumer vehicles, fine dining is necessary to lead research and innovation. Awards give these trailblazers the recognition they deserve.
That said, there’s plenty of room for more guides and awards to cover different niches and offer different perspectives. But for any new players to gain trust, credibility (I say, leave it to the professionals) and objectivity are fundamental—and a good three to five years to understand the market before launching.
If I were to have the opportunity to run a new awards series, I’d push for one that’s designed from an Asian perspective to spotlight up-and-coming restaurants and talent within Asia. To keep things fresh, we’ll adopt a different theme or angle for each edition, rather than recycling standard award categories. It’s also high time we look beyond chefs and sommeliers to give recognition to the supporting roles, from coffee roasters to farmers. Nurturing talent is a priority, and I’d like to establish scholarships to enable awardees to do overseas internship; for instance, someone interested in the zero waste movement could then do a stage at Silo in the United Kingdom. The judging panel would comprise professionals from a cross-section of the industry. I don’t believe in negative ratings and I would even skip the conventional rating system in favour of an endorsement-style format.
More importantly, I want to tell compelling stories about each of our winning concepts and personalities through great visuals and videos. And it’ll be wholly online, of course—we’re in the digital age.