Holy cow. Look at them molecular gastronomers.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 26th April 2006
Yeoh Siew Hoon gets into the mood of things at the World Gourmet Summit.

In Singapore, when they're not doing it, they're talking about it. I am talking about eating of course so you can imagine what happens when an event like the World Gourmet Summit comes to town and master chefs from all over the world gather to whip up their feasts of orgies.

Well, for three weeks, the national past-time becomes a national obsession and everyone who's a foodie suddenly becomes a gourmet and everyone who's a gourmet transforms into a gourmand – at least I think that's how it works in the food chain.

See, food does strange things to us human beings. We have a love-hate affair with it. We love it but we hate what it does to us. What tastes good is bad for us. What tastes bad is good for us.

The better it tastes, the worse we feel. We are torn between desire and disgust at the idea of it – desire for what it will do to our senses and disgust at what it will do to our arteries.

At lunch the other day at Oasis, the new poolside restaurant at Grand Hyatt Singapore, I learnt a new word – GI index. I was told fried noodles was better than fried rice because it had lower GI index. GI stands for Glycemic Index. Glycemic stands for sugar. Sugar stands for good or bad. And I thought GI was the first name of Joe. The other word I learnt during the WGS – it's a good time for peasants like me to be educated about food – is wagyu beef. I used to think it was a swear word.

Now I know it's really expensive beef from well-massaged cows. I'd like to meet the masseuses. A: What do you do for a living? B: I massage cows. A: Holy cow. I learnt all these over cigar, wine and conversation the other night with a celebrity chef and two gourmands.

First the two gourmands who I will call Peter and Paul – names have been changed to protect the innocent. Peter and Paul are seriously rich folks who travel to seek out the best restaurants. If the food ain't good, they don't eat – that simple. This is why they rarely travel to places like Lijiang. I never realised there was this breed of travellers out there and when I grow up, I want to be them.

Onto the celebrity chef – in between puffing on his cigar, he could not stop huffing and puffing over how he was going to revolutionise French cuisine by using ancient Chinese secrets. I thought he was talking about Shao Lin martial arts at one point but when he talked about duck basting in herbal essences not unlike those you find in Kuala Lumpur street food I realised he was still talking about food.

I also realise that celebrity chefs (the ones I met anyway) have bigger egos than hoteliers – I guess it does take a lot of self- confidence to do what they do. And what do they do? They blend styles, they fuse ingredients, they mix flavours, they play with textures and oh yes, they even combine foods with similar molecular structures.

This is called "molecular gastronomy". A foodie friend of mine paid S$250 – which is peanuts really for a feast fit for gorillas – to sample award-winning chef Emmanuel Stroobant's 12-course molecular gastronomy menu at his restaurant St Pierre.

One dish was white chocolate and caviar. Another was prawns which came with three pipettes of sauces such as chilli oil and mint sauce and what you do is you put the prawn in and then you choose which syringe to shoot up with. A bit like drug addicts taking tequila shooters? When I pestered him for the other 10 courses, he said, "We were so drunk by the end I can't remember." I think that's what is called "alcholic gastronomy".

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.
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