Asia’s Most Influential: 250 Tastemakers

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Profession: Chef and owner, Toyo Eatery and Panaderya Toyo 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Elevating Filipino cuisine with an innovative perspective

Jordy Navarra, the chef behind Toyo Eatery, started out in the industry comparatively late in the game. The people surrounding him lifted him up and provided the chef with a lifetime of lessons and experiences that have helped bring him to where he is today. Despite all the success, including winning the Miele One to Watch award in 2018 and ranking on Asia’s 50 Best three years running, Navarra still feels “like we’ve only just started”. While he believes the Philippine dining scene is still young, he thinks that what he has contributed is a developing curiosity for what food can be. 

Photo: Francisco Paco Guerrero

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, Antonio’s, Breakfast at Antonio’s, Balay Dako

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Establishing the pre-eminent out-of-town culinary destination

“Never follow the crowd,” Antonio “Tony Boy” Escalante advises aspiring restaurateurs. In his case, however, the crowd follows him, all the way to Tagaytay, from far and wide. Escalante began doing “private dining” for friends. By word-of-mouth, he says, people became aware of this farmer-chef who specialised in farm-to-table dishes.

In 2002 he opened Antonio’s, which he calls his big break. “The minute my doors opened, my dream turned into reality,” he says. He then opened a second restaurant, this time for casual dining and called it Balay Dako. Soon enough, he grabbed global attention and has been on many prestigious lists including The Miele Guide, Asia’s Best Restaurants and 25 Chefs and Restaurateurs You Should Know. He also received the 2014 World Gourmet Summit Manitowoc Restaurateur of the Year from the World Gourmet Summit.

Photo: Francisco Paco Guerrero

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, Margarita Forés Concepts 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Bringing fine Italian cuisine to the nation

The image of a woman born to privilege creating a culinary buzz sizzled throughout the local food scene in the late Eighties as Margarita Araneta Forés, from an old rich family, revealed her passion for the gustatory arts. She entered the scene quietly, via small private dinners while slowly growing her catering business. But her love for Italian cooking, discovered while in political exile in New York with her family and honed in Italy via a short immersion, shone.

In 1997, she opened her first Cibo branch, then Café Bola, Pepato, Lusso and her floral atelier brand Fiori di Marghi. As her business grew, Forés began delving into Filipino food, catering dinners at Malacañang Palace and helping government bring the Madrid Fusion gastronomy congress to Manila. Her Asia’s Best Female Chef award from the World’s 50 Best organisation, “opened doors for me globally and allowed me to fulfil my mission to help promote our country’s cuisine, cultural heritage and beautiful produce”.

Photo: Sonny Thakur
Photo: Sonny Thakur

Profession: Executive chef and co-owner, Gallery by Chele and Deli by Chele

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For his innovative use of local Filipino ingredients 

Spanish-born chef Chele González studied culinary arts and eventually worked at Michellin-starred restaurants Arzak, Nerua-Guggenheim and Mugaritz, to name a few. In 2013, he established Gallery Vask in Manila, which became his playground for cooking with local ingredients using global techniques. The restaurant renovated and reopened in 2018 as Gallery by Chele. He recently launched additional concepts Chef Chele’s Kitchen, Deli by Chele and Adviche. “I hope I inspire a lot of people to make things evolve,” he says, looking to a future with more food that is healthy, affordable and sustainable.

Photo: Patrick Uy
Photo: Patrick Uy

Profession: President and CEO, Chef Jessie Restaurants

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Maintaining a standard of excellence in the Philippine dining scene

From being a humble trainee in the pastry kitchen of then Hotel-InterContinental Manila to helming her own eponymous group of restaurants, chef Jessie Sincioco was one of the first purveyors of fine dining in the Philippines. “Having been in this business for more than 30 years, creating memorable fine dining experiences I think is my best contribution to the dining scene,” she says, citing that what she considers her greatest credential was when she was chosen to cook every meal for His Holiness Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in 2015.

Photo: Francisco Paco Guerrero

Profession: Owner, Foodee Global Concepts

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A powerhouse who creates home-grown concepts and introduces international restaurants to the Philippine dining scene

Rikki Dee’s portfolio at Foodee Global Concepts consists of 353 stores (158 Sunnies Studios & Optical and 195 restaurants), 3,800 employees, and a multi-billion revenue up from an average sales of PhP10m per day. Throw in a few office buildings, three malls outside the city and, currently, the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurant franchises in the country and that just about sums it up.
 
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Dee though. “Years ago, I was about to retire [after distributing the tasks of running the businesses to his four children]. But I felt I will be sending wrong signals to my next generation as they were just starting in the company. I went back to the action, this time with my children. I motivate and share a lot with them and, in the same breath, learn from them. This is what excites me day after day,” he says.

Photo: Francisco Paco Guerrero

Profession: Creative Director and co-founder, The Moment Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Creating high quality dining experiences priced for all wallets 

Abba Napa is the creative director and co-founder of The Moment Group (TMG), the company she founded with her two partners, Eliza Antonino and Jon Syjuco. Starting with three homegrown restaurants, TMG went on a record-breaking pace of opening one restaurant every 56 days. It now boasts 2,500 employees, 12 food brands and 45 shops including the wholly owned popular brands 8Cuts Burgers, Manam Comfort Filipino, Ooma Bold Japanese, Mo’ Cookies, chef’s table Mecha Uma and Bank Bar. It also went into a partnership with global brand Din Tai Fung, launched its cook-at- home-line Moment the Grocer, as well as its in-house delivery website supported by its own Mo’Go delivery fleet. 

Photo: Ian Santos
Photo: Ian Santos

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, The Wildflour Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Helming what has become the Philippines’ favourite neighbourhood cafe

Le Cordon Bleu graduate and restaurateur Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo is one of the masterminds behind the successful Wildflour Group.

“Wildflour was the beginning of a very wild journey for me and my sister Margie. We couldn’t have anticipated arriving at the places it’s brought us,” she enthuses. The company has since flourished, expanding to include Farmacy Ice Cream (2014), Pink’s Hotdogs (2016) Little Flour Café (2017) and Wildflour Italian (2019). Pivoting to adapt to the New Normal, the Wildflour group launched an in-house online ordering app as well as virtual-only brands that offer their bestsellers, party trays, gourmet pantry needs and burgers.

Profession: General manager and executive chef, Milky Way, Cirkulo, Azuthai and Tsukiji

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Focusing on quality and authenticity rather than expansion in order to create beloved brands

Having lived right next to their mother’s original Milky Way restaurant founded in 1962, Malu Gamboa-Lindo and J Gamboa declare that they were “literally born into the restaurant business”.

“Our establishments have thrived for so long because we focus on consistently bringing the highest calibre of food and service to all our customers in every meal,” says Malu. “Many have said that our staying power is because we have created the ambience of home and happiness in our restaurants.”

Profession: Owner and founder, Steak Room Concepts, Inc 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A restaurateur committed to making his diners happy

In 2007 Elbert Cuenca opened the widely successful, specialised dining concept, Elbert’s Steak Room. “This is what established my name in the industry.”

The owner of Elbert’s Pizzeria and a partner in Metronome restaurant, he says: “I endeavour to help educate and elevate our diners’ level of appreciation for quality, not just with cuisine, but in terms of service as well. I involve myself with restaurant projects that hopefully raise the bar of the Philippine dining scene.” Rather than operating with a costly set-up, he prefers a more personal approach and is committed to happy clients.

Profession: Founder, The Wholesome Table

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Ensuring that wholesome eating and organic food are accessible and delicious

“My passion for healthy eating is what motivates me every day,” says Bianca Elizalde, founder of organic restaurant The Wholesome Table. “My love for food goes beyond the ingredients and the manner of preparation, but all the way to how food is grown and how that affects our health and our planet.”

Elizalde has changed the way people view “healthy” food. “Over the years we’ve been able to debunk the whole idea that ‘health food’ was just tasteless, boring diet food. We’ve really worked hard to change people’s mindsets about that, and what it means to be more thoughtful about the food you eat. We also helped local, organic farmers and gave them business to continue doing what they’re doing.” 

Photo: Stanley Ong
Photo: Stanley Ong

Profession: Food writer and cookbook designer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: An acclaimed food writer who views dining as a tool for diplomacy

“I cook books!” award-winning book designer and food writer Ige Ramos often declares. He is the chief creative officer of IRDS, which runs the Republic of Taste Food Network, a platform for his publishing, book design and independent research project in food history and comparative gastronomy. The former president of the Association of Culinary Historians of the Philippines, active member of Slow Food and founding member of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement heralds the importance of food as a way to bridge communities. 

Profession: Food writer, editor, book author and columnist

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: One of the country’s most esteemed culinary voices celebrating Philippine cuisine and telling the stories that need to be shared

“This is my country and yet I didn’t know enough about our culinary culture,” says the food writer Micky Fenix about what motivated her to pursue her career after publishing the book, Philippine Cuisine: Our Country’s Heritage. “I discovered that we have a diverse cuisine with similarities and differences. My writing about those celebrates that diversity which makes our cuisine very interesting.”

Fenix is one of the most respected food writers in the country; her column “Country Cooking” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, has been running weekly for many years now. She also chairs the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award and is the president of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines. 

Photo: Lito Sy/ RPD Publications
Photo: Lito Sy/ RPD Publications

Profession: Food historian

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Keeping the Philipppines’ culinary narrative historically accurate and contemporary to push culture forward

“Food appreciation is an inroad into the larger realm of national cultural appreciation,” shares author and food historian Felice Prudente-Sta Maria. “Having a historical food narrative to refer to is essential to appreciate who the Filipino is and should continue to be.”

While she lauds the growing awareness of Filipino cuisine across the world, she stresses the importance of developing local pride.“Food history is commonly perceived as the origin of dishes and the collecting of old recipes. But the scope goes beyond that,” she expounds. “My study of food is to find out who the Filipino is, not only what we Filipinos harvest, cook, eat and drink.”

 

Photo: Francisco Paco Guerrero

Profession: Chef and food writer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Making a huge impact on Philippine gastronomy as both chef and food writer

“Having been born and raised in Pampanga where the food culture is quite strong, I had been cooking since school days” says Claude Tayag. Known for his restaurant Bale Dutung, Tayag’s culinary journey officially started in 1988 when, he says, “I unfurled my apron to the public at Larry Cruz’s Ang Hang Restaurant.” The road has been speckled with many highlights, among which were a month-long cooking stint at the Prince Albert Rotisserie of the InterContinental Manila back-to-back with French resident chef Cyrile Soenen. And of course, Claude’s Dream, a buco-pandan dessert that found its way on to the menus of many food establishments. 

Profession: President, Bacchus International

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Putting quality first and elevating standards in the F&B industry

Established purveyor Alex Lichaytoo, who’s been awarded the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Order of the Star of Italy) and the French Mérite Agricole, provides the local food industry with not only the best wines but quality ingredients and the latest in kitchenware. “We’ve always wanted to inspire chefs to realise that quality of ingredients is the number one consideration if you wanted to create world-class cuisine, whether it’s in the cookware, wine glasses, tools or ingredients,” he says. As fine cooking is still a growing interest in the country, Lichaytoo stresses that it’s not always about price points—but about the true enjoyment of a dish. 

Profession: Co-founders, Auro Chocolate

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Making Philippine-made chocolate glamorous and taking the product to the world stage

A love for chocolate isn’t anything unusual, but Mark Ocampo and his partner, Kelly Go, took their passion to new heights. “Auro combines all of our interests and advocacies”, he says, “from building brands, sustainable sourcing, empowerment of farming communities and eating.”

Since the start, the partners’ goal has been relatable: to create something they themselves were addicted to. “We wanted to bring chocolate back to the Philippines and create something meaningful and show our appreciation for the people who grow [the cacao].” 

Profession: Founder and cheesemaker, Malagos Farmhouse Cheeses

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Continuously pushing the love local mantra

Olive Puentespina, her husband and her in-laws are all part of the Davao-based family business, the Puentespina Group of Companies. Under this umbrella are the award-winning Malagos chocolate brand (which has earned 44 international accolades to date), the Malagos Farmhouse (famous for cheese) and the Malagos Garden Resort, among other companies. Puentespina’s cheese journey began in 2005, in her garden with three of her goats. “Watching milk turn from liquid to this unctuous mouldy, smelly morsel that tingles in your mouth is just so satisfying,” she says. The businesswoman now manages 32 employees, 350 goats and a multifaceted business model. 

Profession: CEO, Healthy Options Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A pioneer who has brought healthy food and organic products into the hearts and homes of Filipinos

The founder of Healthy Options has a very straightforward mission: it’s to, quite literally, bring healthy options into the hands and onto the tables of Filipinos around the country.

“Educating and empowering people to take control of their health has always been my motivation and inspiration,” says Romy Sia. It was un uphill battle, as the Philippines was not as receptive to wellness trends and wholesome eating. But now, Sia has 33 stores around the country. During a time when the importance of health has been put at the forefront of our lives, Sia shares that Healthy Options has been able reinforce its original message to customers. 

Profession: Founder, PWC Premium Wine Exchange

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Passion and expertise have driven this wine lover to the top of his game

“To start a wine business, you need to be passionate about it,” says self-proclaimed wine nerd Jojo Madrid. “I’ve been a wine enthusiast since the mid-90s and I was always interested in starting a wine importation and distribution company.” The dream is now a successful business and Madrid, along with his three partners—Eric Recto, Fred Uytengsu and Jeri Jalandoni—and their entire team at local importer Premium Wine Exchange Inc have indeed proven their incredible passion for this mission. 

Profession: Regenerative farmer and co-founder, Holy Carabao Farm; fashion designer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A wellness, sustainable farming and organic lifestyle advocate whose passion fuels her drive 

Hindy Weber wanted nothing but the best for her family’s health. So after scouring markets and grocery stores for nourishment and not finding everything suitable, along with her husband Gippy Tantoco she decided to grow food at home. Called to her destiny, she began Holy Carabao with friend Melanie Teng-Go.

When the food industry shifted online, Holy Carabao followed suit. Apart from her admiration for the environment, her appreciation for all children drives her to offer better nourishment. Next up for Holy Carabao is Holy Carabao School, an online/ hybrid curriculum for children centred on farming and ecology. 

 

Profession: Founding farmer, president and CEO, AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Inc

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A farmer at heart, she celebrates agriculture and tells the world what the Philippines has to offer

“Growing up on a farm added to my holistic understanding of the situation of food producers. This propelled me to always be involved in more inclusive food production and be a voice of local and global sustainable food systems,” says Cherrie Atilano. She has continued to promote food accessibility and locally sourced food. Her dedication led her to start two initiatives amidst the pandemic, namely Move Food Growcery and the Agrea Rescue Kitchen. “We are working with 30,000 farmers across the country,” she says. “We make sure we do things out of love and enthusiasm [while bearing in mind that we work to fulfil our mission] to help more farmers.”

Chit Juan
Chit Juan

Profession: Author; councillor, Slow Food South East Asia; president, Philippine Coffee Board; co-founder, ECHOStore

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For driving the Slow Food Movement forward

Long before sustainability had become word-of-mouth, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle was already promoting conscious food production and consumption. After joining the slow food movement in 2012, ECHOstore has become a crucial presence in the food industry.
“That people are now conscious about what they eat and that somehow, we have influenced them in thinking about where their food comes from [motivates me to do what I do],” says Chit Juan. “We remain true to our mission—to be the access of producers to market and to give consumers a reason to eat well and live well.”

Photo: Gourmet Farms
Photo: Gourmet Farms

Profession: Founder, Gourmet Farms

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Pioneering sustainable practices and the health food movement thereby bringing healthy eating and loving local to the fore

Ernest Escaler converted a two-hectare orchid farm in Silang, Cavite into an organic vegetable farm now known as Gourmet Farms. Not long after, he opened Gourmet Café at the farm, which soon drew hordes of visitors, mostly from Metro Manila. Even amid challenging times, he developed products such as pre-cooked meals, natural herbal teas and ginger extracts, all delivered to customers’ doorsteps. He advises young chefs and restaurant owners to be passionate about knowing their clients and serving them what they need. “We have recently marked our 40th year in the business. We have not resorted to advertising and rarely done promotions. We owe our success to our good products and a passionate team,” he says.

Profession: Co-founders, Don Papa Rum

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For promoting Philippine flavours

Today, Don Papa Rum brings the flavours of the Philippines to all corners of the globe. “Part of the genesis of Don Papa included the opportunity to really showcase our local rum-making heritage on an international scale, particularly in the premium rum segment. ” says co-founder AJ Garcia. “Having the freedom to create and innovate and be able to decide on the direction of how we want our brand to go is quite liberating” adds Monica. “The fact that the landscape is always changing, especially now with the pandemic, gives me motivation. We have not and still do not rest on our laurels.”

Photo: RG Medestomas
Photo: RG Medestomas

Profession: Founders, Full Circle Craft Distillers

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Promoting locally made spirits and helping to put the Philippines on the global spirits map

“There is a growing demand for honest, handcrafted products. The consumer palate is evolving, and the level of knowledge—on the difference between industrial, mass-produced alcohol and artisanal handcrafted spirits—is growing by leaps and bounds,” declare Matthew and Laurie Westfall, founders of Full Circle Craft Distillers. Their world-class spirits crafted using state-of-the-art German copper stills at their distillery caught the attention of gin connoisseurs globally and won them two gold medals at the World Gin Awards in London. 

Olivia Limpe-Aw

Profession: President and CEO, Destileria Limtuaco

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A fifth-generation leader of Destileria Limtuaco who is pushing the 168-year-old distillery to greater heights

One of only two Filipinas on the Forbes list of Asia’s Power Businesswomen for 2020, Olivia Limpe-Aw introduced several exciting products using Filipino ingredients: Paradise Mango rum liqueur, Amadeo coffee liqueur, Manille Liqueur Collection (basic ingredient, calamansi and dalandan), Dragon Fruit wine and Very Old Captain Artisan-crafted Rum (basic ingredient, molasses). In the process, Limpe-Aw brought Philippine craft spirits to the erstwhile untapped middle-class. As she remarks, “You not only do your country proud; you also help the local farmers by bypassing the middlemen.” 

Photo: Tariq Widarso
Photo: Tariq Widarso

Profession: Co-founder and Managing Partner, The Curator, Oto, EDSA BDG (Beverage Design Group)

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A barista, bartender and all-round foodie obsessed with crafting the best beverages and memorable experiences

David Ong has played a major role in elevating the coffee and cocktails scene in the Philippines. He works with friends who share his passion, and the joy they have for their work has shone through, with The Curator making it to Asia’s 50 Best Bars list six times. “The peak for me was in 2019 when both The Curator and Oto made the list,” says Ong.

While The Curator is a café-speakeasy with a quiet hidden backroom bar that comes to life at night, Oto is one of the Metro’s most frequented nightlife spots.

“I think that our contribution is based on the fact that we’ve always stuck to our own guns,” says Ong. To him it is an endless journey to improve their craft, both through execution and innovation.

Photo: Rita Marie
Photo: Rita Marie

Profession: Journalist, content creator, World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars Tastehunter and co-founder, Proclamation Gin

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A journalist and content creator who shines a light on deserving foods, flavours and finds

There’s a devotion to the Philippines that gives journalist Cheryl Tiu-Snyder’s body of work both depth and personality; it helps that she uses her platform to highlight the new yet deserving. “I like to shine the spotlight on the non-commercial, to introduce an audience to a small business or a cultural aspect not known in certain parts of the world,” she says.

Not only has she been recognised internationally as a writer and host, but she’s also the co-founder of Proclamation Gin, a local spirit brand that capitalises on sampaguita as its main botanical. She is also the founder of Cross Cultures, an events and consultancy agency that promotes food culture.

Profession: Restaurateurs, Interval and Cut Sando Bar

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving a future-forward approach to F&B in Hong Kong

Identical twins Caleb and Joshua Ng, founders of Twins Kitchen, have long been making their mark on Hong Kong’s F&B scene, whether through quaint neighbourhood café Common Ground, Preset Event Space located underneath their original coffee and wine bar, Interval in Central, or food incubator PMQ Taste Kitchen.

Most recently the pair relaunched Interval as two entirely new venues in Cyberport and Lohas Park where they are cementing their future-forward approach by experimenting with low-intervention and biodynamic wines, sourdough pizzas, live-fire cooking and, in the case of the Cyberport restaurant, an on-site farm created in collaboration with Farmacy HK that reduces the operation’s carbon footprint. Their next project, Cut Sando Bar, demonstrates an aptitude for identifying the next great idea in food, combining Japanese-style sandwiches with natural wines and curated music.

Photo: Michaela Giles/Tatler Hong Kong
Photo: Michaela Giles/Tatler Hong Kong

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, The Chairman

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Giving refined Cantonese cuisine its rightful place on the regional stage

When Danny Yip’s restaurant The Chairman ranked No 1 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021, it was a big moment. Not only was it the first time that a Hong Kong establishment had topped the table, but it was the first time a Cantonese restaurant had taken prime position.

And The Chairman is a worthy winner. Not only does the restaurant present refined Cantonese cuisine and advocate for the region’s food culture, but the research that goes into each dish, from seeking out lost or long-neglected ingredients to perfecting traditional techniques, is second-to-none.

See also: Hong Kong’s The Chairman Tops Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021

Photo: @f.o.v/Instagram
Photo: @f.o.v/Instagram

Profession: Coffee influencer, @f.o.v_

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Documenting the development of Hong Kong’s dynamic cafe culture and delivering regular doses of coffee content to thousands of followers

A practising architect in Hong Kong, Kwok (better known to her 81,000 followers on Instagram as @f.o.v_, which stands for Food of Visuals) paves the way for coffee connoisseurs and design fanatics with her feed showcasing the latest cafés in the city.

For Kwok, visiting a coffee shop is about more than just enjoying a daily dose of caffeine—it’s about immersing herself in the unique vibe of each venue and communicating with baristas. It helps that her passion for photography results in striking images that capture the essence of each spot she visits. Her work has culminated in essential resources—her frequently updated and free-to-use Hong Kong Coffee Map and the Hong Kong Coffee Guide, published in 2020. 

Photo: @jessicanaomifong/Instagram
Photo: @jessicanaomifong/Instagram

Profession: Urban farmer, Common Farms

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Making farming feasible again in Hong Kong

Jessica Fong is looking to reclaim some of Hong Kong’s former glory as an agricultural producer through Common Farms, the high-tech, forward-thinking urban farm that she co-founded with Preston Hartwick in 2017. By taking farming indoors, she is able to exercise control over climate, lighting, water efficiency and fertilisation, cutting out the need for pesticides and reducing water use, while stacking growing layers to produce 10 times more per square foot than a traditional farm.

Initially based out of a 400 sq ft test farm in Cheung Chau, Common Farms now operates a commercial production facility in Tin Wan, growing a wide variety of microgreens, herbs and edible flowers for home chefs, speciality grocers and high-end restaurants including Belon, Giando, Frantzen’s Kitchen, Tate Dining Room and Roganic.

Profession: Sustainability advocate and chef, Grassroots Initiatives

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Hong Kong’s pioneer in plant-based dining 

Nine years ago, Grassroots Pantry opened in Sai Ying Pun at a time when vegetarianism and veganism were still nascent in Hong Kong. Chan manifested her vision for a more eco-conscious, meat-free way of cooking and consuming in her debut eatery, which in 2015 moved to a significantly larger space on Hollywood Road. For four years it charmed diners with its plant-based food, before Chan transformed it into the elegant but sadly short-lived Nectar—a sophisticated, tasting menu-only restaurant. A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Chan decided to close the restaurant and instead got writing.

In December, she announced the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for a cookbook, Provenance, designed to raise awareness of the soon-to-launch venture Zero Foodprint Asia—a non-profit organisation focusing on food systems as the starting point for the fight against climate change. This year Chan has leaned into her networks to promote her philosophy of a plant-based lifestyle. 

See also: Curry Fishballs Are One of Hong Kong’s Greatest Food Inventions, According To Peggy Chan
 

Profession: Chairman and founder, MetaDesign and MetaBev

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Supporting and strengthening Hong Kong’s F&B community, particularly in its most challenging times

Championing mental and physical wellbeing, Chan has set what might seem like a lofty target for 2021: to run to the moon. But he won’t do it alone—as the driving force behind the newly established F&B Run Club initiative, Chan is a believer in teamwork. The aim of the initiative is to bring the F&B community together at a time that has been particularly tough for those in hospitality and together to walk, hike or run the distance to the moon.

It’s not the first time he’s championed his community. In 2020, Chan’s MetaBev worked with Chinese bottled cocktail company Laiba to create Bar in a Bottle, a series inspired and made by leading bartenders in Hong Kong during a period of bar closures, with proceeds going back to the venues. The company also partnered with COA to auction an exclusive bottle of Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario tequila to raise funds for Save Hong Kong F&B.

Photo; Nic and Bex Gaunt for Hong Kong Tatler
Photo; Nic and Bex Gaunt for Hong Kong Tatler

Profession: Forager

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Preserving the traditions and knowledge around wild edibles and medicinal plants in Asia

Foraging for food has never been unusual for Huang, who comes from five generations of Chinese herbalists on her father’s side and a farming background on her mother’s side. An educator by profession, Huang forages in her spare time, not only sharing her extensive knowledge of wild edibles and medicinal plants on private foraging excursions but also taking chefs and bartenders on adventures to seek out local delicacies. Most recently, she has been working with spirit companies, including Fernet Hunter, to distil distinctive drinks using Hong Kong herbs.

To source foraged produce, Huang works with organic farms, which is essential as foraging on government land or in country parks is illegal. Huang wants to preserve tradition, too. As she forages in the far reaches of Hong Kong, she gathers information from village elders who also know about wild edibles, and one day hopes to write it all down. But for now, she educates people through her tours and where possible in the experiential education adventures she leads.

Profile: Founder, Certa

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Supporting the next generation of Italian producers and bringing their wares to Asian audiences

Italian wine advocate and importer Mazzi is a force in Hong Kong’s drinks industry with her endless enthusiasm for unsung heroes of the wine world. As the founder of Certa, Mazzi represents over 40 Italian food and wine partners, from the luxurious Capofaro resort in the northeast of Sicily to Amara, a blood orange amaro brand that has become a cult favourite among restaurateurs and mixologists in Hong Kong.

At the end of 2020, she launched Certa Platform, an online marketplace pulling together more artisanal products, from small-batch panettone to colatura made from anchovies harvested in spring from the Amalfi Coast. This is all part of an effort to support the next generation of Italian producers by enabling them to find international audiences.

 

Profession: Co-founder, Penicillin Bar and Dead&

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A trailblazer in sustainable bartending

A veteran of the local bar industry, Prabowo was catapulted to the fore of the Asian cocktail scene when his previous venture, The Old Man, was named Asia’s Best Bar in 2019, a mere two years after opening. Last year, in the midst of the industry’s worst downturn in generations, he confronted the pandemic head on with the opening of Penicillin and Dead&, driving sustainable bartending forward with a unique zealotry for closed-loop processes in drink making.

See also: Penicillin Is Asia’s Most Sustainable Bar, As Awarded By Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021

Profession: Food designer and co-founder, Otium

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Bringing art, culture and food together in inspiring experiences

Bridging the gap between art, culture and food, Tan is a designer and the founder of experiential pop-up concepts such as Savour Cinema and Synesthesia. Otium, her private renovated warehouse space in eastern Hong Kong, blends performance and lavish dining in unexpected ways, drawing upon mythology and the classical vernacular for a sophisticated gastronomic experience like no other.

Profession: Mixologist and owner, Quinary

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving Hong Kong’s vibrant cocktail scene

Responsible for Hong Kong’s first craft cocktail bar and for kickstarting the city’s ongoing cocktail craze, Antonio Lai has continued to innovate by opening another five venues under the Tastings Group banner. A 24-year veteran of the industry, Lai continues to create new libations that intrigue and delight, cementing Hong Kong’s reputation as an Asian cocktail capital. Look out for his next venture, a drinks factory project that will only make fine cocktails even more pervasive.

Profession: Head brewer, Carbon Brews

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Keeping Hong Kong’s craft beer scene exciting

Though Hong Kong’s craft beer scene is fast maturing, there is still plenty of space for innovation, as Wong has proven with Carbon Brews. Established in 2018, the brewery espouses a democratic, equal-share company structure where all employees collaboratively develop and brew groundbreaking recipes—some involve local talents, from chefs such as May Chow to auteurs like Christopher Doyle.

 

Photo: Nic and Bex Gaunt for Tatler Hong Kong
Photo: Nic and Bex Gaunt for Tatler Hong Kong

Profession: Founder, Breadline and HKFoodWorks

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Using her knowledge of urban food systems combined with technology to reduce food waste and feed the homeless

When she was a student in London in 2004, Tam sold apples as a part-time job in Borough Market, where farmers would sell leftover produce. This inspired her to become an academic on urban food systems and use technology to reduce food waste when she returned to Hong Kong.

Apart from giving talks to the industry, Tam also set up the crowd-sourcing app Breadline in April 2020 and has since collected 34,627 loaves of leftover bread from bakeries to redistribute to the homeless, refugees and the elderly, an impressive feat—especially during a pandemic.

See also: Eco Heroes: Daisy Tam, Founder of Breadline And Hong Kong Foodworks

Profession: Founder, Green Monday, Green Common and Omnipork

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Changing the way people eat while addressing animal welfare and climate change 

Few people, if any, have inspired Hongkongers to consume a plant-based diet like Yeung. On Earth Day in 2012, Yeung founded Green Monday, a social venture addressing animal welfare and climate change, before unveiling plant-based grocery store Green Common. More recently, he launched the popular pork alternative OmniPork, which he says “came out of a selfish agenda. I missed dumplings and luncheon meat, two of Hong Kong’s most iconic comfort foods.”

 

Profession: Chairwoman, ZS Hospitality Group

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Bringing fresh new concepts to Hong Kong’s dining scene

Chu’s ZS Hospitality Group (the ZS stands for “zao shen”, or “kitchen god” in Chinese) is behind several of the city’s top destinations, including the Cantonese standout Ying Jee Club, quirkier pop concepts Lee Lo Mei and the vegetarian Miss Lee, and popular Korean import Hansik Goo. Next up is Whey from Barry Quek, beloved chef of the bygone Beet, who also fronts the Uncle Quek kiosk at the group’s Central food hall, JAM.

Profession: Founder, Sake Central

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Transforming the image of sake in Hong Kong

Among Hong Kong’s most vocal proponents of sake is Elliot Faber, a Calgary native behind some of the city’s most exciting sake brands and outlets, including Sake Central, Sunday’s Spirits and The Kura Collective. The former beverage director of Yardbird and Ronin is also one of the few Sake Samurais outside of Japan, a title bestowed on those who have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation and promotion of sake across the globe.

See also: The Love Boat: Inside Elliot Faber And Tiffany Ung’s Wedding On A Yacht
 

Profession: Founder, Feeding Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Redistributing surplus food away from landfills and to those that need it most

On a mission to tackle the issue of food waste, Kirstein left the corporate world in 2011 to set up Hong Kong’s first surplus food bank. Feeding Hong Kong redistributes quality food from companies and restaurants to charities and shelters across the city. As she says, “Feed people, not landfills”.

Profession: Founder, Bread Elements, Bakehouse and Bread Pantry

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Making artisanal baked goods more accessible in Hong Kong

Acclaimed for his baked goods, the former Four Seasons Hong Kong pastry chef seeks to make his pastries and breads more accessible to Hongkongers. Last October he opened his second Bakehouse outlet, where a queue constantly snakes out of the Soho bakery’s door, and more recently he launched Bread Pantry, which takes his artisanal baked goods, characterised by their quality ingredients, to supermarkets and food halls across Hong Kong.

See also: How Hong Kong’s Vegetables And Char Siu Inspire Bakehouse’s Gregoire Michaud

Profession: CEO, Food Made Good Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Advocating for a more sustainable food industry in Hong Kong

Spurrell is a leading advocate for sustainability in the global food industry, having worked with several NGOs specialising in supply chain challenges and the shift to alternative proteins and plant-based diets around the world, and now Food Made Good Hong Kong, a chapter of the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Profession: Managing Editor, Drink Magazine

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A driver in Asia’s drink industry and a champion of the women who work in it

Having spent only six years in the Asian bar scene, Graham has styled herself a force to be reckoned with through her work for industry publication Drink, and more recently by launching the Asia Women in Booze platform to champion women in the drinks business throughout the region. Graham’s advocacy goes beyond Asia in her role as an academy chair for The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards.

Photo: Amanda Kho/Tatler Hong Kong
Photo: Amanda Kho/Tatler Hong Kong

Profession: Founder, Tong Chong Street Market and Honestly Green

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving demand for local Hong Kong produce and championing sustainability in the city

A prolific writer and editor, Leung Hayes’ sphere of influence also extends beyond the written word. An instrumental player in Hong Kong’s food scene, she brought Tong Chong Street Market to life, creating a now insatiable demand for locally grown produce, as well as Honestly Green, a social enterprise and consultancy that focuses on food sustainability.

Profession: Founder, Nomad Caviar

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Transforming the way we purchase and consume caviar

After working as everything from a hotel consultant to executive director of Ce La Vi, Cohen’s latest venture is caviar. Through his brand Nomad Caviar, he hopes to make the exclusive delicacy into an everyday luxury. Sourcing from a family-owned farm in China, which upholds high industry standards, he simply packages Kaluga in 500g, 1kg or 1.7kg tubs to sell direct to consumers. He is already making the mounds of glistening black beads that overflow from his blue tubs the party accessory of the season.

See also: Affordable Caviar By The Kilo? Meet The Hong Kong Brand Making This A Reality

Profession: Group Beverage Director, Leading Nation

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Renowned mixologist with a winning speakeasy concept

Nugent prefers that his work speaks for itself or, rather, reveals itself to those who search for it. The Diplomat is where the burly Seattle native delivers an artisanal precision he spent 14 years perfecting. For a masterclass in proportion, go no further than his world-beating Gibson, while his menu of humble bar food just happens to include the city’s best burger. But you won’t find him shouting about it; diplomats are experts in subtlety, after all.

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Avant Meats Company

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Developing cultivated meat products from fish cells

“I have happily skipped meat for half a decade,” Chan says. “Knowing how industrialised concentrated animal breeding inevitably brings side effects to public health.” In 2018, Chan founded China’s first cultivated meat biotechnology company, which uses cell technologies to cultivate traceable meat that does not involve animal slaughter.

Making of the Hong Kong Cocktail Portraits by Jonathan Maloney and Inga Beckmann
Photo: Jonathan Maloney and Inga Beckmann

Profession: Beverage Manager, Caprice Bar at Four Seasons

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A mixology maestro who always has a refreshing take on Hong Kong’s drinks scene

The affable Italian mixology maestro is a refreshing figure on the drinks scene, demonstrating inimitable sprezzatura and a solid intuition for unconventional cocktails. His long-awaited reimagining of the hotel’s flagship bar (soon to be unveiled with a new name and look this June) will be quite unlike any other bar in the city.

Profession: Instagrammer, @little_meg_siu_meg

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Influencing Hong Kong’s foodies through her dedicated and detailed Instagramming

Better known by her online moniker, Little Meg, Lam is one of Asia’s most prominent food influencers despite staying in relative anonymity, and a trusted source for where to dine well. Her Instagram account covers, in fascinating detail, the laborious cooking techniques and the specificity of ingredients at the world’s best restaurants; each caption and recommendation is a lesson in deconstructing how and why a dish works.

Profession: Founder, Little Bao and Happy Paradise

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Always ensuring Hong Kong’s dining scene is fresh and fun while flying the flag for Cantonese cuisine

Chow continues to move the needle for gastronomy in Hong Kong, bringing much-needed waves of creativity and collaboration to keep the scene fresh. Her restaurants continue to fly the flag for Hong Kong cuisine. She’s also responsible for leading the charge towards offbeat culinary events such as The Gelinaz Shuffle’s Hong Kong edition, where she brings together talents both established and emerging.

Profession: Co-founders, NIP Distilling

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Capturing Hong Kong’s botanical diversity in a bottle––of gin

Seeking to capture Hong Kong’s botanical diversity within a gin, Li and Law have made serious inroads as one of its first homegrown distillers. Their NIP Rare Dry Gin has already won the title of Best Hong Kong Contemporary Gin at the World Gin Awards, though they’re not resting on their laurels, with seasonal special releases and plans to produce other spirits in the future.

Profession: Director of culinary operations and F&B, Landmark Mandarin Oriental

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Pioneering more sustainable professional kitchens and more thoughtful fine dining operations

Driving change when it comes to sustainability in professional kitchens, Ekkebus puts his progressive approach into practice through his focus on society, sourcing and the environment, as exemplified by his efforts at Amber. He also works closely with sustainability consultancy Food Made Good and is an active voice on Clubhouse, particularly around the importance of operating fine dining more thoughtfully.

Profession: General Manager, Roganic

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Leading the way when it comes to service, sourcing and sustainabilty

Not only does Oakford manage the award-winning service team at Roganic, but he is also deeply involved with the sourcing of the restaurant’s local ingredients alongside chef Ashley Salmon. That’s one aspect that sets Roganic apart and led to it becoming the only restaurant in Hong Kong to receive a Green Michelin Star in 2021.

Profession: Founder, Table of Two Cities

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Empowering refugee communities through the power of food and cooking

Smyth’s five-year-old grassroots project has brought attention to refugee communities through empowering events where they can showcase their cuisines and skills, and create their own narratives while living in Hong Kong.

Profession: Founder, Dashijie

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Keeping Chinese culinary traditions and heritage alive

Fondly known as Dashijie—or Dai C Jie in Cantonese—Yiu is the quiet force shaping chefs today with her infinite knowledge of Chinese cuisine and her desire to uphold time-honoured techniques and traditions. Outside of industry circles, her eponymous food brand brings decades of expertise straight into homes around Hong Kong, most notably her signature sauces and festive foods such as mooncakes and puddings.

Profession: Founder, Grain of Salt

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Combining health eating and nutritional consulting in a one-stop shop

Shek is the founder of Hong Kong’s first dietician-operated café, Grain of Salt, on Gough Street. Her goal is to combine healthy eating with nutritional counselling. Her shop serves as a clinic and cafe where she is available for medical nutritional therapy to manage health-related issues such as obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Wing
Photo: Courtesy of Wing

Profession: Executive chef and co-founder, VEA Restaurant & Lounge

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Committed to reinterpreting Chinese cuisine to the highest––and most sumptuous––standards

Cheng is the founder of Hong Kong’s one-Michelin-starred VEA, where he celebrates the marriage of Chinese and French cuisines. The chef also set up the Elizabeth Nutritional Fund, named after his first daughter, to help underprivileged children avoid malnutrition. Most recently, Cheng opened Wing—a restaurant dedicated to celebrating the possibilities of Chinese cuisine.

Profession: Chef and owner, Tate Dining Room

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Highlighting seasonal ingredients, always with an eye of sustainability as well as style

In 2015, Lau earned the title of Asia’s best female chef from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and in 2021 the restaurant gained its second Michelin star. Last year, the modern French-Chinese hotspot debuted Date by Tate—a boutique filled with covetable lifestyle products, including a six-course gourmet delivery box created with sustainability in mind. She continues to highlight seasonal and traditional ingredients that pay homage to the flavours of Hong Kong.

Profession: Founder, Test Kitchen

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Providing a platform for both globally established and emerging chefs to showcase their talent

Through Test Kitchen, Mui has introduced both established and emerging names from the culinary world to Hong Kong diners. At his expansive space in Sai Ying Pun, he has hosted more than 50 pop-ups with chefs from more than 30 countries, and although the pandemic forced some postponements and pivoting, he continues to provide a platform through which chefs can showcase their passions and talents to new audiences.

Profession: Founder, Cookie DPT; managing director, The DPT Group

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: The brains behind Hong Kong’s favourite cookie brand

Fang moved from New York to Hong Kong in 2009 with the intention of staying in Asia for just a few months. Twelve years later, he is responsible for some of Hong Kong’s most Instagrammable cookies. Nostalgic for the American baked goods he grew up with, Fang made recipes that include the classics as well as limited-edition flavours, like strawberry cheesecake, cinnamon toast crunch and funfetti. The business now has kiosks at Basehall, Harbour City and Lee Garden One, and a pop-up at The Grounds.

See also: For Cookie DPT Founder Wil Fang, Sweets Are Serious Business

Photo: Nic and Bex Gaunt for Tatler Hong Kong
Photo: Nic and Bex Gaunt for Tatler Hong Kong

Profession: Founder, JIA Group

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Enhancing Hong Kong’s F&B scene with solid dining concepts that deliver style and substance 

Wong is the founder and CEO of JIA Group, which oversees some of Hong Kong’s buzziest Michelin-starrred restaurants, including Louise and Ando. She co-founded Duddell’s with her husband, Alan Lo. With Wong as CEO, JIA and its establishments have become synonymous with style and substance.

Profession: Co-founders, Black Sheep Restaurants

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Building an ever-growing empire of innovative restaurants and concepts that continue to drive Hong Kong’s F&B industry forward

Over the best part of a decade, this dynamic duo have turned their small restaurant group into a culinary empire with a roster of impressive chefs and fresh concepts that keep the public coming back for more. In 2020, their Covid-19 playbook proved a resource for the industry and, this year, the group are charging ahead with even more restaurant launches and initiatives.

Profession: Co-founders, Conspiracy Chocolate

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Bringing new dimensions to bean-to-bar chocolate

From experimenting by fusing melted Lindt chocolate bars with aromatics in their Sai Ying Pun kitchen to creating high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate in a licensed food factory, Herren and Oz are creating a new wave of locally made confectionery that challenges convention.

Profession: Founder, Wendy’s Wok World

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Shining a spotlight on the traditions and techniques of Chinese wok cooking

When Lui embarked on a project to explore Chinese traditions through the lens of wok cookery, she intended it to be purely conceptual, with “Wendy” as her alter-ego. Today, the private dinners she holds in her family home in Sheung Shui are the talk of the town, thanks to her wok skills and intriguing ambition.

See also: The Rising Stars Of Hong Kong’s Dining Scene And What They’re Doing Now

Profession: Assistant General Manager, Hongkong Land

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A force for innovative food concepts in Hong Kong’s Central district

Andrews spearheaded the creation of Basehall, Hong Kong’s hottest food hall that brings together the city’s creative restaurant brands, from Yardbird’s Roti Tori to vegetarian cult favourite Treehouse. More recently, he led the launch of Belowground at Landmark and is planning more projects for the property developer.

Profession: Executive chef and director of culinary and operations, Les Amis

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A leading French chef who continually strives to achieve more

Chef Sebastien Lepinoy has helmed Les Amis since 2013. The French haute cuisine restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars in 2019, and ranked No 13 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 list. “When you receive three Michelin stars, it’s not a lifetime achievement. To maintain the stars, we must get stronger and stronger every year. We must invest in manpower and training so that they have different skills,” says Lepinoy. This includes sending team members for French lessons.

The chef shares, “One of the exciting things in 2021 is that we will be renovating the restaurant [in June]. One of our private rooms will be transformed into a cheese room to offer an even better experience to our guests. We are also going with a new approach by offering gourmet products online including olive oil, caviar, butter and champagne with Les Amis branding.” Lepinoy, who is Chopard’s brand ambassador, will also be collaborating with a famous porcelain maker in France in the near future.

Profession: Chef-owner, Odette

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: One of Asia’s top fine dining chefs who is helping to develop the next generation of chefs and hospitality leaders

The chef-owner of three-Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant Odette in Singapore, and one-Michelin-starred bistro-style restaurant Louise in Hong Kong, Julien Royer is not only the face of his restaurants, but a mentor to his team of chefs. In his kitchens, there’s a very collaborative culture with emphasis on the team growing together. “To develop the next generation of hospitality leaders, I believe I have a responsibility to infuse positivity, inspire through knowledge, cultivate an uplifting culture and continuously challenge one another to move the industry forward,” he says.

Royer is working on his second venture in Singapore with The Lo & Behold Group. Slated to open in the third quarter of 2021, the new concept at Dempsey Hill is designed for a wider audience, and will serve à la carte French cuisine in a relaxed manner. “I’m very excited about the possibility of creating a place that brings people together over the simple pleasures of good food and drinks in a lively atmosphere. I believe people look to return to comfort and authenticity more than ever before.”

Profession: Chef-restaurateur and founder, il Lido Group

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Enhancing Singapore’s dining scene with crowd-pleasing concepts

The man behind some of Singapore’s buzziest dining concepts wears many hats. Beppe De Vito, founder and owner of il Lido Group, juggles a variety of restaurants ranging from luxe dining destinations Art, Gemma and Michelin-starred Braci, to breezy rooftop bars Levant and Southbridge, to casual restaurant Amò.

The dynamic Italian chef certainly seems to have a knack for ideating and executing crowd-pleasing concepts—his latest venture is Carne, a joint partnership with chef Mauro Colagreco of three Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur in France. It ticks all the right boxes in sustainability, a game changer for a restaurant specialising in the icon of the fast-food industry: burgers.

Profession: Chef, Restaurant KIN

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A veteran steward of Singapore’s heritage cuisine

Affectionately dubbed the “grandfather of heritage cuisine”, Damian D’Silva is a familiar face to many through his role as a judge on MasterChef Singapore, and not least his championing of the preservation of Singapore’s heritage dishes. He painstakingly documents the country’s complex culinary history through the time-honoured dishes he serves at Restaurant Kin.

Diners tucking into D’Silva’s piquant dishes are treated to a tapestry of flavours woven together by personal stories of yesteryears, a combination that takes Singaporean diners on a journey of remembering their own wonderfully unique and multicultural identities.

Profession: Chef-owner, Cheek Bistro, Cloudstreet and Kotuwa

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Introducing Sri Lankan flavours to an ever-growing audience

For years after making his mark on the local dining scene with one Michelin-starred Cheek Bistro (previously Cheek By Jowl), Sri Lankan native Rishi Naleendra found an elevated platform to offer a deeper and more eloquent expression of his culinary prowess with restaurant Cloudstreet. Opened in July 2019, his culinary approach here—which is modern European in foundation—combines his experiences and heritage. This progressive embrace of Sri Lankan flavours quickly led to the 2020 launch of Kotuwa, Singapore’s first full-service Sri Lankan restaurant––and it could lead to more openings.

“After we settle in Singapore, we may take Kotuwa somewhere else like Australia—it’d be nice for us to have something there,” says Naleendra. “It’s a marathon, and I’m pacing myself. When I work for a place, there was always a purpose, and it was never about money. I knew when the time is right, money will follow. Also, investing in people—that’s the key.” Suffice to say, his unpretentious approach regardless of the restaurant concept remains extremely attractive.

Profession: Chef and founder, Coriander Leaf

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A leading light of Singapore’s local F&B industry

Twenty years on and still going strong. Suffice to say, Samia Ahad is a luminary in the local F&B industry. Her restaurant, Coriander Leaf, started serving imaginative, pan-Asian cuisine in Robertson Quay back in 2001. Now, Coriander Leaf can be found at Chijmes and most recently, the Singapore Polo Club, where it breathes fresh air into the club, drawing in members and new visitors with Ahad’s colourful cuisine, which inclusively caters to all dietary restrictions. Ahad has also pivoted her business towards catering services and culinary classes—the latter now done virtually, taking participants around the world with her signature eclectic cuisine that draws on multifaceted culinary cultures.

Profession: Chef-owner, Burnt Ends

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Reimagining the modern barbecue experience

In 2013, chef Dave Pynt carved out one of the most exciting places to dine in Singapore. Wildly popular modern barbecue restaurant, Burnt Ends, has one Michelin star and is currently ranked No 14 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Newly introduced spin-offs include Burnt Ends Bakery, an online bakery arm, and Burnt Ends Cellars, which offers exclusive wines, whiskies and gins. Pynt, who has been nominated for The Best Chef Awards 2021, also runs casual eatery brand Meatsmith, which serves American smokehouse barbecue at its Telok Ayer restaurant and modern Indian barbecue at its Little India outlet.

Meatsmith also recently expanded to Doha, Qatar. Pynt has plans for new concepts in Jakarta later this year to boot. The Perth native has also taken his modern barbecue concept to the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi with contemporary grill restaurant The Ledge by Dave Pynt, which champions local seafood. Burnt Ends will be moving to a new home in Dempsey this year which will feature an expanded bakery section.

Profession: Chef-owner, Nouri and Appetite 

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A reinventor of restaurant concepts

The chef behind Michelin-starred Nouri approaches food with the intellect of an anthropologist, investigating the moments of cultural intersection across cuisines. The result is “crossroads cuisine”, which sees his creations drawing on global culinary traditions and flavours. Extending the idea of crossroads cuisine to cultural experiences, in 2020 Brehm launched Appetite, a space that brings art, music and food together. While Appetite started as Nouri’s research and development arm, the new space (located just above Nouri) showcases daring R&D dishes that draw on collaborative research with historians, artists, journalists and designers.

Profession: Culinary director, Masalaa Bar; founder, Chef Milind Sovani’s Innovation Centre; Indian brand chef, TiffinLabs 

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Reimagining the future of Indian cuisine

This veteran chef, who previously headed one of Singapore’s top fine dining Indian restaurants, launched Masalaa Bar at the end of 2020 with the aim of offering an eclectic space that features a bar with excellent food, and a restaurant that serves fantastic drinks too. Sovani is also collaborating with TiffinLabs, the FoodTech company that creates digital-first F&B brands.

He says, “Under this umbrella, the Indian food will be branded under my name, and the recipes will be mine. The first venture is called Biryani Bar. In the future, we might do street food of India—which you can assemble for parties at home; this is one of the most exciting projects for me as I see a good future for the virtual restaurants space globally. I’m not afraid of change … maybe that’s what has helped me in my job the last 36 years. I’m always reinventing myself—I think it’s the most important thing.”

Profession: Chef-owner, Janice Wong Pastry

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Constantly reimagining and reinventing desserts

This homegrown pastry chef constantly invites the world to rethink what dessert can be. Since launching her progressive dessert bar 2am:dessertbar in 2007, Janice Wong has made a name for herself globally with her avant-garde culinary creations, not least her edible art installations that have been exhibited the world over.

Today, her name has become an eponymous international brand found in South Korea, Japan and the UK via retail shops that tote Wong’s signature confectioneries such as bonbons and chocolate painting sets. In July, she will also be running a pop-up in Osaka to commemorate the 2021 Olympics, featuring a range of Peranakan-inspired confectionery.

Profession: Founder and executive director, Project Dignity

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A champion of the disabled and disadvantaged

Project Dignity was established 11 years ago to create jobs for people who are disadvantaged, including those with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities, and who face social challenges. “I started Dignity Kitchen, a centre that trains people with disability to be hawkers,” Koh shares, noting that it was the first hawker school in the world. “We have four basic principles: providing skills, helping people to gain employment, integration and inclusion.”

It started with just one stall, and has since grown to include a warehouse building that’s been transformed into an F&B space. He wants to introduce the Dignity Farm initiative to train autistic children to do farming. He adds, “In Hong Kong, we have created Dignity Wheel—an electric wheelchair delivery system.” He also started Dignity Mama, a second-hand bookshop for mothers with disabled children, and Dignity Ai that features a digital concierge.

Profession: Group GM, SuperLoco

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Influencing Singapore’s F&B industry to be more sustainable

The Loco Group, which runs Super Loco at Customs House and Robertson Quay, and Lucha Loco at Duxton Hill, embarked on the “LoC02” Green Steps initiative to make its business more sustainable as well as inspire the F&B Industry. In December 2019, the group led the founding of Singapore’s first F&B Sustainability Council. “What I am proud about is the number of businesses and individuals we have influenced to either do more, stay motivated, or start from scratch,” says Leonard, who hopes the council will be able to scale its impact beyond businesses in its immediate sphere of influence.

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Proof Collective

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Reinventing the global cocktail scene

Led by Paul Gabie, independent spirits company and drinks consultancy, Proof & Company, has raised the bar with the launch of ecoSpirits, a groundbreaking solution to spirits packaging. “I am in the process of shifting the majority of my time to leading ecoSpirits, our low-carbon, low-waste technology that dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of spirits consumption,” says Gabie, who passed the baton of his Proof & Company CEO role to his successor Paul Broadbent in April.

He adds, “ecoSpirits is launching in the UK in May, and soon in additional markets in Europe. We are bringing a Singapore sustainability technology to the world—something we’re very proud of.” Last year, Gabie helped establish the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association to help the industry navigate the pandemic. In 2020, he was named in Drinks International’s Bar World 100 list of the industry’s most influential figures.

Profession: Founder and CEO, Spa Esprit

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Ensuring Singapore’s lifestyle scene stays ahead of the curve with her cutting-edge concepts

This relentless entrepreneur is a tastemaker in the truest sense of the word. Since 1996, the savvy founder of the Spa Esprit Group has built an entire lifestyle empire encompassing some of the city’s most noteworthy F&B venues as well as beauty and wellness brands.

The 16 brands (and counting) span more than 100 outlets in 10 cities including Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Chua has an uncanny ability to give consumers what they don’t know they want yet. She has introduced new concepts—to much fanfare—into the Singaporean market such as natural wine bar Drunken Farmer, farm-to-table dining experiences Noka and Open Farm Community, and gut-friendly and gluten-free venue The Butcher’s Wife. The group opened its seventh Tiong Bahru Bakery in April, and a new Common Man Coffee Roasters in Joo Chiat in May.

Profession: Founder, Brass Lion Distillery

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Driving a host of sustainable initiatives and collaborations in the drinks space

Running Singapore’s first standalone micro‑distillery that specialises in small‑batch craft spirits is only the beginning for Jamie Koh, who believes that maintaining a sustainable business is just as important. This includes a product line that uses upcycled ingredients from its distillation processes.

“As part of our commitment to quality, we hand-peel all of our citrus fruits and use the peels for distillation. The fruits without peels are then cut and dehydrated for use in our tasting room and bar as garnishes. Other interesting products that we’ve made as part of our sustainability product line include gin marmalade, hot sauce, ice cream and cooking salts,” she says. Koh also highlighted her fondness for collaborations with like-minded local businesses, which include chocolate bonbons with local chocolatier Mr Bucket, the Osmanthus Oolong Gin with Gryphon Tea Company, and the Flourishing Fortune Gin with homeware and furniture brand, Scene Shang.

Profession: Founding director, Unlisted Collection

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A serial restaurateur behind some of Singapore’s best restaurants 

With top-notch restaurants such as Burnt Ends, Cloudstreet, Nouri and Restaurant Zén all under the Unlisted Collection umbrella, what is Loh Lik Peng’s winning formula? “I think I have been lucky to work with the best in the business. It’s really down to them and not me,” the serial restaurateur declares. Loh entrusts the restaurant projects to them and enables them to hone their creativity—as long as the businesses are kept financially viable. Besides Singapore, Loh also helms Unlisted Collection’s boutique hotel properties and restaurants in restored heritage listed buildings in cities including London, Sydney and Shanghai.

Profession: Co-founder and managing partner, Lo & Behold

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Keeping Singapore’s F&B scene enduringly exciting

Since Wee Teng Wen co-founded The Lo & Behold Group in 2005, he has launched a series of award-winning concepts in Singapore, revitalising the F&B scene with pioneering concepts. Last year, the group launched Clink Clink, an online bottle shop offering sommelier-curated bundles of wines, while 2021 will see the opening of a new relaxed French dining concept led by Julien Royer, the award-winning chef behind the three-Michelin-starred Odette. Wee says, “I encourage my team to challenge and uplift the local scene by always trying to take the uncharted path to accomplish our goals”

Photo: Les Amis Group
Photo: Les Amis Group

Profession: Group chairman, Les Amis Group

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Pioneering restaurateur with a passion for cultivating raw talent

For more than two decades, Desmond Lim has been instrumental in developing and steering Les Amis Group’s numerous dining concepts. Since Les Amis, Singapore’s first independent French fine dining restaurant, was established in 1994, the group has grown and evolved and yet maintains its dedication to excellence. To date, it has 25 brands and concepts under its umbrella.

The year 2021 promises to be a busy year for the company: its first cloud kitchen concept, Kitch, opened in February, while Japanese prefecture-focused Wagyu omakase concept, Wagyu Jin, is targeted to open at Shaw Centre in May. After a successful pop-up at Casa Verde, American Texan BBQ concept S’Mao will find a permanent space in the third quarter of 2021. Les Amis Group also has plans to introduce its first halal-certified concept.

Profession: Co-founder, Como Group

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Leading the experience economy

Lifestyle maven Christina Ong is undoubtedly leading the experience economy. Over the years, the founder‑owner of Como Group has expanded the brand globally through its luxury fashion retailer Club 21, and hospitality collection, Como Hotels and Resorts, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Ong is also a pioneer of the wellness industry.

Como Shambhala, which was established in 1997, advocates holistic wellness and encompasses resorts, retreat centres in urban cities, and even its own brand of healthy cuisine. Back home in Singapore, Ong has also revitalised Dempsey Hill into a lifestyle enclave with Como Dempsey, which is home to The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar headlined by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Michelin-starred Candlenut by chef Malcolm Lee, Como’s retail cum bistro space Culina, and Como Cuisine.

Profession: Co-founders, Jigger & Pony Group

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Power couple consistently raising the bar for the local cocktail scene

Since founding their first cocktail bar Jigger & Pony in 2012, Gan Guoyi and Indra Kantono have expanded their business to include contemporary Italian restaurant and bar Caffe Fernet, mid-century Japan-inspired bar Live Twice, and creative small plates and oyster bar Humpback, among others.

In 2020, Jigger & Pony clinched the top spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for the first time, and secured the ninth spot in the World’s 50 Best Bars list. The secret behind the brand’s success? Providing a place where guests can consistently find comfort, forge friendships and share happiness over well-crafted drinks and bites. Together with other industry leaders, Gan also set up the non-profit Singapore Cocktail Bar Association to help raise relief funds for bar staff and operators, banding the industry together to emerge stronger post-pandemic.

Profession: Executive director and founder, Edible Garden City

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Championing urban agriculture 

In its nine years, Bjorn Low has transformed Edible Garden City into a social enterprise that impacts every individual involved in the urban food cycle: chefs and consumers have access to a steady supply of local produce from its farm in Queenstown (the latter through weekly subscription boxes). He also lends his expertise to designing and building herb gardens for restaurants, hotels, schools, offices and residential homes, while empowering the next generation to rediscover their connection to the land through classes and workshops. Local food artisans like chocolate makers and brewers frequently collaborate with Low to incorporate local produce into their products.

Profession: Founder, Karana

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A champion of alternative proteins and committed environmentalist

Passionate about revolutionising the global food system, Blair Crichton, together with Daniel Riegler, established Karana, Asia’s first whole plant-based meat brand, in Singapore. Its first product, which launched in 2021, is a whole plant-based “pork” alternative made from organic jackfruit sustainably sourced from Sri Lankan farmers and created using proprietary processing technology that enhances the texture of ingredients without chemicals or heavy processing.

It already features at several top dining establishments, including Candlenut and Butcher Boy, and will be available for retail later in the year. In May, Karana also launches at leading restaurants in Hong Kong, the city where Crichton was born and raised. He has experience working at alternative meat start-ups Impossible Foods and New Age Meats as well as The Good Food Institute.

Profession: Author

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Promoting local Singaporean cuisine around the world

A journalist for more than two decades, Christopher Tan has explored and commented on food, culture and heritage for many local and international publications. He believes that what we eat is the smallest part of any food encounter: it is in the how, why, when, where and with whom we eat that its full flavour truly lies.

Tan has authored over 12 cookbooks, most recently The Way of Kueh, a paean to traditional kueh culture, which was named Book of the Year and Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title at the Singapore Book Awards 2020. The champion of local cuisine also expresses his lifelong devotion to kuehs—the sweet and savoury snacks traditional to many Southeast Asian cuisines and cultures—by teaching heritage-focused cooking classes.

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Sustenir

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Driving Asian nations towards better sustainability practices through indoor vertical farming 

Benjamin Swan is the founder of transformative indoor vertical farming company Sustenir Agriculture. When he moved to Singapore more than a decade ago, the Australian was inspired to grow fresh greens after seeing how vertical farming could create a controlled growing environment. With over 20 years of infrastructure and project management experience, he researched new methods and solutions to adapt and customise vertical farming practices to Asia.

The result is tastier, more nutritious, and pesticide-free fresh leafy greens such as kale. In the past year, Sustenir has scaled up its farm in Singapore and launched three new salad mixes. Sustenir Hong Kong launched in the thick of the pandemic, but the business has been growing positively and now boasts more than 80 distribution touchpoints in Hong Kong. Most recently, Sustenir expanded to Malaysia, and launched the country’s first-ever indoor vertical farm inside a distribution centre in Kajang, in partnership with Dairy Farm International, creating the first zero-mile, pesticide-free superfoods in Malaysia.

Profession: Founder and director, At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy 

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Leading educator in the culinary space

Founded by Kwan Lui in 2001, At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy is Singapore’s leading culinary school, through which Lui relentlessly paves an educational-cum-career pathway for young people in Asia to achieve their aspirations to be global chefs. To date, the academy has welcomed students from more than 32 countries. In January 2021, At-Sunrice inked a partnership with Worldchefs, a France-based organisation that elevates global culinary standards.

For the first time, chefs from 104 countries will be able to attain a diploma accredited by Worldchefs through its DigiChef platform. The platform not only offers At‑Sunrice’s brand of east‑west, herbs-spices curriculum, but also provides work-study opportunities to 500,000 Worldchef members. Lui is a recipient of two lifetime awards and an honorary doctorate in educational leadership. Her current focus is on sustainability with zero waste, food entrepreneurship and culinary wellness in transnational collaborations.

Arrif Ziaudeen
Arrif Ziaudeen
Dinesh Balasingam
Dinesh Balasingam

Profession: CEO and COO, Chope

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Pioneering F&B tech entrepreneurs

Affectionately named after the colloquial Singaporean term for “to reserve”, Chope is now Asia’s leading online reservations platform spanning eight cities and servicing more than 5,000 restaurants. Founder and CEO Arrif Ziaudeen, and COO Dinesh Balasingam have grown the business (raising funds from venture capitalists along the way) with a passion for equipping restaurants with customised tech solutions to increase efficiency.

Besides helping restaurants manage their reservations, and providing them with marketing and analytics support, the company has also come up with other innovative revenue-generating solutions such as off-peak vouchers and discounted deals. And to steer F&B outlets through a post-pandemic recovery, Chope recently partnered with the Infocomm Media Development Authority to help merchants in Chinatown engage with new audiences through its platform. In their spare time, the two entrepreneurs are committed to various mentorship programmes and networks that groom young leaders in the tech space.

Profession: Co-founder, Tiffin Lab

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A FoodTech visionary

Co-founded by Phuminant Tantiprasongchai, TiffinLabs is a digital restaurant group that creates and scales delivery-optimised digital restaurant brands. “Our proprietary food data analytics engine looks at consumer demographics and sociographics, as well as available cuisines in a certain geography to identify cuisine gaps,” says Tantiprasongchai.

“This data is then used to craft our brands, menus and recipes to optimise product market fit.” He notes that traditional bricks-and-mortar restaurants they partner with “can cook these meals out of their restaurants using our proprietary recipes and ingredients that ensure rapid cooking time, while maintaining consistency and quality for every delivery order at scale”. TiffinLabs also manages the e-commerce sales to maximise incremental revenues and profits for restaurateurs. The culinary team comprises chefs with experience leading research and development in Michelin-starred restaurants as well as global QSR (quick service restaurant) chains. The company’s growing list of digital restaurant brands include La Takorea, and The Biryani Bar by Chef Milind Sovani.

Profession: Restaurateur, Naked Finn, Magic Square and BurgerLabo

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: Supporting Singapore’s community of aspiring young chefs

Restaurateur Ken Loon and his team are known for conceptualising some of the finest seafood creations at Naked Finn since 2012. Loon is also the brain behind Magic Square, which started as a year-long pop-up in 2018 to provide opportunities for young local chefs.

“Magic Square is the first step in our pursuit for an evolution of modern Singaporean cuisine; it’s a continuous project to provide the platform for our talents to explore and experiment,” he says. Recruitment of self-motivated chefs is critical to the success of Magic Square, which provides space and tools, as well as access to quality ingredients and mentors that include top chefs from around the world. In mid-2021, Loon will reopen Magic Square in a permanent location, and launch an affordable, standalone burger restaurant.

Profession: Chef-owner, Labyrinth

Location: Singapore

Impact statement: A leading light in Singapore’s locavore movement

For an import-reliant country like Singapore, it seems unthinkable for a restaurant to have over 70 per cent of its ingredients sourced locally. And yet for Han Li Guang, chef-owner of one-Michelin-starred Labyrinth, this is the only way forward. For the past seven years, Han has evolved from a chef showcasing his playful and inspired takes on local dishes, to one at the forefront of the locavore movement.

At his restaurant, Han works closely with local food growers and farmers with the aim of creating an “ecology” where farmers and chefs collaborate to source and utilise more local produce. His vision of melding culinary creativity with food security culminated in Labyrinth winning the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021, where it debuted at No 40 on the list.

Profession: Chef and founder, Danny & Company

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Taiwan’s steak master

Known as the ‘Godfather of Steak’ in Taiwan, Danny Teng has been involved with some of the country’s best steak restaurants, including one-Michelin-starred Danny’s Steakhouse in Taipei. His latest venture, Danny and Company, sees a return to his roots in Teppanyaki––Teng is the founder of Ben Teppanyaki––though seafood brings an additional dimension to his offering here, alongside a wide range of beef cuts demonstrating that Teng continues to be committed to bringing high-quality, delicious steaks to Taiwanese consumers.

Profession: Chef and founder, Yu Chocolatier

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Taking Taiwanese chocolate to the world

After tasting French gourmet chocolate for the first time, Yu Hsuan Cheng made a life-changing decision––he would no longer major in Literature but instead become a chocolatier. So began a journey of self-training followed by education at L’École Ferrandi Paris in French pastry, and internships at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Pavillon Ledoyen and chocolatier Jacques Génin.

In 2015, Yu founded Yu Chocolatier which combines French chocolate-making techniques with ingredients that highlight Taiwan’s terroir. The brand has met with great acclaim, garnering attention at the Asia-Pacific Competition of the International Chocolate Awards where it won two awards in 2016 and five awards in 2017.

Profession: Bartender; Owner, BFLO & Co. and BFLO Restaurant & Cafe

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Promoting cocktail culture in Taiwan

Jaffee Hsu is a Taiwan-born bar owner who grew up in the U.S. He strives to promote bartending culture in Taiwan by holding exhibitions and awards ceremonies. He is also the founder of a spirit and mixer importer, BFLO & Co, and the owner of BFLO Restaurant & Cafe in Taipei.

Profession: Owner, L’arrière-cour; writer and YouTuber

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Taiwan’s resident whisky expert

Steven Lin is the founder of one of Taiwan’s most impressive whisky bars, L’arrière-cour, where guests can choose from more than 400 Scotch single malts, for which Lin has a particular love. A whisky expert called upon by various media for his extensive knowledge, Lin shares his mastery of the subject in his various roles as Chief Consultant of Taiwan’s Whiskey Master School, as a prolific writer with columns in Vintage Magazine and International Creative Business Magazine, as author of a whisky book, and as a social media influencer on YouTube where his channel has more than 50,000 subscribers.

Profession: Winemaker, Vino Formosa

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Making a name for Taiwanese wine and spirits

At a time when winemaking was illegal in Taiwan, Chen Chien-hao (陳千浩) went to France to study oenology. Enrolling at the University of Burgundy in 1997, he was the first Asian student on the course, though he didn’t know where it would lead. Returning to Taiwan, he was teaching at Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, where he is currently an assistant professor, when his expertise was called upon.

He went on to create two of Taiwan’s most interesting wines in partnership with Taichung producer Domaine Shu Sheng. His Vino Formosa dessert wines are crafted from local Taiwanese grapes black queen muscat and golden muscat and, in 2020, were awarded the top prizes in their respective categories at the Vinalies Internationales Competition. Not stopping his drink making there, Chen is currently working on recreating a sweet potato and rice liquor that was made by the Japanese during their rule of Taiwan.

Profession: Owner, Din Tai Fung

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: The founder of one of the world’s favourite and best-known Taiwanese brands

Warren Yang is the man behind Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling house that is renowned around the world, particularly for its unparalleled xiao long bao. Founded by Yang’s father, Yang Bing-yi, the brand began in the 1980s as a small restaurant selling steamed pork dumplings, and has gone on to expand globally, now boasting more than 160 outlets across the globe, each one adhering to the same high quality of product and service found in the restaurants in Taiwan.

Profession: Founder, Simple Kaffa

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: A trailblazer in Taiwan’s acclaimed coffee scene

Of all the coffee shops in the world, the best is in Taiwan, at least according to Big 7 Travel, which in 2019 and 2020 listed Simple Kaffa as just that. And Berg Wu is the barista behind it. A master roaster and master barista who in 2016 became World Barista Champion, Wu is the founder of Simple Kaffa. Through his coffee shops he is contributing to Taiwan’s coffee culture while making a name for Taiwan coffee on the global stage.

Profession: Pastry chef, Taïrroir

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Award-winning chef perfecting the art of pastry

Angela Lai is a Singapore-born chef who has been working at Taiwan’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Taïrroir for the past five years. She was recently named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2021 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Lai not only delivers “passion and perseverance in creating pastries” but finds joy in “reinterpreting the culture of Taiwan using local produce and the techniques that I’ve learnt.”

Profession: Chef-owner, Oretachi No Nikuya

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: A rising star in Taiwan’s vibrant dining scene

Sam Chung is a Taiwan-born chef who owns two yakiniku restaurants, including one-Michelin-starred Oretachi No Nikuya. He was the winner of 2020 Taiwan Michelin Young Chef Award.

Profession: Food designer

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: A leading light in food design in Taiwan

Slow Chen graduated from SPD in Milan with a Master’s in Food Design in 2016. Her early career saw her work as an architect, interior designer and food stylist in Taiwan for clients such as Jamie’s Italian (Hong Kong), Starbucks and Le Creuset, before working on exhibitions of food design at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art. She has also contributed copywriting to various magazines and most recently launched a preserved food brand called LOUU.

Profession: Founder, Weightstone Vineyard Estate and Winery

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Capturing Taiwan’s terroir through wine

According to Vivian Yang, founder of Weightstone Winery, making quality wine in Taiwan was the dream of her father, the late Yang Wen-pin, chairman of Sinon Group. Through Weightstone, she strives to achieve this by selecting unique grape varieties produced in Taiwan to create wines that display a distinctive taste of Taiwan. She also aims to further grape growing culture in Taiwan.

Weightstone’s wines have been widely praised by experts and it is the winery of choice for many Michelin-starred restaurants in Taiwan. In 2019, Weightstone’s wines were chosen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as gifts for visiting friendly nations, allowing Taiwan’s terroir to be taken all over the world.

Profession: Chef and founder, MUME Hospitality Group

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Celebrating Taiwan’s local produce through his acclaimed restaurants

Richie Lin is a Hong Kong-born chef and the founder of MUME Hospitality Group whose restaurants include MUME, Le Blanc, baan and COAST. The jewel in the Group’s crown, MUME, has been gaining renown internationally since it opened in 2014, winning various awards, including receiving one Michelin star for three consecutive years and ranking 15th in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021.

Profession: Gourmet and writer

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Spotlighting the beautiful things in life through her food writing and imagery

Lu Yi-An is a Taiwan-based gourmet and writer who has worked as a lifestyle magazine reporter for more than a decade, covering the beautiful things in life, including art, food, and travel with both her words and her images.

Photo: Min Chia Chen
Photo: Min Chia Chen

Profession: Author and food critic

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Promoting Taiwanese snacks and local food culture through his writing

Taiwanese writer and gourmet Shu Kuo Chih graduated from Shih Hsin University. In his early years, he was engaged in film work, and later turned to writing. His works are mainly prose, travel notes, and short stories. Shu is a first prize winner of the China Airlines Travel Literature Award. He is also widely regarded as the godfather of Taiwanese snacks and local food.

 

Photo: Hedy Chang
Photo: Hedy Chang

Profession: Chef and restaurateur

Location: Taiwan and China

Impact statement: Contributing his culinary expertise to inventive and inspiring F&B ventures across Asia

At the age of 15, Taiwanese-born chef André Chiang moved to France and proceeded to train under culinary masters including Pierre Gagnaire, Jacques and Laurent Pourcel and Michel Troisgros. Later he would develop his Octaphilosophy––the eight characteristics that drive his creative process and which informed his cooking when he launched Restaurant André in Singapore. Awarded two Michelin stars, in 2017 the restaurant ranked 14th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and 2nd on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants before Chiang shut the restaurant’s doors in 2018, the same year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Asia’s 50 Best.

Chiang is also the owner-chef of Raw in Taipei and is involved in a host of other F&B ventures in various capacities including One Tree Hill in Taipei; Zen, Burnt Ends, Bincho and Meat Smith in Singapore; Sichuan Moon in Macau; and The Bridge in Chengdu, China.

Profession: Founder, Taipei Foodie

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Spotlighting great food and sharing Taipei’s dining scene with the world

Driven by a desire to share the best eats that Taipei has to offer, blogger Leslie Liu launched her Taipei Foodie website in 2014. Adding an Instagram account to complement her offering, she now boasts more than 130,000 followers and shares Taipei’s best restaurants and cafes as well as her favourite bites from other parts of the world with her hungry audience. She also hosts a podcast, Food for Thought, and in 2020 helped to curate food festival Off Menu Taiwan.

Profession: Instagrammer, @chez.jorge

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Taiwanese Instagram sensation sharing Asian-style vegan recipes

George Lee undertook chef training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2019 before enroling at the University of California Berkeley to study Biochemistry. While pursuing his undergraduate degree and at the height of the pandemic while locked down in April 2020 he launched an Instagram page (@chez.jorge) to share short cooking videos. He quickly accumulated 580,000 followers within six months. On his page Lee posts recipes for Asian-style, and particularly Taiwanese, vegan food to great acclaim.

 

Profession: Chef, Logy

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Delivering the diversity of Asia’s cuisines with his own twist

Hailing originally from Hokkaido, Japan, but with extensive experience working in Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy as well as a stint at acclaimed Japanese restaurant Florilège in Tokyo, chef Ryogo Tahara brought a wealth of experience with him when he opened logy just three months after landing in Taipei from Japan.

It’s no wonder then that the restaurant received its first Michelin star just five months after opening, rewarding Tahara’s distinctive culinary style, which delivers the diversity of Asia in his own distinct iterations. In 2020, logy went on to receive two Michelin stars.

Profession: Chef, Le Côté LM

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: One of Taiwan’s most influential female chefs

Lan-Shu Chen is a Taiwan-based chef who received Asia’s Best Female Chef award in 2014. Her culinary style, which combines the spirit of oriental taste with elegant French cuisine, has been widely acclaimed, particularly at her former restaurant Le Moût in Taichung, which she closed in 2018. She recently opened a new French restaurant, also in Taichung, called Le Côté LM.

Profession: Founder, Draft Land

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Shaking up the cocktail scene

Angus Zou is the owner of several popular bars in Taipei, including Alchemy, Draft Land and Daily by Draft Land. He is dedicated to championing and reshaping cocktail culture in Taiwan. With Draft Land, Zou wants to simplify the experience of going to a cocktail bar by serving everything on tap––seasonal, pre-batch-only and garnish-free cocktails focused on consistency, craftsmanship and quality.

Profession: Founder, Room By Le Kief

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Taking food and drink pairing to new heights

Seven Yi is a chef-turned-bartender with a great passion for cocktail pairing and a love of exploring the many possibilities in the world of mixology. His bar, Room By Le Kief ranked 46th on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2020 list, and 27th on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020.

Photo: Lan Chi Sheng
Photo: Lan Chi Sheng

Profession: Wine educator and author

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Imparting wine knowledge and education to the next generation of Taiwan’s wine enthusiasts

From childhood, Sherry Weng was exposed to red wine through her father, who had amassed an expansive wine collection. It inspired her to learn more about wine and she went on to obtain WSET qualifications including the Level 4 Diploma after studying in Hong Kong and London. She is also qualified as a WSET Educator and as well as teaching budding wine enthusiasts Weng has written an award-winning book on wine and is a keen promoter of wine culture in Taiwan.

SONY DSC

Profession: Wine writer

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: A leader in wine writing and criticism in the Chinese-speaking world

Yu-sen Lin is considered one of the finest wine writers in the Chinese world and Taiwan’s leading wine critic. The author of a number of books about wine, Burgundy and Spanish wines are his speciality, though he writes and lectures on a wide range of topics related to wine.

Profession: Gourmet and writer

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Shining a spotlight on Taiwan’s most exciting food and lifestyle developments

Yi-Lan Yeh is a gourmet and an influential writer who covers food, travel and lifestyle in Taiwan. She also lectures on food and tourism, covering topics from chocolate and tea to wine and whisky, and much in between.

Profession: Chef and founder, Wild Donkey

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Furthering farm-to-table dining and organic farming in Taiwan

Since childhood, Fudy Chen has been interested in food and beverage. After graduating from Cornell University’s Food and Beverage Management Department, he worked at Per Se in New York and Manresa in Los Angeles, among other top Michelin-rated restaurants, before returning to Taiwan.

In recent years, he established a 200-square-metre greenhouse farm in Shenkeng, Taipei where he grows crops organically. The harvested vegetables are of fine quality and superior taste and form the foundations of Wild Donkey, the farm-to-table restaurant he opened with his wife in 2019.

Photo: Lim Tse Wei
Photo: Lim Tse Wei

Profession: Chairman, Regent Taipei and Silks Hotel Group

Location: Taiwan

Impact statement: Pioneering a diverse and dynamic F&B and hospitality scene in Taiwan

Steven Pan has established many top catering businesses to create a diversified F&B and hospitality market in Taiwan. Based in Taipei, Taiwan, the Regent executive team, headed by Pan, is comprised of highly qualified industry specialists with decades of experience in the global luxury hospitality sector.

Photo: Charles Toto
Photo: Charles Toto

Profession: Chef and founder, Papua Jungle Chef Community

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Celebrating the diversity of Papuan gastronomic heritage while taking care of the local wisdom and ecosystem

Established in 2006, Charles Toto and the Papua Jungle Chef Community introduces the beauty of Papua, reinvents local wisdom, and promotes sustainable living and environmental protection through local cuisine to an audience in Indonesia and abroad. Toto also passes the knowledge to the next generation by teaching them local recipes and hospitality skills. In the future, he plans to publish a book about the world of Papuan gastronomy and its tasty recipes, open a cooking school to learn from nature, and market local food products across Indonesia.

Photo: Winston Gomez
Photo: Winston Gomez

Profession: President Commissioner, Sekar Bumi, a subsidiary of Sekar Group

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: For leading a national-level business empire through hard times and creating a ‘happy hospital’ with food-based therapies and services

A food lover by birth and by choice, Finna Huang is the daughter of Harry Susilo, who founded the giant food producer and importer Sekar Group in 1966. Huang herself is leading its frozen food subsidiary, Sekar Bumi, and plans to strengthen the brand’s presence globally within the next five years. She is also busy in the healthcare sector, especially with the upcoming Asih Hospital for mums and children due to open in the last quarter of 2021. Built with the concept of a “happy hospital” that would feel like a boutique hotel with a homey and comfortable atmosphere, high-quality healthy food would also be a focus of its offering.

Photo: TaniHub
Photo: TaniHub

Profession: Chairman and co-founder, TaniHub

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Co-founding an e-commerce platform that reforms agroindustry and helps thousands of farmers in Indonesia

Ivan Arie is the co-founder of TaniHub Group, which operates e-commerce platform TaniHub, peer-to-peer lending platform TaniFund and supply chain management TaniSupply. Beyond providing local farmers with microloans and a platform to sell their produce directly to consumers, TaniHub provides education through 1,000 training groups for its growing number of 30,000 farmers. During the Covid-19 outbreak last year, the TaniHub application received a 100 per cent uptick in new consumers from four big cities in Java and Bali. Sales and delivery of fresh produce rocketed 300 per cent as most people stayed at home.

Photo: William Wongso
Photo: William Wongso

Profession: Restaurateur, author and TV chef 

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: The godfather of Indonesian chefs with a wealth of knowledge and awards, and a career spanning more than five decades

Dubbed the “rendang diplomat”, it was no surprise that Gordon Ramsay tapped William Wongso to be his mentor for the second season of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted. The British chef admired the wealth of experience Wongso has, which could help him and anyone else to be a better chef. Indeed, Wongso has mentored many of Indonesia’s best chefs over more than five decades in the culinary industry, and won many awards and accolades from prestigious institutions while at it. Today, as the co-founder of Aku Cinta Makanan Indonesia (ACMI), he aims to introduce and spread the love for Indonesian food globally. As an autodidact, Wongso emphasises the importance of real-life experience to making anyone a great chef, achieved through trial and error and tasting food with all of the human senses.

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: Chef and restaurateur 

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: A symbol of a young, successful F&B entrepreneur, both locally and abroad

Arnold Poernomo first worked in Australia as a junior kitchen hand and then tried working other jobs such as barista, waiter, and bartender before finally working as a cook. Astonishingly, he was never formally trained as a chef. Together with his brothers, Poernomo opened KOI Dessert Bar in two locations in Sydney.

He then branched out to Jakarta with the opening of Nest Grill and NOMZ; one of his businesses, Mangkokku, is run in collaboration with Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the son of President Joko Widodo. His rise to the ranks of celebrity chef saw him appear as a guest judge on the second season of MasterChef Indonesia, before becoming a permanent member of the jury where he remains today.

Photo: Trisna Albona
Photo: Trisna Albona

Profession: Corporate beverage manager, Syah Establishment and mixologist

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: A leading female mixologist in Indonesia’s F&B industry

Trisna Albona is one of the most well-known female bartenders, or mixologists, in Indonesia. However, she never really planned on being a bartender, much less to rank among the best in a male-dominated industry. While studying hospitality in college, Albona got to know the world of mixology and started working as a bartender.

Today, she oversees the beverage department at hospitality group Syah Establishment, focusing on boutique establishments The Gunawarman and Hotel Monopoli, plus Lucy Beer & Burger Bar. With two decades of experience, Albona has become part of the bartending industry evolution in Indonesia, and she remains optimistic about the rebound of the F&B scene post-pandemic.

Photo: Max Mandias
Photo: Max Mandias

Profession: Plant-based practitioner; co-founder, Burgreens and Green Rebel Foods

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Successfully bringing healthier options into the Indonesian F&B industry

With the success of Burgreens, a plant-based restaurant established in Jakarta in 2013, Max Mandias decided to start a green restaurant chain. He believes that adopting a sustainable vegetarian diet could protect the environment and the planet itself. With years of practical knowledge, Mandias shared some exciting insights about the growth of the Indonesian food and beverage industry during the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic gives us the best time to research more about our culinary industry,” he said. “We are also seeing a shift in the food industry where people demand healthier food choices instead of instant ones. With Green Rebel Foods, we are optimistic to learn about the market demand so that we can develop new and improve our plant-based products.”

Photo: Janti Brasali
Photo: Janti Brasali

Profession: Founder, Garam Lada Indonesia and Seriously Keto Singapore

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: For creating popular keto-friendly Asian sweet treats 

Mother-of-three Janti Brasali decided to build and develop her culinary business brand, Seriously Keto, to help people enjoy a low-carb lifestyle without sacrificing delicious flavour. “When I started the keto diet, I realised there were no options available for me when it came to confectionery products,” she said.

“Then, I decided to use my culinary knowledge to make a keto bakery that can be enjoyed by those who wanted to avoid consuming sugar and carbs without leaving the flavour behind.” Her creations range from breads to different types of Asian desserts because Brasali believes that the keto diet can bring many health benefits. Her vision is to create a community where everyone can embrace the health and happiness benefits from the keto lifestyle, starting from her bakeries in Indonesia and Singapore.

Profession: Barista and founder, So So Good Coffee Company

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Indonesian coffee champion aiming to improve the local scene from beans to cup

What started as a simple, loving gesture by Mikael Jasin’s mum to flavour his milk with a little coffee, as he could not consume chocolate due to asthma, turned out to foretell his future. Jasin was named the winner of the Indonesian Barista Championship in 2019 and 2020 and ranked 4th in the 2019 World Barista Champion in Boston.

However, simply being a barista or opening a cafe is not what he had in mind. Jasin is the founder of So So Good Coffee company, which provides cafe consultancy and barista training alongside post-harvest processing directly with coffee farmers across Indonesia. The company aims to consistently develop the quality of coffee varieties in the country, which, in turn, can also help to improve the livelihood of its farmer partners.

Profession: Chef and food writer

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: An Indonesian food ambassador who is active globally in introducing and preserving the country’s rich culinary heritage

Born and raised in a food-loving family, Santhi Serad had been introduced to Indonesian food from a young age through visits to wet markets with her mum. They would cook together afterwards, including many local menus from Malang and Banyuwangi in the East Java province where her parents originated. Today, Serad passes on her knowledge and love for Indonesian cuisine at Ramu Rasa Cooking Studio and Coffee Shop.

Together with co-founder Ilham Habibie, she also built Bumi Herbal as a place to conserve herbs and spices gathered from all around the archipelago. All her knowledge has also been published in a book, Leaf it to Tea, which won second place in the tea category of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2019. To further promote these culinary stories, Serad co-founded the Aku Cinta Makanan Indonesia community with fellow food-lovers, William Wongso and the late Bondan Winarno.

Profession: Food bloggers, AnakJajan

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Food and travel lover showcasing a slice of life for youths in the capital city

Among the early bloggers in Indonesia, Marius and Julia Veronica Tjenderasa started AnakJajan as a diary to share their love of good food. Since then, the award-winning blog has grown to include food reviews and stories about their world travels and lifestyle in the city. The power couple, Marius often behind the camera and Julia as the model, has been tapped by various partners from airlines to restaurants and online marketplaces to share honest reviews and content engagement.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the two expanded their content to home cooking, daily-life experiences and home decorating of their first house. With colourful photos and engaging language, it is no surprise that AnakJajan’s Instagram has amassed more than 430,000 followers.

Profession: Content creators, BBQ Mountain Boys

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: An artistic duo set on educating next-generation farmers and helping local coffee farmers thrive

Jeweller Hedi Rusdian and metalsmith Gianjar Saribanon started BBQ Mountain Boys in 2017. The duo is based in Saux coffee farm with a creative space set in the middle of the lush pine forest of the Lembang area just outside Bandung. At a glance, from their aesthetically pleasing videos on YouTube and Instagram, their activities at the cabin highlight the beauty of an outdoor-centred lifestyle.

The childhood friends invite their viewers and guests to tag along as they grill and barbecue, harvest coffee, create hydroponic systems and even partake in a flag-raising ceremony in the forest. Beneath it all, Rusdian and Saribanon are showing youth another side of farming, while educating, to help boost the number of next-generation farmers. Their content also encourages coffee farmers to learn more about creating quality crops, embrace fair trade and push local brands to flourish.

Profession: Chef and owner, Union Group, Izakaya Kai AMKC Atelier

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Creator of best-selling, mouthwatering Indonesian desserts as Western cakes

This talented pastry chef stole the spotlight as second in command at a bakery in Singapore when she was featured in the Straits Times. Carlotta started her culinary journey in 2006 as an intern at the prestigious Swisshotel The Stamford in Singapore. In 2009, together with husband Adhika Maxi and other co-founders, she established UNION Restaurant in Jakarta, which today has grown to become a group with eight other equally famous eateries.

In 2019 Union Brasserie, Baker & Bar ranked at number 39 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. Not long after, Carlotta and her husband catered a private dining experience where Barack Obama was one of the guests. Today, Carlotta is renowned for her skill at turning traditional Indonesian desserts into pastries, with famous iterations including Pisang Ijo and Martabak cakes, not to mention her legendary Red Velvet cake. Carlotta was also a guest judge on Master Chef Indonesia in 2019 and 2020. Her Instagram account has more than 110,000 followers and highlights notable collaborations with big brands such as Indomilk.

Profession: Chef and restaurateur

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: For making it big among young chefs thanks to ingenuity and perseverance

Renatta Moeloek of MasterChef fame may be the youngest of the show’s three mainstay judges between season 5 and the latest season, but she easily ranks among the top in the next generation of young Indonesian celebrity chefs. An alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu Paris, Moeloek graduated with Superior Certificates in its Cuisine and Pastry diploma programmes.

She went on to specialise in French cooking by working at the famed Garance in Saint Dominique. Never forgetting her roots, Moeloek introduced Indonesian food on many occasions while abroad before returning home in 2018 where she opened a private dining service, Ruma Dining, and a health-conscious restaurant, Fedwell. She also guest chefs and consults at various establishments.

Profession: Chef-owner, Room4Desert

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: A master of elevating Indonesian flavours into curious molecular dessert delights

Will Goldfarb began his pastry journey at now-defunct three-Michelin-starred El Bulli, though he suffered rejection before finally finding a place there. His tumultuous start in the pastry world continued when the American chef returned to New York only to have his desserts panned by food critics. That was until he opened Room4Dessert in 2006, which received good reviews from the outset. However, a partnership conflict forced the restaurant’s closure just a year later.

Goldfarb did, however, manage to win some prestigious awards before packing up once again, including a nomination for a James Beard Foundation Award. Landing in Bali, Goldfarb worked at Ku De Ta and Potato Head before opening Room4Dessert in Ubud. As a dessert-only restaurant with seasonal-themed tasting courses, each unique locally sourced menu item comes from Goldfarb and the team’s experience and experiments. With emphasis on quality ingredients, guests get a tour of The Manor Born, the restaurant’s mini apothecary garden, where they can see and learn about the ingredients that go into the heavenly creations that wind up on their plates.

Profession: Director, PT Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement:Developing iconic consumer goods brands in Indonesia and expanding the family business globally

Thanks to easy access to the internet and widespread distribution in most parts of the world, the name and taste of Indomie instant noodles are swiftly becoming globally recognisable. However, many might not know about Indonesia, where it originates; Indofood, its producer; or even Axton Salim, the third generation of its umbrella conglomerate, Salim Group.

Salim is actively involved in developing and promoting the group’s products to make them more relatable to different markets and demographics, such as creating 32 regional Indomie flavours to represent each province’s most iconic dish. He also heads up the beverages and dairy divisions under the consumer branded products section of Salim Group and has various other roles in its subsidiary companies. Besides his works in the family business, Salim also holds key positions at Gallant Venture, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Advisory Group, Art Photography Centre and Codigo.

Photo: Sisca Soewitomo
Photo: Sisca Soewitomo

Profession: Chef, TV personality, cookbook author

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Shaping the future of the Indonesian culinary world through cooking shows

Sisca Soewitomo has been an iconic television personality since the 1990s, garnering fame from Indonesian television cooking programme Aroma. After graduating with a hospitality diploma from the Trisakti School of Tourism, she earned a scholarship to the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan. Soewitomo has written 150 cookbooks about Indonesian food, including the best-selling Step by Step recipe book series, and is listed at the Museum of Records Indonesia as “Pengarang Buku Resep Masakan Terbanyak” for her productivity.

For 50 years, Soewitomo has taught millions of home cooks and chefs alike how to create tasty, authentic Indonesian dishes with her simple steps. She is often dubbed the “Queen of the Indonesian culinary arts” in honour of her impactful contribution to the industry. Although Aroma has ended, Soewitomo still actively cooks at events and other television cooking shows, including MasterChef Indonesia.

Profession: Food storyteller

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Promoting Indonesian culinary heritage through storytelling

Food journalism is one thing, but food storytelling is another. Ade Putri Paramadita, or Aput, uses storytelling as a medium. Being a food storyteller requires sophisticated taste buds, but also superior writing, public speaking, photography and video editing skills. She is part of two culinary communities, which encourage her to educate younger generations, Aku Cinta Makanan Indonesia and Beergembira.

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: Influencer

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Leading food blogger and critic

Hans Danial originally started as an intern at one of Indonesia’s top teen magazines, where, in the last week of his internship, he set up eatandtreats.blogspot.com, which has become one of the most-popular food blogs in Jakarta. He regularly posts restaurant reviews and uploads gorgeous photographs of food on both his blog and social media. He has shot editorial work and ad campaigns for numerous magazines and clients such as Starbucks, BASED and Koko Cici Jakarta, among others.

Profession: Celebrity chef

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Encouraging a positive and healthy lifestyle through cooking

Having had a tough time as an adolescent, Chef Juna Rorimpadey went to the US to train to become a pilot after dropping out of university in Jakarta. In the middle of trying to get his commercial license, his school went bankrupt. He started working in a sushi restaurant, and its main chef took him on as a student and trained him hard. Rorimpadey became an executive chef and then moved to a French restaurant to learn about French cuisine. Returning to Indonesia, Rorimpadey became executive chef at Jack Rabbit restaurant and a judge on MasterChef Indonesia.

Photo: World Barista Championship
Photo: World Barista Championship

Profession: Co-founder, Common Grounds, St. Ali, Sensory Lab and Jago

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: For growing and revolutionising Indonesia’s coffee industry

Yoshua Tanu is one of Indonesia’s best baristas with a wealth of business experience coffee industry belying his young age. With a passion for the craft itself, he joined competitions such as Indonesia Barista and the World Barista Championships, to learn from the best.

Graduating from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in managerial economics, he has used this knowledge to develop the local coffee scene. First, he worked as the director of PT Republik Kopi Indonesia, a company specialising in training for hotels and cafes in collaboration with local coffee farmers to improve specialities. He went on to co-found Common Grounds, St. Ali and Sensory Lab to explore and expand the myriad of coffee possibilities, especially among the younger generation. Jago Coffee is his latest venture, which combines affordable, high-quality coffee delivery through Jago Apps—a timely move during the pandemic that saw sales leap 350 per cent last year.

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: Celebrity chef

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Inspiring younger generations to pursue their dreams in the culinary industry

Presenter and celebrity chef Farah Quinn has inspired many young people to be brave enough to follow their passions, especially in the culinary industry. During the 1998 recession, she took a degree in pastry arts at Pennsylvania Culinary Institute while working as a waitress to finance her studies.

Her life turned around when she created Indonesian speciality desserts for the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush. Quinn once co-owned Camus restaurant in California before splitting with then-husband, Carson Quinn, and returning home with her son. She restarted her career as a host of various culinary programmes in Indonesia and made regular international appearances on the Asian Food Channel. She also launched her own bakery, Cookie Love by Farah Quinn.

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: Founders, Plataran Group

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Creators of world-class resorts and restaurants to showcase the best of Indonesian hospitality and introduce its unique destinations

Yozua and Dewi Makes are the founders of Plataran, an Indonesian hospitality group. Yozua is also a Corporate Finance Lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in Corporate Finance, Mergers & Acquisitions, Capital Markets and Investment Law. In 2009 Yozua and Dewi converted their private villa in Canggu Bali into a small boutique villa resort, which became the embryo of Plataran.

Today, Plataran Group has opened properties in exotic locations from Labuan Bajo to Borobudur, and is acknowledged as a true Icon of Indonesia in both domestic and international markets. The group has won many prestigious awards, including Sustainable Destinations Top 100 by Green Destination Organization, World Best Luxury Resort and Spa, and Gold Winner in Resort Category by Real Estate Indonesia Excellence Awards (Indonesian Real Estate Association).

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: Chef Founder and Operations Director, AMUZ Gourmet Group

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Founder of an upscale French restaurant that has been garnering luxury restaurant awards consecutively for five years

France-born culinary innovator Gilles Marx has brought a taste of his home country to the heart of Jakarta. He discovered his natural talents early on, and his passion took him to work in many Michelin-starred restaurants in Alsace, Lyon, Burgundy and Paris. After heading restaurants in Australia and South East Asia, he moved to Indonesia and opened Amuz in the central business district. Following the success of Amuz, Gilles then expanded the business into AMUZ Gourmet Group with APREZ Catering and Cafe, serving small- to medium-sized functions, and Artoz Bar and Lounge, one of Jakarta’s classiest nightspots.

Photo: Degan Septoadji
Photo: Degan Septoadji

Profession: Chef-Entrepreneur and MasterChef Indonesia Judge

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Indonesian culinary ambassador with renowned skills in European and Asian cuisines, and a starry reputation in European culinary circles

Most famous for his role as one of the judges on seasons 2 and 3 of MasterChef Indonesia, chef Degan Septoadji has been an active Indonesian culinary ambassador both locally and globally. Septoadji developed his culinary skills and career in Germany, a place he lived in from childhood until his early twenties, which equipped him with a mastery of European cuisines.

Keen to connect with his roots, Septoadji then worked in Bangkok, Bali, and many other places around Indonesia to master Asian cuisine. Today, he runs a catering business, Nasi Bagoes by Chef Degan, and regularly tours Europe to introduce Indonesian food and culture there; he was the first Indonesian chef to guest-teach at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Photo: Chris Salans
Photo: Chris Salans

Profession: Chef-entrepreneur 

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Successfully introducing Indonesian tastes to the fine-dining world through French cooking techniques 

American-born and trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, chef Chris Salans went through further training at several acclaimed restaurants, including Michelin-starred Lucas Carton in La Madeleine, Paris. His passion for real Asian flavours, especially Indonesian cuisine and its colourful range of spices, led him to Bali where he opened Mozaic Gastronomique and Spice by Chris Salans, which has won a number of awards. He was appointed to the Association des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (Association of the Master Chefs of France) in 2019 and granted the Order of Agricultural Merit by the government of France in 2020.

Profession: Chef-owner, Citrus Lee

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Advancing the fine-dining scene in Indonesia’s second-largest metropolis of Surabaya

Hendry Sedjahtera was raised in Malang, Indonesia, where he worked at his family’s Chinese restaurant, Dragon Phoenix. He later moved to Boston where he earned a degree in Finance minoring in Accounting and MIS from Northeastern University, before working as an accountant in Boston for five years.

He went on to spend two years in Paris studying French Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu and worked under famous French Chef Guy Savoy at one-Michelin-starred Le Chiberta Restaurant. In 2009, Sedjahtera opened Citrus Lee in Surabaya, which has become renowned for its innovative French-Asian cuisine.

Photo: Asia Dreams
Photo: Asia Dreams

Profession: Managing Director, Les Amis Indonesia

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: A trailblazer in Indonesia’s F&B industry, from fast-food chains to fine-dining establishments 

Behind the smiling face of Susanna Kusnowo is a wealth of experience related to the capital city’s F&B scene from her days as the director of Pioneerindo Gourmet International. The company has pioneered franchising fast-food businesses in Indonesia since 1983, with crowd favourites such as California Fried Chicken, Cal Donat, and Sapo Oriental. Koesnowo, a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, then moved to head up Les Amis Indonesia as Managing Director, opening franchises of Akira Back Restaurant, NamNam Noodle Bar, Shabu Shabu Gen, Enmaru and Gaia by Oso Ristorante in Jakarta. She also developed concepts for Momozen, Bae and Altitude Grill to add to the roster of fine-dining restaurants in Jakarta.

Photo: Tatler Indonesia
Photo: Tatler Indonesia

Profession: CEO, Omiyage Inc. Indonesia

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Successfully developing delicate Japanese flavours and artistry locally into successful businesses

Riki Kono Basmeleh is the mind behind a recent internet hit where soft, melty cheesecake meets fragrant, rich durian flavours. The beloved cheesecake is available under Omiyage Inc. Indonesia, a company specialising in baked-good souvenirs, in partnership with Japanese brand Dore by LeTAO.

Growing up as a Japanese-Indonesian, Basmeleh started his company to focus on sweet treats and desserts. With the overarching idea to take fine Japanese artistry to marry Indonesian hospitality, he has expanded his business to eatery concepts such as The Pancake Co. by DORÉ.

Photo: Kenny Soetomo
Photo: Kenny Soetomo

Profession: Entrepreneur and bartender 

Location: Indonesia

Impact statement: Passionately bringing Indonesia to the global stage through prestigious awards in the beverage industry

“From zero to hero” is a quote that best describes the life journey of Kenny Soetomo, a world-class bartender who started at the bottom. Soetomo found his passion for mixology when he applied to be a part-time bartender in Australia. Returning to Indonesia, he first joined Potato Head as group bar trainer manager and later DaVinci Gourmet Syrups.

He was the winner of the 2014 Australian National Suntory Cocktail Connoisseur and earned second place in the 2016 World-Class Indonesia Cocktail Competition. As Soetomo gained in reputation and mastery over the years, he has opened several liquor businesses, including speakeasy Spill and Still and artisanal drinks brand Bootlegger.

Photo: Amazin Graze
Photo: Amazin Graze

Profession: Food entrepreneurs and founders, Amazin’ Graze

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For making healthy snacking in Malaysia accessible and craveable

Long before the healthy snacks market reached its current dimensions or plant-based milk and protein even became a thing, three friends dreamed of a world where better options would abound. August 2015 saw the launch of Amazin’ Graze at a weekend market in Bangsar Shopping Centre and, as they say, the rest is history. Available in more than eight countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, Brunei, and the UAE, Amazin’ Graze’s carefully curated line of nut butters, granolas and other delicious pickings empower people the world over to make better food choices.

Profession: Bartender and founder, Hyde at 53M

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Providing liquid gratification to Kuala Lumpur’s tipplers

The owner of sister speakeasies 61 Monarchy and Hyde at 53M, Andrew Tan also fathered The Good Batch, a brunch-focused café in Damansara Utama. In fact, most of his work seems to revolve around this bustling neighbourhood, unless, that is, he’s off on other errands, from advising clients on artisanal cocktails to educating consumers on the storied lives of spirits.

Photo: Keto Jules
Photo: Keto Jules

Profession: Cheesemaker and founder, Milky Whey Cheese

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Proving it’s possible to make European-style cheeses in Asia while incorporating Asian elements in her offerings

Only a handful of hobbyists manage to make a living out of their passions. Cheesemaker and cheesemonger Annisa Iwan, who dived into caseiculture about a decade ago, is one such person. If you thought it impossible to find quality made-in-Malaysia (or Asia for that matter) cheese, think again.

Milky Whey, Iwan’s tongue-in-cheek cheese company, makes a mind-boggling selection of cheeses, from mozzarella to mascarpone and Smoked Tembaga (not unlike French Reblochon) to Alba (Milky Whey’s brand of Brie). Hotels and restaurants, including Flock, Tatler Dining’s Best Sustainable Restaurant 2020, are proud to carry her cheeses instead of importing theirs internationally.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Restaurateur, F&B entrepreneur and founder, The BIG Group

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: A serial restaurateur consistently bringing successful concepts to diners

“I’ve lost count of how many restaurants I’ve opened in my lifetime,” muses Benjamin Yong, which prompts us to tick off a list in our heads: Ben’s, Plan B, Ben’s General Food Store, Ben’s Chicken Shop, Benbino, Beast, Bella, not to mention a slew of other eateries that enjoyed their heyday before gracefully curtseying goodbye. “As for supermarkets, I opened three in total before selling Ben’s Independent Grocer.” With a supermarket chain being taken off his hands, does Yong have more time on his hands now? Anything but. “We’re still operating 20 stores whilst developing some new ideas,” says the harried but happy businessman, who blasts away any notions that pure luck has brought him to where he is: “Passion only gets you so far. Beyond that, it’s hard work.” His advice to fledging F&B entrepreneurs? “Be original. Stop copying Pinterest or imitating what others are doing. Your own fine-tuned ideas stand better in the test of time.”

Photo: Courtesy of Bernard Yeoh
Photo: Courtesy of Bernard Yeoh

Profession: Restaurateur and director, Kai Mayfair, London

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: The first Malaysian restaurateur to groom a Michelin-starred restaurant

A debonair gentleman who debunks the myth “Jack of all trades, master of none,” Bernard Yeoh proves that having more than one passion stokes your fire instead of causing you to burn out. The ex-Olympian who was part of Malaysia’s national shooting squad laughs about his philosophy of embracing imposter syndrome—some of his fine-art photographs are on display in Genting cruise ships—but gets serious when the topic turns to Chinese cuisine.

His restaurant Kai Mayfair, which has been running since November 1993, was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009—marking a first for a Malaysian restaurateur—and has maintained momentum for 12 consecutive years—no small feat in London’s saturated dining scene.

Profession: Celebrity chef

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For putting Malaysian cuisine on the world’s culinary map

Colloquially known as Chef Wan, Datuk Dr Redzuawan Ismail is Tourism Malaysia’s culinary ambassador and was named Local Champion at Tatler Dining’s Best Restaurant Awards 2018. Not only was he the first Malaysian chef to give the late and great Anthony Bourdain a high-speed introduction to Malay eating etiquette, but he also recently schooled YouTube comedian Uncle Roger on the finer points of cooking traditional Malay cuisine.

 

Photo: All Is Amazing
Photo: All Is Amazing

Profession: Bartender, drinks consultant and owner, Coley and Bar Pahit

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: The ‘big brother’ of Kuala Lumpur’s bar industry who has done it all, though you won’t hear him boasting about it 

Cocktail culture in Malaysia simply wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Chee Keong Kho. Known as ‘CK’ to those near and dear to him, the self-effacing drinks specialist is best known for founding Coley (ranked 48 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020) and Bar Pahit, but has developed countless bar concepts and menus in his two decades of serving in the F&B industry. “Perseverance and fearlessness! That’s CK—he always finds a way to make things happen,” says Riizal Junior Joe Utto, one of Kho’s fellow mixologists.

Profession: Chef and proprietor, Dewakan

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Highlighting Malaysia’s reserve of jungle produce and under-appreciated ingredients

His mercurial moods make him an intimidating figure, but this chef’s mindset is leaps and bounds ahead of his contemporaries. The chef-proprietor of Dewakan was among the first in F&B to really push for the use of, say parkia speciosa or ‘stink beans’ and local chicken giblets in fine dining as opposed to imported white asparagus or foie gras. Today, Darren Teoh still sets the standard for a new generation of chefs who are trying to define modern Malaysian cuisine.

Profession: Co-founders, Fish For It

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For making fresh and safe seafood from Malaysia’s own waters more easily accessible

The optimistic duo behind online seafood delivery portal Fish For It rarely tell their customers “no,” unless it’s to describe their offerings: “No preservatives, no additives, no chemicals, no carcinogens, and no antibiotics.” An e-commerce platform meets wet market, Fish For It champions seafood from Malaysia’s own waters and its founders are so confident about the freshness of their seafood that they guarantee dissatisfied customers free returns. Furthermore, the team takes it upon themselves to form close relationships with fishermen and chefs for the purpose of building more awareness around our oceans.

Photo: John Kam
Photo: John Kam

Profession: Sushi chef and co-owner, Ed.ju Omakase

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Daring to break boundaries in the time-honoured tradition of sushi-making

At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, there is proof that sushi’s roots stem from China, so could Eddie Ng’s style of sushi be considered a return to roots? Controversially dubbed ‘contaminated omakase’, the food at Ed.ju Omakase—an amalgamation of Ng’s first name and ju, the Japanese word for 10 (the sushi bar seats only 10)—incorporates ingredients such as black vinegar from China and serves Chinese-style dishes such as abalone congee while also welcoming a wealth of techniques and flavours.

Photo: Inside Scoop
Photo: Inside Scoop

Profession: Confectioners and founders, Inside Scoop, The Ice Cream Bar and Sweet Escape

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For founding Malaysia’s unofficial national ice cream chain while offering diabetic-friendly dessert options

While ‘first-rate’ ice cream in the ’90s and early noughties was largely synonymous with western brands such as Häagen-Dazs and Baskin-Robbins, this all changed when pioneers such as Inside Scoop decided to upend the market. Husband-and-wife team Edmund Tan and Lim Shiew Li bid farewell to the finance industry in favour of F&B because they wanted to create local and unique ice cream flavours that Malaysians could relate to.

Inside Scoop’s success was swiftly followed by The Ice Cream Bar, an offshoot specialising in spiked cones, and Sweet Escape, which takes diabetic customers into consideration by offering low- or no-sugar options.

Profession: Independent bottler

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: The first (and so far, only) Malaysian to bottle her own brand of whisky, small batch gins and cask-aged vermouth

Naming whisky, watches and wine as her three biggest vices, Eiling Lim is, nevertheless, just as spirited about the other finer things in life. Take, for instance, her single cask whiskies, small batch gins, and cask-aged vermouths. Collector’s items in their own right, these spirits aren’t cheap, but not extortionately priced either; after all, everything Lim does revolves around the pursuit of pleasure. “We bring variety to the whisky market with reasonable prices so that no one is obliged to keep my bottles as an investment and not to open them,” she says.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Television host, recipe creator and founder, Ili Pot

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Making cooking less daunting for home chefs

Little did she know it, but Ili Sulaiman’s present skill set was in the making from the tender age of three. Whether she was sitting on the kitchen counter and snapping long beans with her grandmother or polishing her Ps and Qs under her parents’ supervision, the personable chef and entrepreneur was absorbing bits and pieces of knowledge that would propel her forward in the future.

Radiating warmth and happiness, Sulaiman became the TV chef the world couldn’t get enough of on the Asian Food Network and Food Network Asia, but she has done so much more out of the limelight, from running a food delivery business—long before GrabFood and Food Panda even came into the picture—to training underprivileged youth through the Agak Agak Initiative which she co-founded. She was quick to roll out Ili Pot, a steamboat and grill delivery service, at the peak of the pandemic, and is an outspoken advocate for heightened awareness around polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is more prevalent among women than we think.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Professional baker and founder, Jaslyn Cakes and Dew Bangsar

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For making life just that much sweeter

The opposite of attention seeking, Jaslyn Rangson and her eponymous bakery are household names in the Klang Valley. But Kuala Lumpur’s ‘cake queen’ didn’t simply ascend the throne overnight; hard work and unwavering passion helped cement Rangson’s pathway to becoming one of the country’s best-loved bakers.

Photo: Courtesy of Jason Yeoh
Photo: Courtesy of Jason Yeoh

Profession: TV show host and founder, Full Time Living

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For shining the spotlight on salt of the earth folks in farming and other food-related industries

Sure there is joy to be had in armchair travel programmes that take you from Turkey’s spice bazaars to Tokyo’s Toyosu Market, but nothing beats the excitement many Malaysians felt while watching Jason Yeoh hop from wet market to wet market in Malaysia. The appeal in Jason’s Market Trails is twofold: not only is the host a basic bloke offering good banter, but the locations on screen are actually accessible for many living in Asia. The same attractive qualities apply to the majority of Yeoh’s TV programmes, which are too numbered to name, but which he produces in addition to hosting under the aspirational brand Full Time Living.

Photo: JFA Agency
Photo: JFA Agency

Profession: Pastry chef and founding director, JFA Consultancy 

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Guiding a whole generation of young Malaysian chefs in the art of patisserie

Recognised as a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF), an accomplishment that sticks with you for a lifetime, Jean-François Arnaud is a respected expatriate based in Malaysia. Not only has he paved the path for many a young pastry chef via his professional teaching, but he has also prepared many fledglings for the fast-paced world of international pastry competitions.

Photo: Cultiveat
Photo: Cultiveat

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Cultiveat

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Propagating sustainable urban farming in Malaysia

Powerlifting and precision farming might seem like an unlikely combo, but then again John-Hans Oei has never allowed society to put him in a box. The Gen T honouree co-founded Cultiveat, a B2B and B2C urban farm that supplies zero-pesticide, non-GMO produce to restaurants and customers countrywide, but has been the CEO of Centenary Million Group for even longer; the latter handles Microbs, an eco-friendly and sustainable product and solution service for organic waste management.

Profession: Food tech entrepreneur and founder, Ento

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Farming roasted crickets, a sustainable source of protein, for human consumption

Recently named one of seven Malaysians on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, Kevin Wu is the brains behind Ento, which rears crickets for human consumption. Before you turn up your nose, know this: not only is insect protein one of the most beneficial to our health, but entomophagy might also be a solution to saving the environment. 

Profession: Founder and editor, Thirst Mag

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Commemorating the history of drinks in reportage while celebrating and supporting the industry

A self-described “one-stop cyberspace home for all subjects of liquid persuasion,” Thirst Mag is the country’s only publication dedicated to chronicling soft and hard drinks-related news in Malaysia and abroad. The seed for Thirst Mag was planted while founder Kim Choong was working at Mongoose Publishing (now defunct), and while the magazine first started out in print, it made a timely move to the digital sphere, where it continues to spread the gospel of good drinking culture. Keep an eye out for Thirst Mag’s unique food and drink pairing events, which Choong coordinates in collaboration with the bar and spirits industry.

Courtesy of Yi Jun Loh
Courtesy of Yi Jun Loh

Profession: Food writer, recipe creator and founder, Take A Bao Podcast

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: A chemical engineering graduate turned food content creator

If Yi Jun Loh had to break down all his present projects into a pie chart, what would it look like? “I would say it’s a three-way split between cooking food, writing about food, and talking about food! But 100 per cent of it brings me joy!” enthuses Loh. Making food geekery cool, Loh approaches Asian cuisine from an analytical standpoint and makes potentially technical information approachable to audiences everywhere. Best of all, he loves food. Like, really loves it. Simply listen to his cooking demos with their ASMR quality and the sounds he makes as he samples his completed products.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Kristang chef and cookbook author

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: A guardian of Kristang cuisine, an endangered creole ethnic style of cooking with roots in Melaka

The most gregarious grandmother you’ll ever meet, Melba Nunis is, to use the proverbial phrase, ‘the hostess with the mostess’. Simply attend one of her famous supper clubs in Selangor to take stock of her high energy while supping on Eurasian dishes you won’t find elsewhere. But Nunis didn’t just make it onto our list by virtue of being an excellent cook or entertainer; what she’s doing is important, because in a matter of years, Kristang cuisine might be off the tables forever.

A result of Portuguese settlers marrying into the Malaccan community in the 1500s, the Kristang are a creole ethnic group of people with a unique Eurasian culture and cuisine. Time and migration are the main reasons for the dilution of Kristang culture, a niche thing, as it is—which makes Nunis’s role as a guardian of Kristang cuisine all the more important. The chef has provided and continues to provide many with a better understanding of her unique heritage.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Chocolatier and founder, Chocolate Concierge

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Bringing Malaysian cacao to the fore

To discover Malaysian gastronomy is to encounter Chocolate Concierge products at some point: whether in Entier French Dining’s macarons served in a dried cocoa husk or as dessert ‘dim sum’ at the W Kuala Lumpur (complete with edible chocolate chopsticks and chopstick rests). Founder Ong Ning-Geng’s mission from day one has been to radically advance recognition for Malaysian single-origin chocolate, which he has done, but the highbrow chocolatier is only just getting started. 

Profession: MasterChef winner, Malaysian food ambassador and cookbook author

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Representing Malaysian cuisine in Western media and via cooking classes and supper clubs

Less a Cinderella story and more a tale of perseverance, Ping Coombes’ rise to become the winner of Masterchef UK in 2014 was a point of pride for all Malaysians, but especially for those who, like herself, hail from Ipoh. Since moving to Wiltshire in South West England, Coombes continues to make media appearances while also educating the public about Malaysian flavours via Ping’s Masak Club and Ping’s Makan Club, a cookery school and a supper club respectively.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Restaurateur and co-founder, myBurgerlab, myPizzalab and The Good Food Alliance (GFA)

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: For showing other F&B entrepreneurs that there is no “i” in team

Proving that leaders aren’t born but made, Renyi Chin recognises that he is a work in progress—which is more than most people will admit. To say that the introspective tastemaker is gung-ho about community building would be an understatement; simply survey myBurgerlab and myPizzalab’s customer-centric marketing and observe how both band together with other eateries via The Good Food Alliance (GFA).

Photo: Bendang Studio
Photo: Bendang Studio

Profession: Ceramicist and founder, Bendang Studio

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Her handiwork elevates the art of plating

A household name in Malaysia, Bendang Studio’s wares can be found in some of Malaysia’s hippest restaurants and hotels. Founder Rozana Musa has maintained her humility, regardless. The ceramicist has come a long way from her first ever studio based in her backyard. Surrounded by swaying paddy crops, the space took on the name “bendang,” meaning “rice fields” in Malay.

Profession: Bartender and founder, Bar Flips

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Contributing to Malaysian cocktail culture and representing the country internationally

Not to be confused with the French street artist, JR (short for Riizal Junior Joe Utto) brings his artistry to cocktails instead of the canvas. With roughly twenty years of experience in F&B and hospitality under his belt (Nexus Resort Karambunai; Qba at The Westin Kuala Lumpur; Elixir Club; View Rooftop Bar at G Tower Hotel; Marini’s Group; W Kuala Lumpur), the Sabahan has got the art of mixology down pat, and is slated to start his own bar in his hometown of Kota Kinabalu sometime this year.

Photo: Courtesy of Sean Yoong
Photo: Courtesy of Sean Yoong

Profession: Food writer and founder, Eat Drink KL

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: An ex-reporter turned food writer who founded Malaysia’s definitive guide for restaurant news and openings

Behind every food blog is an organised eater, which in Eat Drink KL’s case, happens to be ex-journalist Sean Yoong. Yoong’s wildly popular website was hatched over cocktails some 12 years ago as a means to keep track of his favourite eateries, but has grown into Malaysia’s definitive guide for restaurant news and openings. Emboldened by the anonymity that the internet affords, keyboard warriors are a recent phenomenon of internet culture, but what we respect most about Yoong are his genteel manners and professionalism, even when confronted with a disappointing meal.

Photo: Tatler Malaysia
Photo: Tatler Malaysia

Profession: Bartender and founder, the Mizukami Collective

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Shaking up the bar scene with fresh takes on drinks

“It’s partly our fault,” admits Shawn Chong with regard to the tailored cocktail movement in Kuala Lumpur. “Had it not been for Omakase+Appreciate (which Chong and ex-partner Karl Too founded in 2013), there would be more respect for fixed menus.”

Whether or not this is true, Omakase+Appreciate (now defunct) ushered in a new appreciation for craft cocktails in the country before closing its doors in 2020. The end of an epoch also marks the birth of a new one: today, the multiple award-winning mixologist can be found working on multiple projects under the Mizukami Collective, including The Chow Kit X Mizukami and Mizukami Highball at Shiso Dining.

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah
Photo: Courtesy Sunway Group

Profession: Founder and chairman, Sunway Group

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Creating ample jobs in F&B and hospitality while bringing in new concepts, including Gordon Ramsay’s first restaurant in the country

Heaped with accolades, from Asia’s Most Influential 2020 to Forbes Asia Hero of Philanthropy, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah is largely associated with education, healthcare and sustainable development, but deserves a seat in Tatler’s pantheon of Tastemakers too. His contributions to F&B and hospitality are often overshadowed by his other recognitions, but were it not for his love of food and wine, some of our favourite restaurants, such as Jeff’s Cellar at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, would not exist.

 

Courtesy of Trisha Toh
Courtesy of Trisha Toh

Profession: Food stylist

Location: Malaysia

Impact statement: Fusing food and art in whimsical scenarios

Our go-to food stylist for the past three covers of the annual Tatler Dining Guide, Trisha Toh is the person we trust when there is a need to whip up whimsical food scenarios. From creating trompe-l’œil situations involving lemons and eggs to decorating footwear with discarded produce, Toh’s projects remind us to see the fun in food––and life.

Profession: Executive chef, Da Vittorio Shanghai

Location: China

Impact statement: Bringing the original flavours of famed Da Vittorio restaurant around the world

Italian-born chef Stefano Bacchelli has been working with the Cerea Family, the founding family of famed restaurant Da Vittorio in Bergamo, which opened in 1966, for ten years. The original restaurant received its first Michelin star in 1978, a second in 1996, and finally a third in 2010, before expanding to St. Moritz in 2021, where Bacchelli served as the chef and led the team to winning its first Michelin star. When Da Vittorio came to Shanghai in 2019, Bacchelli followed and has ensured that Da Vittorio Shanghai has been crowned with two Michelin stars to date. 

Profession: Executive chef, Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire

Location: China

Impact statement: Upholding his family tradition of executing fine French cuisine to the highest standards 

Romain Chapel is executive chef of one-Michelin-starred Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire at Capella Hotel Shanghai. Hailing from a family of chefs, Romain’s father was the legendary French chef Alain Chapel, who is still regarded as one of the finest chefs in France. Romain followed in the footsteps of his father, starting his career young. From the age of 16, he worked in several famous Michelin restaurants and quickly rose from apprentice to head chef. After continuous training, Romain became a disciple of Pierre Gagnaire, widely considered one of the best chefs in the world, while also garnering great knowledge of the industry from his father. In November 2016, Gagnaire appointed Romain executive chef of Le Comptoir de Pierre Gagnaire.

Profession: Executive chef, Joel Robuchon Shanghai

Location: China

Impact statement: Preserving the spirit and success of Joel Robuchon in Shanghai

Italian chef Andrea Cofini has been discovering his passion for the art of gastronomy since he was a child. Since he started out in restaurants in 2002, Andrea has held important positions in many well-known Michelin-starred establishments in Italy and France. In 2006, he joined La Pergola, the only three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome at the time, and in 2014, officially joined the Robuchon brand and worked at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. Before working for Robuchon Shanghai, he was also head chef and assistant general manager of Le Comptoir Robuchon in London. In October 2020, he was appointed executive chef of Joël Robuchon China, where he seeks to uphold the legacy of the late chef Joël Robuchon. 

Profession: Chef Consultant, Yong Yi Ting

Location: China

Impact statement: A highly regarded chef in China who has pioneered vegetarian fine dining alongside being appreciated for his expertise in traditional Chinese cooking

Before celebrity chef Tony Lu became famous, he worked in multiple high-end Cantonese restaurants where he accumulated rich experience. Currently, he independently manages top-tier Chinese restaurants including Fu 1039, Fu 1088, Fu 1015, and vegetarian fine dining restaurant Fu He Hui, which opened in 2014 and ranked 22 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 and holds one Michelin star. Lu has a wealth of Chinese cooking knowledge and superb technique. Famously skilful in adding modern touches to traditional Chinese dishes, the Shanghai-born chef is highly appreciated by the industry and has won a number of awards. As chef consultant at Yong Yi Ting, Tony brings exquisite and beautiful Jiangnan cuisine to diners at Mandarin Oriental Shanghai’s Chinese restaurant, which sits adjacent to the Huangpu River.

Profession: Executive chef, Meet the Bund

Location: China

Impact statement: A bright, young chef with a passion for delivering authentic Fujianese cuisine to diners

Chen Zhiping was born in Jinjiang, Fujian province in 1990 and became a chef in 2008. “At that time, I thought Xiamen was the epitome of Fujian, and was the most successful place in Fujian’s catering industry,” says Chen. In Xiamen, he met chef Wu Rong, who had opened a successful Fujianese restaurant chain there and would later open Rong Xian. Wu became something of a mentor to Chen, and a year after Wu opened Meet The Bund in Shanghai in 2018, bringing Fujianese cuisine to the big city, the experienced chef asked young Chen to take the helm. Meet The Bund was awarded a Michelin star in 2021 and Chen received the Michelin Young Chef Award 2021.

Profession: Director and executive chef, Solo x Restaurant, Shanghai; co-founder and chef, Freya Hangzhou and Vida Hangzhou

Location: China

Impact statement: Renowned for his distinctive fusion cuisine through which he delivers unique twists on European dishes using Chinese ingredients 

When Sandro Zheng went to Italy to apprentice under Heinrich Schneider, chef at two-Michelin-starred Terra restaurant in Sarentino, he brought back a wealth of experience with him to Shanghai, where he has become adept at fusing the traditions he learned in Europe with Chinese ingredients. Formerly the chef of Terra Shanghai, Zheng currently works as executive chef at Solo X Restaurant and is frequently called upon to serve as a guest chef.

Profession: Founder and chef, seul&SEUL

Location: China

Impact statement: Bringing a taste of the South of France to Shanghai

In 2009, Bill Hu, who had a background in French cuisine, embarked on a new entrepreneurial journey, launching a hospitality management company through which he helped such businesses with their operations. Later he made the decision to open a restaurant, but before doing so, he went abroad to research and study, returning to Shanghai and opening his cozy French fine dining spot Seul&SEUL in 2017. Alongside executive chef Johnny Jiang, a seasonal tasting menu allows diners at Seul&SEUL to enjoy the finest ingredients prepared in the style of restaurant in the South of France.

Profession: Founder and chef, Stone Sal, Meatopia and HIK9

Location: China

Impact statement: Sharing his steak expertise and prowess in Western cuisine with diners in Shanghai

Something of an industry veteran, Zhengu Ling has been working in restaurant kitchens for more than three decades, including a stint at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Shanghai followed by almost two decades with Blue Horizon Hospitality Group. Leaving there in 2016, the following year he decided to launch his own concept, establishing Stone Sal, a classic American steakhouse, in Shanghai, where he showcases his expertise with meat, from choosing the finest cuts to dry ageing and preparing prime pieces. Meatopia and HIK9 followed, the former a casual dining steak and burger spot, while the latter offers a high-end test kitchen experience to a limited number of diners who he treats to an indulgent and extensive multi-course fine dining tasting menu.

Profession: Chef, Thought for Food at The Living Room by Octave

Location: China

Impact statement: Promoting mindful eating with his delicious, sustainable and seasonal cuisine

Anthony Sousa Tam has garnered more than 20 years of culinary experience working in a wide range of prestigious restaurants spanning the globe, from the UK to the Netherlands to Azerbaijan, always delivering original, creative and well-designed dishes. Fundamental to his cooking philosophy is a focus on mindful eating that centres on sourcing the best ingredients, which include organic, healthy foods. The Living Room is a wellness centre offering a range of programmes in a beautifully designed space where the restaurant, Thought for Food, helmed by Tam, offers balanced, nutritious, nourishing dishes that never disregard flavour and feature sustainable, seasonal and some locally grown ingredients. 

Profession: Chef de cuisine, La Scala, Sukhothai Hotel Shanghai

Location: China

Impact statement: Elevating Italian classics with his contemporary twist

Antonio Corsaro has more than 17 years of culinary experience, which includes stints in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants managed by French chef Alain Ducasse. Corsaro is known for his proficient cooking skills and an unwavering admiration for fresh seasonal ingredients. Hailing from Naples in southern Italy, his love of food stemmed from his mother’s home cooking and he has a particular fascination for the cuisine of his hometown. Before joining the Sukhothai Hotel Shanghai, where he has established La Scala as one of Shanghai’s leading Italian eateries, Corsaro was senior sous chef at BBR, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in Raffles Hotel Singapore conceived by Ducasse.

Profession: Chinese master chef, Hyatt on the Bund

Location: China

Impact statement: Keeping traditional dishes alive while delivering them in a contemporary way

Du Caiqing is the Chinese master chef at Hyatt on the Bund Hotel. With more than 30 years of Chinese cuisine experience, he joined Hyatt on the Bund as the head chef at Xindalu – China Kitchen in 2009. With deep knowledge of regional cuisines, including Shanghai, Huaiyang, Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines, he excels at delivering the essence of traditional cuisine in a contemporary way, thereby improving and innovating the experience for diners.

Profession: Chef and co-founder, Obscura

Location: China

Impact statement: A pioneering female chef in China

DeAille Tam started working at Hong Kong’s renowned Bo Innovation restaurant in 2014 under Demon Chef Alvin Leung, who is famous for subverting traditional Chinese cuisine. Two years later, Chef Leung appointed DeAille Tam and Simon Wong co-executive chefs of Bo Shanghai, Bo Innovation’s sister restaurant in Shanghai. Before founding Obscura in November 2020, Chef Tam and her husband, co-founder and chef Simon Wong, embarked on a year-long journey to explore different food cultures and regions in China. It was through this that the pair were inspired to create the dishes that would form the foundation of their first restaurant. In 2021, Tam received Asia’s Best Female Chef Award from Asia’s 50 Best. 

Profession: Owner and mixologist, Suzu Bar

Location: China

Impact statement: A master of the art of cocktail making

Legendary Japanese bar tender Takao Mori, who runs Mori Bar in Tokyo, has spent more than half a century behind the bar. And it is from this legend of the mixology world that Toshiya Suzuki took his lead, learning from the very best. The knowledge he garnered from Mori has served him well during an extensive career that has been award-filled and has seen him rise to the role of head bartender at his own Suzu Bar in Shanghai, where the cocktails are, as would be expected, exquisitely crafted.

Profession: Sommelier; corporate wine director, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts

Location: China

Impact statement: One of China’s most highly regarded wine experts

Astrophysics and wine might seem a world apart, but not for Lu Yang who, as a child, wanted to be a scientist and went on to study Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Here, however, he discovered wine and decided to switch his area of focus, going on to enrol at Niagara College Canada to study viticulture and winemaking. In 2009, he joined The Peninsula Shanghai as a sommelier before, in 2012, being made corporate wine director of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts where he manages the group’s global wine business and looks after the team of sommeliers. In 2017, Lu became China’s first Master Sommelier.

Profession: Documentary director and producer

Location: China

Impact statement: Celebrating Chinese food on the big screen

Acclaimed director and producer Chen Xiaoqing is known for his documentaries on Chinese food culture. In 2012 he worked on the first season of A Bite of China, through which he sought to capture the diversity of Chinese cuisine. Its success drove a second season. Later, in 2017, he directed Once Upon A Bite, which saw the docuseries’ crew travel the world, covering 22 countries in four years, to document Chinese flavours across the globe. This thrust Chen into the limelight. His follow-up, Flavorful Origins, became the first original Chinese documentary to be picked up by Netflix. Through his screen work, Chen captures the essence of classic Chinese culinary arts and traditions and records the social customs, culture and practices that surround them.  

Profession: Founder, Baheli Haiji Beef Hot Pot

Location: China

Impact statement: Bringing his much-loved beef hot pot to towns and cities across China

From humble beginnings in Chaozhou City, Lin Haiping became one of China’s most successful entrepreneurs in the F&B industry. It all began in 1992, when he was in junior high and he went to work at a relative’s Teochew beef ball restaurant. “I was completely familiar with the business practices of the beef ball shop by the time I turned 17 years old,” he says. In 2003, he became a butcher and assisted in managing the big and small affairs of the store. The daily grind of his work gave him the idea of starting a business. In 2008, when turned 30, he and his elder brother borrowed RMB15,000 to open a beef shop called Hai Ji. It would become the prototype of Baheli Haiji, the hot pot chain that has taken China by storm.

Profession: Food critic; whisky connoisseur; whisky bottler; founder, Howard’s Gourmet

Location: China

Impact statement: A food and whisky connoisseur bringing both to consumers across China

Chef, whisky connoisseur, restaurateur, bottler––there are a lot of strings to Howard Cai’s bow. He founded Howard’s Gourmet in Guangzhou in 2005, and helmed the kitchen despite having no formal training as a chef, delivering his modern take on Chinese cuisine with a focus on quality ingredients. Garnering a celebrity following, a decade later a Hong Kong outpost joined the fold––as his empire also expanded further across China. On the drinks side, Cai has a love of Scotch that manifests in a whisky shop in Guangzhou Airport, The Whisky Dungeon by Howard Cai, where every bottle is from casks he has personally selected and bottled through Howard Cai Select. Over the years, Cai has also written about food and whisky, and about pairing the two together.

Profession: Food writer and researcher

Location: China

Impact statement: Promoting and preserving the history and traditions of Teochew food

Zhang Xinmin is known as the “living dictionary of Teochew food”. An expert on the history of the cuisine, Zhang is dedicated to expanding his knowledge of the cuisine and promoting it, particularly as the author of a number of books on the subject, which have attracted widespread attention, and founder of Chao Cai Yanjiu Hui, a resource centre focused on promoting Teochew cuisine both locally and internationally through information sharing and chef training.

Profession: Founder, Nayuki

Location: China

Impact statement: Taking her burgeoning tea brand global

Lita Peng had always had a love for beverages and baking and after years working in the IT industry, one day she decided to bite the bullet and follow her heart. In 2015 she opened the first branch of Nayuki in Shenzhen with her husband, Leon Zhao, offering premium teas and European-style baked goods. The business grew rapidly, propelled by funding from various investors over the years. Within four years, 51 cities in China were home to 350 Nayuki stores. By July 2020, Nayuki had opened its first store in Japan. Peng’s ambition doesn’t stop there––she already has her sights set on Europe and the US.

Profession: Founder, Modern China Tea Shop

Location: China

Impact statement: Developing one of China’s hottest tea brands

Lyu Liang founded Modern China Tea Shop in 2013 in Changsha, Hunan. His teas proved so successful that the brand became a destination for visitors to Changsha. Delaying any expansion except within the city, where there are now around 300 stores, when Modern China Tea Shop finally opened outside the city where it originated––choosing Wuhan in 2020––long lines snaked from its doors, with some customers reportedly waiting up to eight hours to buy a cup of tea. Aside from its distinctive taste, Modern China Tea Shop is favoured for its branding, which incorporates ancient Chinese paintings, the copyright for which Liang paid handsomely for.

Profession: Founder, hof; co-founder, Gourmet Library

Location: China

Impact statement: A pastry pioneer in China with a penchant for chocolate

Malaysian chef Brian Tan boasts experience from 5-star hotels spanning the world, where he often worked as a pastry chef with a focus on chocolate. Eventually landing up in Shanghai where he was executive pastry chef when the St. Regis Shanghai opened in 2001, he departed in 2005 to found his own cafe House of Flour, where he served a menu of well-executed but simple fare from soups and salad to pastas and sandwiches, complemented by a strong dessert selection. In 2009 he launched hof, a hugely successful concept bar where creative cocktails meet decadent desserts. Tan is also co-founder of the Gourmet Library, a food and culture space in Shanghai which is home to a vast collection of food books and a test kitchen that serves as a space to showcase established and emerging culinary talents.  

Profession: Founder and CEO, Haofood

Location: China

Impact statement: Encouraging a reduction in meat consumption through her entrepreneurship

Astrid Prajogo is the founder of Haofood, a plant-based meat startup which, unlike other companies in the same space, uses peanut protein to develop its products. With more than 17 years of experience ranging from gastronomy to nutrition to healthcare, Prajogo’s ultimate aim is to reduce meat consumption by providing great-tasting alternatives.

Profession: Founder and CEO, Hey Maet

Location: China

Impact statement: A visionary entrepreneur in the plant-based protein space who is leading by example

Chichi Hong has followed a plant-based diet for more than a decade, but it’s only been the last few years that have seen her pursue it as something professional, firstly as a co-founder of plant-based meat startup ZhenMeat, and then as founder and CEO of Hey Maet, which produces plant-based beef, chicken and pork products using quality pea, soy and rice protein combined with high-moisture extrusion processing. The company recently raised its second round of funding following seed funding of RMB 10 million.

Profession: Founder, Voisin Organique

Location: China

Impact statement: Promoting organic, sustainable farming through Shenzhen restaurant Voisin Organique

At Rosetta Lin’s Voisin Organique restaurant in Shenzhen, the self-taught chef combines ingredients grown at nearby Teshi Organic Farm with ancient Chinese cooking techniques to deliver a delectable fine dining experience that highlights the natural taste of food and focuses on promoting farm-to-table dining. 

Profession: Winemaker, Kanaan Winery

Location: China

Impact statement: Pioneering a bold approach to winemaking in China

German-Chinese Fang Wang, who is known as Crazy Fang, didn’t expect to follow in her father’s footsteps. Wang Fengyu was a pioneer of viticulture in Ningxia, producing the iconic Jia Bei Lan 2009, which won Decanter‘s 2011 Red Bordeaux Varietal International Trophy and established the region as ‘China’s Bordeaux’. However, it wasn’t the prospect of making Bordeaux blends that appealed to Fang, but rather the possibility of growing riesling, a grape she grew to love after time spent in Germany where some of the world’s best is produced. Kanaan’s riesling has proved a success, though it is the brand’s red blends using cabernet sauvignon and merlot that have the biggest following.

Profession: Director, Puchang Vineyard

Location: China

Impact statement: Proving that China can produce world-class wines

Xinjiang Province, home to the Takla Makan desert and the Tianshan Mountains in the northwest of China isn’t the first place you’d picture for an award-winning winery. But it is home to Puchang Vineyard, in which Hong Kong businessman KK Cheung, current director Clara Wang’s father, invested in 2008. Wang’s father’s desire was to create great, but also “healthy” wines, and this dream has manifested, under Wang’s watch, in acclaimed wines that are crafted organically.

Profession: Wine journalist and educator

Location: China

Impact statement: A leader in China’s wine industry

Wine journalist and educator Ian Dai hails from Ningde, Fujian. With extensive experience in the wine industry, in 2017 Dai began to try his hand at winemaking, creating his own wine brand Petite Garden, produced in Ningxia. Dai is currently in stage two of studying to attain his Master of Wine qualification.

Profession: CEO, Grace Vineyard

Location: China

Impact statement: Ushering in a new era of wine in China through the creation of quality bottlings

Nearly two decades ago, Judy Chan gave up her job in human resources at Goldman Sachs and took over the winery her father, Hong Kong businessman CK Chan had purchased in Shanxi in 1997. She says, “I didn’t even know how to drink.” At that time, China’s wine market was dominated by large state-owned wineries, but Chan focused on creating high-quality wines. When Grace Vineyard listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong in 2018, its production capacity was nearly 2 million bottles.

Profession: Manager and chief winemaker, Ao Yun

Location: China

Impact statement: Putting high quality Chinese wine on the global stage

“Our goal is to make a refreshing and delicate world-class wine,” says Maxence Dulou, manager and chief winemaker at Au Yun, who originally hails from Bordeaux, France and who joined the LVMH wine venture located in the foothills of the Himalayas above Shangri-la in 2012. “We will not imitate a certain bottle of wine, otherwise we will go where it is easier to make wine,” he adds. Since the release of its first vintage in 2016, Ao Yun 2013, the wines produced by Dulou have met with high critical acclaim.

Profession: Founder, Heytea

Location: China

Impact statement: Taking his quality milk tea across Asia

It all started for Nie Yunchen, who also goes by Neo Nie, with mobile phones. As a budding entrepreneur, he set up a small store selling smartphones and accessories, but when this didn’t work out he turned his attention to tea and set up a small milk tea shop in Jiangmen. Unlike competitors at the time, his teas were made from fresh, high-quality ingredients––and there were also some more creative concoctions on his menu. The brand took off and today Heytea boasts more than 450 stores across China, with outlets in Singapore and Hong Kong as of 2018, too. In 2019, the entrepreneur was named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list.

Profession: Executive Chinese chef, Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake

Location: China

Impact statement: Elevating the cuisine of Zhejiang and Shanghai at acclaimed restaurant Jin Sha

Chef Wang Yong’s extensive culinary experience includes a stint at the famous Whampoa Club in Shanghai on the Bund. But it is as executive Chinese chef of Jin Sha at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake where his talents have really shone. With a mastery of the cuisines of Zhejiang and Shanghai in particular, his superior skills, combined with access to a fantastic supply of fine ingredients thanks to the restaurant’s prime location, have ensured high acclaim for Jin Sha, which under his leadership was awarded four stars by Forbes Travel Guide, three diamonds in the 2021 Black Pearl Restaurant Guide, and ranked 89 on the 51-100 list from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021.

Profession: Mixologist; Bar Manager, KOR Shanghai

Location: China

Impact statement: Raising the bar for mixology in Shanghai

Jacko Chang’s background as a chef means he has a way with flavours that has elevated his cocktail making and ensured he become one of Shanghai’s most highly regarded mixologists. Named World Class Bartender of the Year at the 2015 Diageo Taiwan Championship, Chang is the Bar Manager at Kor Shanghai and is known for his creative cocktails that also pair well with food. His signature cocktail, Men’s Talk, was featured in the book, 101 Award-Winning Cocktails from the World’s Best Bartenders, which was published in 2019. Chang is also a co-founder of beverage consultancy Bartender Boyz. 

Profession: General Counsel, Writer and Choreographer, A Bite of China

Location: China

Impact statement: A prominent food writer, critic and columnist whose commentary on food is widely regarded

Hailing from Shanghai, Shen Hongfei studied journalism at Jinan University, graduating in 1984. He went on to work in media in Guangzhou, Beijing, Hong Kong and various other places, making a name for himself as a food critic and writer. Currently a freelance writer, TV programme planner, and producer, he is also a columnist for various newspapers and the author of a number of food-related books.

Profession: Executive Chef, Seven Villas Hangzhou

Location: China

Impact statement: A specialist in the fine art of Jiangnan cuisine and its creative dishes

Jack Yu has had a passion for cooking since his childhood growing up in Hangzhou. As early as the 1980s, while still studying, he often went to the family-run small restaurant to help out. After graduating from college in Zhejiang, he started as an apprentice at the century-old, traditional restaurant Lou Wai Lou and worked there for almost a decade. The fundamental skills he learned at Lou Wai Lou laid solid foundations for him to take charge of many top Chinese restaurants in China, though his expertise lies in dishes typical of Jiangnan, in which Jiexianglou Restaurant at Seven Villas Hangzhou specialises. He says, “Cooking is a language. Through cooking, chefs express harmony, creativity, joy, beauty, connotation, magic, inspiration and culture.”

Profession: Founder, Mr. Choi 

Location: China

Impact statement: Serving acclaimed French pastries to Shanghai’s foodies

In 2009, Le Cordon Bleu graduate Linda Wang’s launched Mr. Choi Patisserie, which sells high-end handmade French pastries. From the first outlet in Shangai’s SML Center, Wang quickly expanded operations across the city and to neighbouring Hangzhou as the renown of her baked goods grew through word of mouth. Later, in 2017, Wang founded Mr. Choi Canteen, which serves hot savoury food. In 2018, Mr. Choi Patisserie raised $14.5 million in its Series A funding. 

Profession: Chef, Tai’an Table

Location: China

Impact statement: Bringing exquisitely prepared European fare to discerning diners in Shanghai and Guangzhou

A native of Germany, Stiller’s culinary career took off in the south of the country when, after cooking in various Michelin-starred restaurants across Germany, he opened a restaurant of his own in a winery and was awarded a Michelin star. He moved to Shanghai in 2004 where he was executive chef at Club Shanghai and then Mimosa, before establishing Stiller’s Restaurant and Cooking School. Following a number of other endeavours in the dining industry, Stiller found success with his small but refined Tai’an Table, which he opened in 2016 and which currently holds two Michelin stars. Stiller has also opened a second Tai’an Table in Guangzhou.

Profession: Executive chef, 81⁄2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA, Shanghai

Location: China

Impact statement: Delivering the finest flavours of Italy to diners in Shanghai

Riccardo La Perna hails from Sicily, Italy, where he garnered a wealth of experience working with luminaries of Italy’s fine dining scene such as Ciccio Sultano and Claudio Sadler. La Perna’s culinary style centres on authentic and traditional dishes with distinctive Italian flavours, and he uses Italian cooking techniques to present sumptuous Italian cuisine as chef at 81⁄2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA Shanghai, which was again awarded two Michelin stars this year. As the chef says, “Michelin’s honour is undoubtedly affirmation for restaurants and chefs. The only thing I have to do is pour in all my passion and create more excellent cuisine for our guests.” La Perna uses his nine years of experience in China to express and interpret his unique cooking style with Chinese regional ingredients.

Profession: Founder and chef, Yu Zhi Lan

Location: China

Impact statement: Elevating Chinese cuisine through his acclaimed restaurants

A master of Sichuan cuisine, Lan Guijun in the founder of Yu Zhi Lan, a small but highly revered restaurant in Chengdu serving some of China’s finest haute cuisine. Expanding to open a branch of this acclaimed restaurant in Shanghai, Lan’s signature Sichuan cuisine features the finest ingredients sourced from across China as well as handmade pickles, noodles and other delights. The Shanghai outpost of his restaurant was awarded 3 diamonds by Black Pearl in 2018 and holds one Michelin star.

Profession: Head chef, Ji Pin Court

Location: China

Impact statement: A master of fine Cantonese cuisine

Li Wei joined the F&B industry in 1999 and has been on the scene for more than two decades. In 2009, he studied under Cantonese cuisine master Cai Zhaohui, who is currently the chef of three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Eight in Macau. Li joined Ji Pin Court in 2016 as a sous chef in charge of dish development and quality control. The restaurant grew its reputation rapidly, and received a Michelin star its second year after opening. In its third year, Li Wei took his team to new heights when the restaurant received a second Michelin star.

Photo: Courtesy of IFTM
Photo: Courtesy of IFTM

Profession: Chef de cuisine, IFTM Restaurant

Location: Macau

Impact statement: Pioneering greener professional kitchens in Macau

Hans Lee Rasmussen may have grown up in Denmark, but the chef de cuisine at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) Educational Restaurant was actually born in Macau, so his return to the SAR in 2014 was something of a homecoming, albeit with a distinctive Scandinavian point of view, which manifests in dishes that include, for example, more fermented ingredients. But aside from that, Rasmussen brought with him a keen desire to reduce waste, which has proved successful as in 2021 IFTM became the only restaurant in Macau to be awarded a Green Michelin star for its commitment to sustainable gastronomy.

Photo courtesy of Good Food Institute
Photo courtesy of Good Food Institute

Profession: Managing director, Good Food Institute

Location: India

Impact statement: Driving change through the support of India’s alternative protein sector

Varun Deshpande’s focus is the future of food. As managing director of the non-profit Good Food Institute India, he works with scientists, foundations, governments, entrepreneurs and corporations to develop and drive the alternative protein ecosystem, a rapidly growing area in India with huge potential to address climate change and positively impact the global food system.

With a degree in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and a professional background in digital health, his mission is to the improve the health of both humans and the planet as he hopes to create a more secure and sustainable global food system, particularly in developing countries.

Photo: Courtesy of Stranger & Sons
Photo: Courtesy of Stranger & Sons

Profession: Founders, Stranger & Sons

Location: India

Impact statement: Creating demand Indian gin through their award-winning spirit

When the three founders of Indian gin distillers Stranger & Sons came together, it was a natural fit. All three had backgrounds in the food industry, from distilling to drinks to brewing. Their aim was to introduce a well-made Indian gin that incorporated predominantly locally sourced ingredients. Made in Goa from an infusion of nine herbs and spices, aside from the juniper, which comes from North Macedonia, all the botanicals have been sourced from India and this has resulted in a spirit whose renown now spans its home country, establishing a demand for gin that barely existed before, but which has also travelled to London, Thailand and Singapore to date. Additionally the team try to be as sustainable as possible, using solar panels to help drive the energy required for distilling and installing a recycling tank to reduce water usage during the process. 

Photo: Courtesy of GoodDot
Photo: Courtesy of GoodDot

Profession: CEO and co-founder, GoodDot

Location: India

Impact statement: Making alternative protein meals accessible and affordable around the world

India’s alternative protein––or smart protein––sector is growing rapidly, but among the nation’s largest plant-based meat companies currrently is Gooddot. Headed up by Abhishek Sinha, the brand offers high-protein, environmentally friendly and easy to cook meals through its wide range of products. Gooddot ensures a more humane world for animals and provides access to healthy grain and plant proteins at affordable prices. Its products are increasingly available around the world.

Photo: Courtesy of Asia's 50 Best Bars
Photo: Courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Bars

Profession: Owner and bartender, Bar Benfiddich

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Delivering fresh and exciting cocktails where almost every element is house-made or homegrown

Known as ‘the farmer’s bartender’, mixologist Hiroyasu Kayama runs the renowned Bar Benfiddich in Tokyo, which ranked 40th on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2020 and 15th on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020. Here, Kayama uses house-made infusions and various homegrown ingredients direct from his family’s own farm in Saitama prefecture to create bespoke and innovative ‘farm-to-glass’ cocktails.

Profession: Kanena Miso & Soy Sauce Brewery

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Making miso cool again

Yoko Nagatomo Shiomi is a toji, or head brewer, which is not a role often taken on by women in Japan. But Shiomi is transforming perceptions by driving her family’s 144-year old miso brewery, Kanena Miso & Soy Sauce Brewery, into a new era.

Keen to make miso and fermented foods more attractive to modern consumers, not only has she expanded the brewery’s product range to include more easy-to-use miso products, such as dried, instant and make-your-own miso items, but she is also teaching children about miso and its use to keep the fermented food alive. With ambitions to appeal internationally, too, Shiomi’s products can be found in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Profession: Founder, Venture Whisky

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Having a fresh take on Japan’s whisky distilling business

Ichiro Akuto can trace his family’s brewing history back to Japan’s Edo period and the once-famed Hanyu whisky distillery. Ichiro knew it was a family tradition he wanted to continue, and after graduating from Tokyo University of Agriculture and gaining work experience at Suntory, he established his own whisky company, Venture Whisky, in 2004.

Under Venture he opened Chichibu Distillery where he specialises in single malt whisky that uses pure water from the Arakawa River and often matures its brews in Japanese oak barrels. Akuto’s creations––he also works on blends of old stock including from his family’s distillery––have won numerous awards, including the World’s Best Blended Limited Release from the World Whisky Awards for Venture’s Malt & Grain Japanese Blended Whisky Limited Edition 2021, and count fans across the world.

Profession: Chef, Sincère and Sincere Blue

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Promoting the use of sustainable seafood use and protection of our marine ecosystem

The Japanese consume a significant amount of seafood, but rarely is the marine environment a serious consideration for its chefs. That’s not the case at Sincère, where chef Shinsuke Ishi focuses on the procurement of line-caught seafood and seeks to develop strong relationships with reliable fishermen and producers who practice the kind of sustainable fishing that he wants to support.

In the 2021 Michelin Guide Tokyo, Sincère was one of six restaurants in Tokyo recognised with a Green Star for commitment to sustainable gastronomy. The chef is also behind sister restaurant Sincère Blue, which opened in 2020 in collaboration with Chefs for the Blue, a movement to raise awareness around the marine ecosystem and its survival, and serves only sustainable seafood. 

Profession: Chef, Kikunoi

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Preserving the traditions of kaiseki and Japanese cuisine for future generations

Aside from helming three Michelin-starred restaurant Kikunoi, third-generation owner-chef Murata is also dedicated to passing on Kyoto kaiseki traditions to the world and cooking for public benefit. In 2004 he was key to the founding of the Japanese Culinary Academy, which boasts a membership of scholars and chefs, and undertakes research, runs courses, and educates local and international cooks, schoolchildren and the public more broadly. The ambassador of Japan’s culinary heritage received the American Express Icon Award as part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020, and continues to preserve and protect Japan’s traditions. More recently he has set his sights on finding ways for Japanese cuisine to be more sustainable, particularly through its choice of ingredients.

Profession: Meat ageing specialist

Location: Japan

Impact statement: Perfecting and pioneering a means to more flavourful meat

At his shop in Shiga prefecture, meat specialist Yoshinobu Niiho transforms low-ranking beef into more flavourful meat through his tried-and-tested ageing techniques. Customers come from across the country to purchase his products, which are also in high demand from chefs and restaurants. Dry ageing is key to a process that he spent two decades developing and perfecting, including cultivating just the right bacteria to ensure flesh that’s full of flavour. In 2020, Niiho received an innovation award from Gault&Millau. 

Profession: Food anthropologist; professor emeritus, Tokyo University of Agriculture

Location: Japan

Impact statement: A master of fermentation keen to share his expertise with the nation

Takeo Koizumi wears many hats––professor emeritus at Tokyo University of Agriculture, agronomist, food anthropologist, master of fermentation, to name a few. An active lecturer across Japan, he also focuses on educating the public about traditional Japanese cuisine and increasingly hosts talks and writes articles on fermented foods and their nutritional and health benefits. It’s a subject on which he is something of an expert; having written more than 140 books, his tomes include Kin wa chikyū o sukuu (Microorganisms Can Save the World) and Kusai wa umai (Smelly is Yummy).

Profession: Chef, Onjium

Location: Korea

Impact statement: Keeping Korean culinary traditions alive

Onjium is primarily a research institute focused on traditional Korean culture, but it is also home to a Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by chef Cho Eun-hee. An expert in Korean royal court cuisine, diners at Onjium can expect to be treated to a beautifully plated and executed meal steeped in tradition. Cho also conducts classes on Korean culture and educates young chefs on the dishes and details that make up the rich Korean gastronomic tradition.

Cho Hee-sook
Photo: Courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best

Profession: Chef, Hansikgonggan

Location: Korea

Impact statement: Elevating the renown and repute of Korea’s cuisine and ensuring its legacy

Regarded as the ‘godmother of Korean cuisine’, chef Cho Hee-Sook helms the kitchen at Hansikgonggan, a restaurant preparing classic Korean cuisine with a contemporary slant. Former chef to the Korean ambassador to the USA, and a recipient of Asia’s Best Female Chef Award in 2020, Cho has also been committed to extending the renown of her nation’s cuisine, delving deep into its history and traditions not only to share with guests in her restaurant but also to pass on to the next generation of young chefs to keep the cuisine alive. 

Profession: Chef, Mingles and Hansik Goo

Location: Korea

Impact statement: Putting contemporary Korean cuisine on the global stage

Mingoo Kang took a wealth of international experience to the table when he opened Mingles in Seoul in 2014, yet his refined Korean cuisine nevertheless revels in reverence of Korean tradition and culinary craftsmanship as he delved deep into his country’s gastronomic past when coming up with the concept. Today it holds two Michelin stars and is ranked 10th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Kang established his first overseas restaurant in 2020, Hansik Goo in Hong Kong. It was a move that has paid off as not only has the restaurant and its cuisine been embraced, but Kang was awarded the Inedit Damm Chefs’ Choice Award by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 reflecting the respect of the industry. 

Profession: Head bartender, Charles H, Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

Location: Korea

Impact statement: Bring second-to-none service as well as creative cocktails to the table

Keith Motsi originally thought he wanted to become an architect, but he soon abandoned that idea in favour of hospitality, a profession that appealed for its potential to make people happy. And Motsi certainly does that as head bartender of acclaimed speakeasy Charles H, where delivering second-to-none service alongside innovative cocktails always ensures a memorable experience for guests. Motsi’s attention to detail is keen and he is always attuned to the tastes and desires of his clientele, bringing much more than just top-notch cocktails to the table. He’s even been known to entertain guests by getting up on the bar and showing off some signature dance moves to cheering patrons at the speakeasy that was rated Best Bar in Korea 2020 and ranked 29th on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020.

Gaa

Profession: Chef, Gaa

Location: Thailand 

Impact statement: Delivering delicious Indian cuisine in a new context

The first Indian woman to receive a Michelin star, Garima Arora runs Gaa restaurant in Bangkok. With a CV that includes stints at Noma in Copenhagen and Gaggan in Bangkok, Arora expertly combines the flavours of her homeland of India with the tastes of Thailand through elaborate tasting menus. Recently moving the acclaimed restaurant to a new location with additional space, last year she added a casual concept, Here, modelled on an Indian breakfast canteen, serving nutritious comfort food by day with plans for it to transform into a wine bar by night. 

Photo: Tatler Asia
Photo: Tatler Asia

Profession: Chef, Gaggan Anand

Location: Thailand

Impact statement: Redefining Indian cuisine through his revolutionary restaurants

This Indian chef is one of Bangkok’s most acclaimed culinary stars globally, known predominantly for his now-defunct restaurant Gaggan, which topped Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list between 2015 and 2018. Serving up ‘progressive Indian’ cuisine with inventive tasting menus that at times contained only emojis to represent the courses, the irreverent chef returned to Bangkok’s culinary scene in late 2019 with a second act, Gaggan Anand, which debuted on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 at fifth place as the highest new entry. 

Photo: Courtesy of Poonperm Paitayawat
Photo: Courtesy of Poonperm Paitayawat

Profession: Food writer and Instagrammer, @theskinnybib

Location: Thailand

Impact statement: An influential voice for Thai cuisine

Poonperm Paitayawat, who is perhaps better known by his Instagram handle @theskinnybib, is a leading voice for Thai cuisine. A consultant for F&B with projects including Wonderfruit under his belt, he is also a writer and commentator who has had his work published in magazines such as Fool and Four.

A50BR21 Icon Award - Jay Fai
Photo: Courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best

Profession: Chef

Location: Thailand

Impact statement: An icon of Bangkok’s street food scene

Recognisable for the plastic ski goggles she dons while frying up her crab meat omelettes, Supinya Junsuta, who is better known as Jay Fai, has been recognised by both Michelin and 50 Best for her wok-fried seafood dishes. This year she received the Icon Award 2021 from Asia’s 50 Best for her outstanding contribution to the community and the wider restaurant world. 

Profession: Environmental manager, Bo.Lan; Co-founder, Wasteland

Location: Thailand 

Impact statement: Driving sustainability in Bangkok’s F&B scene

As the environmental manager at Michelin-starred restaurant Bo.lan, where sustainability is at the forefront of the operation, Dharath “Tot” Hoonchamlong, who has a master’s in Food Studies, recently set his sights on taking his expertise in reducing food waste into the drinks space. It is this that he brings to Wasteland, which was set up in front of Bo.Lan during the Covid-19 pandemic along with co-founders Kittibordee Chortubtim and Krit Parkobdee, formely of Liberation; drinks consultant Suchada “Fah Beer” Sopajaree; and Phanurat Yookongsak of local tonic water brand Nammon. As Bangkok’s first sustainable bar, the team work in conjunction with the kitchen staff at Bo.lan to make the most of waste while offering an impressive and innovative drinks list.

Profession: Founders, Marou

Location: Vietnam

Impact statement: Blazing a trail for Asia’s own bean-to-bar artisanal chocolatiers

Founded in 2011 by Vincent Mourou and Sam Maruta, Marou makes its chocolate using only Vietnamese cacao collected from six provinces in the country’s south. One of the first bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate makers in Asia, Marou currently runs Maison Marou cafe-patisserie-chocolate factory concepts in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, but is looking to expand overseas while also growing its network of smallholder farms in Vietnam. In March 2021, Marou received a new round of investment funding from Mekong Capital.

Photo: Courtesy of Anan Saigon
Photo: Courtesy of Anan Saigon

Profession: Chef, Anan Saigon

Location: Vietnam

Impact statement: A leading light in Ho Chi Minh City’s dynamic dining scene

Founding chef at much-loved Vietnamese restaurant Chom Chom in Hong Kong, American-Vietnamese chef Peter Cuong Franklin left Hong Kong for Ho Chi Minh to set up Anan Saigon in 2017, which has been leading the dining scene in the city and this year became the only Vietnamese restaurant to grace Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 list. He also runs Nhau Nhau, a ’60s inspired cocktail bar, and noodle bar Pot Au Pho in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Profession: Co-owner and Manager, Hype Asia

Location: Vietnam

Impact statement: Bringing fun and forward-looking dining concepts to Vietnam

Set on bringing stylish new dining concepts to Vietnam, Linh Dang leads Hype Asia, the brand behind restaurants and bars such as start-the-day favourite Godmother Bake & Brunch, Spanish tapas spot Octo Tapas Restobar, sushi stalwart Roka Fella Omakase, and cocktail lounge Bam Bam. With projects in Singapore and plans to expand what she sees as the jewel in Hype Asia’s crown, her Godmother concept, to new sites in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as to franchise Thai restaurant Am Dangtyphoon and hotpot eatery Beauty in the Pot, there’s no stopping this F&B entrepreneur.

Profession: Founder and CEO, Pizza 4Ps

Location: Vietnam

Impact statement: Delivering happiness and driving sustainability through his pioneering pizza chain

Yosuke Masuko started Pizza 4P’s with Sanae Takasugi in 2011. His mission was to deliver happiness through his pizzas, a food he sees as universal with topping easily adjusted to suit any person or palate. And at 4P’s, with Asian ingredients like miso, salmon sashimi and seaweed on offer, that’s certainly the case. More than that, though, an ethos of sustainability underlines everything Masuko does as he strives to minimise food waste, incorporates solar energy where he can and has a worm composting system. He’s also a cheese supplier; having opened his own factory to meet 4P’s cheese needs, he expanded to supply fresh cheese to various hotels and restaurants and, increasingly, direct to consumers. A firm favourite among local diners, 4P’s took home the People’s Choice Restaurant of Year award at the Vietnam Restaurant Awards 2020, as well as the Social Responsibility Award. 





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