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The future of SGFood
IF you were to imagine the Singapore food landscape in the future, what would it look like? Will cheap hawker fare still exist to feed the masses? Will we lose traditional elements of our cuisine such as Peranakan food?
"The landscape probably won't look the same at all, says culinary consultant Eric Teo, a former executive chef at five-star hotels such as Orchard Hotel and Mandarin Oriental Singapore. From his observations, everything has changed in the last 30 years that he has been in the industry - from food presentation to origins of ingredients, to techniques and cooking styles - and it will definitely change again.
He predicts that Singapore food will keep evolving as "younger generations are influenced by the world and social media", and also based on other changes in the environment and economy. For instance, he points out that if the labour crunch continues, it will be sure to affect the way food is prepared, presented, and served.
Likewise, lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low, who coined the term mod-Sin when he opened his restaurant Wild Rocket 10 years ago, observes that eating out has become a lot more expensive because of rising costs, and this has affected the dining experience because it has been passed on to guests.
Down the road, his wishlist includes "more guests open to sitting at counters - where manpower can be reduced because chefs can serve customers directly - and a relaxation of the foreign labour quota for certain tiers of restaurants or certain job scopes," because manpower cannot be replaced by gadgets such as iPads in certain restaurants that emphasise service, he says.
For Pang Kok Keong, pastry chef of Antoinette, his hope is that ultimately the flavour of Singapore cuisine - to him an amalgamation of Singapore's heritage that comes from its Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian influences - will still be preserved.
He predicts that "our Singaporean cuisine will be more refined, with the younger generation using more Western techniques", such as how young chefs these days are using modern cooking methods to make the most of their ingredients.
One such chef is Malcolm Lee, who runs the contemporary Peranakan restaurant Candlenut, and is passionate about preserving the cuisine's authentic flavours. He believes that traditional food won't be dying out any time soon, as long as people are willing to update its flavours, cooking techniques and presentation to make it more accessible.
He says: "The challenge now is to understand what Peranakan food is based on - spice pastes, sambals, and the tastebuds of the younger generation. We will see an evolution of how food is made, and maybe the quality or cut of ingredients, but it's very important not to lose the essence. Otherwise, we'll be losing the soul of the food."