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

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS MIA CHENYZE

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.

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