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Cutting the cost of world-class cuisine
WHILE most people tend to get excited at the prospect of eating at a restaurant opened by a celebrity chef, the excitement tends to fizzle out somewhere around their wallets. Because as we all know, you've got to pay the big bucks for the big names.
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) will be presenting its fourth edition of their Epicurean Market from Aug 12 to Aug 14, for those of us who'd like to indulge our taste buds without having to extend our lines of credit to do it. The three-day festival will feature renowned chefs like Daniel Boulud, Nancy Silverton, David Myers, Tetsuya Wakuda, David Thompson and Justin Quek, some of whom will even let you in on their culinary secrets.
Sean Newman, executive director of F&B at MBS, says: "This event really does provide visitors with unique access. You get to try world-class food, wines and spirits, but at a nominal price. It's really about giving people a taste of something they might not normally experience."
The idea of the Epicurean Market was conceived four years ago after seeing various F&B events around Singapore that seemed to be doing well. Mr Newman, 48, says: "The hotel had just opened and we wanted to promote our own culinary offerings. With the high calibre of restaurants and restaurateurs we'd curated under our own roof, we didn't even need to look for external vendors."
And with more than 60 participants this year who are all affiliated with MBS, that doesn't look likely to change any time soon. But getting their partners to agree to participate wasn't easy at first.
"When we started the event, we didn't really give them much choice," he laughs. "As the event unfolded, however, they really came to see the value in it. It gives them a chance to interact with our guests on a more personal level in a less formal setting, and now they come to us themselves to discuss what they can offer at the show."
This year's edition will feature the debut of Miami-based restaurant Yardbird Southern Table & Bar helmed by John Kunkel, who built upon his family's traditional Southern recipes like his grandmother's 24-hour brined and crispy fried chicken and waffles. The restaurant's official launch will be at MBS in 2017, following in the footsteps of Adrift by David Meyer and Wolfgang Puck's Spago, which also allowed visitors a taste of their offerings at the Epicurean Market before opening shop.
Also making their debut this year will be Chinese restaurant North and the one Michelin-starred Indian restaurant The Golden Peacock, which are based at MBS' sister property in Macau, the Venetian Macao.
Mr Newman, who grew up in Canada, says: "We use the Epicurean Market as a place to introduce new brands and restaurants to Singapore, giving our guests a chance to sample new concepts which aren't yet available here."
The highlight at this annual event is undoubtedly the masterclasses, conducted by none other than MBS' celebrity chefs. With more than 50 masterclasses, both paid and free of charge, the subjects offered are wide-ranging, and most can accommodate up to 120 people who register at the event itself.
The most popular free masterclass is led by chef Tetsuya Wakuda of Waku Ghin. "We try to keep each masterclass to 120 people, but at chef Wakuda's classes, we have to relax the rules a little because people end up standing in the aisles to get a glimpse of his techniques," reveals Mr Newman.
The Sands Signature Series, introduced this year, will be a new addition to the roster. Seating only 40 people, these intimate sessions will be aimed at a discerning clientele who want to taste rare and hard-to-find wines and spirits at a nominal fee. He says: "It's like the Gold Class of masterclasses because we've added another classroom with a more luxurious setting to kick off this series."
The Farmer's Market, after which the event was named, will offer specialty cheeses, red hued Sockeye Salmon and Campari tomatoes from the Okanagan Valley Market in British Columbia this year, along with Ojai Pixie Tangerines, Vidalia Onions and Crenshaw Melons from the Los Angeles Specialty Market.
With such a varied selection of activities taking place at the Epicurean Market, one can only imagine the challenges posed by the sheer logistics of the event.
Mr Newman says: "It's a huge show and there are a lot of moving parts to it. It all comes down to pulling everything together in a way that fulfils peoples' expectations. For example, we have to create kitchens and restaurants for our world-class chefs that will enable them to produce dishes that are just as good as at their own restaurants so we have to make sure each chef's unique requirements are built into their spaces at the Market."
He adds: "The effort is worth it, though. Here in Singapore, the people really know and appreciate good food, so being able to offer that at affordable prices while interacting with our guests on a less formal level at the same time is really satisfying."
- The Epicurean Market by Marina Bay Sands is on from Aug 12 to 14 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Three-day passes cost S$35. To purchase or for more information, please visit www.marinabaysands.com/epicurean-market.html