Surreal Food For Thought From An Analog Chef.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ The Transit Cafe
Saturday, 2nd May 2009
Yeoh Siew Hoon meets Bob Blumer and feels maybe she should organise a WIT Gourmet Summit. 

I like the way Bob Blumer, who is known on television as "Surreal Gourmet" and "Glutton for Punishment" describes himself. He calls himself an "analog chef" and a "Luddite".

That's because he doesn't consider himself a chef – even though his blog on www.bobblumer.com uses that term – nor was he formally trained to cook. In fact, he fell into it by accident.

He was traveling the globe with musicians when he talked his way into publishing a book called "Surreal Food for Pretend Chefs". The book, which also had a section on "music to cook by" was well-hailed, with critics calling it witty.

"It was a career that found me. I have always been passionate about food but I have no formal training. I like to play with my food. I taught myself how to cook – as they say, fake it till you make it."

And make it, he certainly has. "Surreal Gourmet", which is shown on Discovery Travel & Living, has run for five seasons.

He says he is influenced more by art – surrealists such as Salvador Dali – and you can also tell music plays a big part in what he does. At the evening hosted by him during thr World Gourmet Summit at the InterContinental on Tuesday night, he brought along his own music – unfortunately it only had 10 tracks so you heard the same tunes repeatedly – Bob's obviously a Luddite too when it comes to music.

But hey, we weren't there for the music as such but for the music of the food and, of course, the charms of Bob.

Bob's uniqueness is his food does not taste like it looks. It's all about whimsical presentations and unusual cooking methods.

You can tell clearly he has a sense of fun with his creations. That night, we had "pyschedelic caviar" – salmon roe on a slice of lemon with a sprig of green, a "flower pot salad" which was surprisingly crunchy and yummy and the dressing came in a watering pot and "Chinese snow cones", which was marinated duck stuffed in a crispy wonton skin.

I didn't quite care for the "Camembert Cappucino" – too salty as a drink, I reckon, but I loved the "Eggestential Eggs" (left), which looked like egg and bacon when it arrived but was actually white chocolate mouse served in an egg shell and had an orange yolk-like looking centre made of passionfruit.

He then showed us how to make it, and I am going to try one of these days. Promise.

But beyond the food were the games. This is the man who is a glutton for punishment, remember? He survived in Dublin for five days on Guiness alone. He's made 555 pancakes in an hour. He's bicycled 2,500km in six hours to prove a point.

So he showed us how to make butter from cream milk – by putting in a jar and shaking it really, really, really hard until it solidifies. And then he organised a cook-out in which three volunteers were pitted against him in a race to shuck oysters, cook pasta and drink a pint of Guiness through a straw. He won by a drop.

In Singapore, he's gotten his hands dirty with chilli and pepper crab and he's thinking of organising a durian-eating competition for his return visit.

He also played with the drinks for the night. We had ginger-lychee bellini, home-made cucumber soda and Tanqueray gin and to finish off, we had a liaison with the "Nutty Monk", almond-walnut infused cognac with essence of orange.

By the time the evening ended, I felt surreally happy. Pyschedelic almost.

So you may ask what does Web In Travel have to do with food? Well, I don't know but Bob's got me thinking. Maybe I will organise a WIT Gourmet Summit one of these days? After all, I love food, I love online and I love travel.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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www.webintravel.com - October 20-23, 2009 Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore
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