In the past six years, the Singapore food scene has acquired a certain taste for the finer things in life. I went there to see it for myself.
Regardless of the type of cuisine you are after – from French fine dining to traditional Asian street food – this city caters to all tastes and all budgets. This cultural love for food, along with its central location within Asia, has made Singapore home of the “Apple Of The Industry Food Trade Show”, also known as Food & Hotel Asia (FHA).
So often pastry is thought to be one of the sweeter sides to the food industry. Merely fluffing around whipping up a few cakes with a touch of precision is all that is needed, right? Wrong! If you plan on venturing out of home-style baking and into the professional world you will quickly find it is a long and arduous journey for those who wish to be masters. Success is an ongoing voyage and the only way to move forward is to continuously challenge yourself and your abilities.
I recently found myself in the bustling hub of Singapore, an amazing mix of technology, immediacy and efficiency spun together with an eclectic fusion of Asian and Anglo-Saxon culture. A city where skyscrapers littered with bars, restaurants and nightclubs tower above you and wet markets flurry below.
Food & Hotel Asia (FHA) is an absolute buzz! Touted as Asia’s largest and most comprehensive international trade event, you can’t help but get excited about the plethora of new products and techniques being shown. Lucky it runs across four days because I can’t imagine having to walk around the 102,000sq m of exhibition halls in my heels in a day or two.
Littered throughout the crowd you will find some of Asia and Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs and chefs. Languages change from one group to the next, Chinese, English, French, Malaysian, Singaporean, Japanese and the list goes on. This year alone FHA welcomed a record 64,826 international trade attendees from more than 100 countries.
Although the base of this trade show comes down to business, you will find making new connections with the beautiful people who make this industry so flamboyant and exuberant means a few champagnes are never too far away – which is particularly necessary if you happen to be competing in one of the four live competitions such as the FHA Culinary Challenge, Barista Challenge, Latte Art and Asian Pastry Cup.
From the moment I set my eyes upon the booths of competitors for the Asian Pastry Cup my feet became glued to the ground and my camera danced to a dub-step rhythm of clicks. You can’t help but feel honoured when you are walking in the same crowd as Gabriel Paillasson – both pastry and ice-cream M.O.F, president and founder of WPC and the World Pastry Cup in Lyon. Paillasson is pretty much the godfather of French pastry! You want to meet a legend in the flesh and bam, here he is, crazy grey beard and all.
The Asian Pastry Cup is the pre-selection for the World Pastry Cup and includes eight teams representing Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. The competition is massive. The teams who enter train for months to prove they have what is takes to represent their country in a world-class arena.
This is not a simple game to those who live within the elite yet humble domain of pastry. This is an event that promotes the constant upward progression of the entire pastry industry. It is not a mere competition but a professional lifestyle of sharing, learning and teaching.
To compete for your country is something truly beautiful, which is why such a wonderful event needs to be more widely celebrated and appreciated in Australia. You want to know if you are world class? This is one of the ways to know. If you think you are good, jump in the ring and find out. If you want to meet the pioneers who spend everyday putting their all on the table for the love of a sweeter world, you’ve got it. This is a synergistic environment and we, as Australians, need to get amongst it.
The Australian restaurant scene has some super hot pastry chefs with so much talent, creativity and innovation. I would love to see competitions given the same weight of value in Australia as they are in Europe. When people speak in France of a World Cup winner, it means something significant – and not just for those in the industry. Even the general public seem to understand the sacrifice, pressure and skill it takes to win a World Cup. It distinguishes you and communicates the depth of not only your personal skill but also your love for the industry.
I feel greedy when I think I am one of the only young Australian pastry chefs getting amongst such an inspiring and life-changing environment. In a single day I am meeting a handful of chefs that many dream of only seeing and there I am sipping down a morning coffee with them. I am absorbing some of the greatest experience in the industry and I didn’t get here just by dreaming.
Do you want to taste it for yourself? Do you want to help promote it? Do you want to make Australia one of the most impressive teams in the world? Let’s make it happen!