For the past 16 years the World Gourmet Festival (WGF) and the Four Seasons brand in Bangkok have been synonymous. Many had questioned the viability of this annual event since the hotel rebranded in March of 2015 to the Anantara Siam Bangkok. Well established as Bangkok’s premier intentional gastronomic food event, the pressure was on to make this year’s World Gourmet Festival a success. The verdict is in and this year proved to be just as exciting as years past. Taking place over a seven day period from September 7 to 13, 2015, the event offered the same caliber of high profile international chefs, interactive gourmet food events and a few surprises. The full line up of chefs at the 16th Annual World Gourmet Festival was as follows:
- Chef Francesc Rovira, Fonda Xesc, Gombrèn, Girona, Spain (1 Michelin Star)
- Chef Jean-François Bérard, Hostellerie Berard, La Cadière d’Azur, Provence France (1 Michelin Star)
- Chef Francesc Gimeno Manduley, Bohemic Bistro, Barcelona, Spain
- Chef Pierre Crépaud, LeCrans Hotel & Spa, Crans-Montana, Switzerland
- Chef Patrick Raingeard, Cap Estel, Èze-Bord-De-Mer, French Riviera, France (1 Michelin Star)
- Chef Sean Connolly, Sean’s Kitchen, Adelaide, Australia
- Chef Hirofumi Imamura, Kazuo Okada Restaurant, Kowloon, Hong Kong (1 Michelin Star)
For more information about this year’s event and to get updated information on the next World Gourmet Festival and events, call direct at+ 66 (0)2 126 8866, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or log onto the website at www.worldgourmetfestivalasia.com.
Overview of WGF 2015
The 16th Annual World Gourmet Festival continues to attract a discerning and eclectic crowd of gourmet food lovers. Staying true to form, this year the festival highlighted fourteen wine dinners headed up by the seven chefs, an exclusive sake tasting class instead of the typical wine tasting class, and the always popular high tea. The lobby played host to daily cooking demonstrations by the participating chefs in the Gaggenau show kitchen, and guests were treated to the much-loved World Gourmet Festival Sunday Brunch where cuisine from all the chefs was showcased.
The daily cooking demonstrations were a unique opportunity to meet the chefs, watch them work and taste a signature dish to get an idea of what to expect from the exclusive wine dinners. I attended several of these demonstrations this year, along with the wine dinner from Chef Sean Connolly and the sake class and high tea. Here are a few of the highlights from this year’s festival.
Chef Sean Connolly Wine Dinner
Probably one of the most controversial dinners at the festival, guests had strong opinions about the dinner that Chef Sean Connolly presented at WGF 2015. He is highly regarded as one Australia and New Zealand’s top celebrity chefs and is well known for his down to earth and accessible comfort food. He hosted the critically acclaimed 13 part TV food series ‘My Family Feast’, and he recently opened his first restaurant Sean’s Kitchen in Adelaide which won the ‘Best New Restaurant in The City’ award within a year of its opening. Chef Sean is easy going and down to earth with the warmth and affability that one comes to expect from a charismatic chef of his stature. “I am focused on producing simple food. That is what I am known for” said Chef Sean.
What he prepared for those lucky enough to attend one of his two show stopping wine dinners was the antithesis of simple comfort food. We were treated to a bevy of high end luxury items such as caviar and foie gras. The Gold Quail Egg & Caviar, Scallop Sashimi w/ Soy Mirin Jelly and his brilliantly hedonistic Kobe Beef w/ Forrest Mushrooms are prime examples of this. Chef Sean took the time to meet with and coordinate the dishes with a local winery Skillogalee in South Australia’s Clare Valley wine region. Run by the devoted husband and wife team of David and Diana Palmer, they actually met with Chef Sean several months before WGF to select the wines. The hard work paid off and they took a risk by offering some old vine wines that paired magically with the dishes on the menu.
The most controversial dish of the night was the east meets west dish of Foie Gras w/ Tofu, Tokyo turnips, & Ponzu Dressing with a 10 year old Skillogalee “The Cabernets” Claire Valley 2005. The dish was earthy and full of sour and bitter flavor notes while the musky red wine cut through the richness of the foie gras in the most intriguing way. Everyone at our table either loved it or hated it. For me it was a powerful way to enjoy foie without the sweet sticky fruity sauces it is often paired with and it showcased both the protein and the wine in a uniquely harmonious way.
Cooking Demo by Chef Patrick Raingeard
Although he is probably more comfortable in the bowels of his kitchen than he is in front of a television camera, Chef Patrick Raingeard is best described as a master of “contemporary seasonal cuisine”. He inherited his love for cooking from his grandmother. He went on to find success and worked alongside renowned Michelin Star chefs Alain Passard and Jacques Maximin.
Chef Patrick’s cuisine is achingly beautiful when plated with well-seasoned elements that highlight the essence of the ingredients. The dish he prepared at WGF was the Prawn & Sphere of Corn w/ Turmeric & Savory Green Bean Juice. Light and fresh, it tasted like the essence of summer on a plate. “You have to have a vision, for me it is the simplicity of ingredients. I cook with no boundaries and strive to achieve elegance in the execution of dishes that respect the quality of the product. For me being a chef is the same thing as being an artist. I approach every plate as if it were a painting”. The Table of Patrick Raingeard, at the Cap Estel, France received a Michelin Star in 2013. Chef Patrick’s cuisine is prepared instinctively and in contemporary style. Visually stimulating and delectable on a myriad of levels Chef Patrick is truly a connoisseur of beauty, art and the finer things in life.
High Tea with Mariage Frères Teas
High Tea is a time honored tradition at WGF and this year they pulled out all the stops. Mariage Frères are the new tea partner and they bring a plethora of sophisticated and exotic tea options to the table. High tea took place over two days and offered a stunning buffet of sweet and savory delights created by Anantara’s executive pastry chef that were served with a selection of world-class master tea blends. Highlights included the moist and flakey Cranberry Scones which were served with a proper British Clotted Cream. As far as the teas go, my favorite was the Rouge Bourbon which is bold and spicy with hints of vanilla and oak yet surprisingly smooth with no bitter after taste.
Other highlights included Thai spiced chicken puffs, mushroom quiche, and chorizo and tomato sandwiches. There were green tea cakes, fresh berry tarts, and homemade macaroons, as well as chocolate truffles and cookies. Elephant Blanc was a green tea that was blended especially for world gourmet festival this year. It was very subtle and mild and perfect with the light cucumber sandwiches. Another tea made special for the event was the Temple De’ L’aure which is very floral and strong. I also liked the Marco Polo which was a Chinese and Tibetan black tea blend that I found evocative and stimulating but still mild.
Cooking Demo by Chef Hirofumi Imamura
A man of few words and with high skill and precision, Chef Hirofumi Imamura mastered the fundamentals of cooking in his hometown of Fukujima Japan. After gaining his Fugu license in 2001, he became a sushi master and was the executive chef at Sakagura in New York. He now heads the one-star Michelin restaurant, Kazuo Okada, in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
I enjoyed his Flash Smoked ‘Kinme-Dai” Alfonsino w/ Nuta Sauce which was a super delicate raw fish and vegetable dish. The smoke filled glass cloche created drama and spectacle while adding an undeniably relevant smoky flavor to the dish. It’s simple yet sophisticated, and has an elegant and delectable flavor. One of Chef Hirofumi’s culinary philosophies is the belief that every dish should stimulate each of the five senses, including the sense of smell, texture of ingredients, and the sounds while dining. This dish was a perfect example. His cuisine is traditional in taste and flavor, but the presentation is beautifully modern.
Masumi Premium Sake Tasting Class
To say this sake tasting class was informative is a bit of an understatement. Mr. Keith Norum, the brand ambassador for Masumi Sake is an incredibly knowledgeable and engaging teacher on all things sake. The 3 hour seminar and guided tasting was paired with Thai food which I thought was a bit odd. Although it was fine with Thai food, I would have preferred more traditional Japanese cuisine under the circumstances.
We learned everything from the history of sake making and how labor intensive the process is to how important the environment is to the end product. “Where we are is who we are “; asserted Mr. Kevin Norum, ”Our environment defines the quality and purity of our product. Drinking sake is a conversation that goes past your palate and turns on your taste buds. You must learn to enjoy the journey”. I certainly did as I learned the subtle differences in taste while discovering the meanings of the various names, grades and flavor profiles of sake from the house of Masumi. We were treated to a vertical tasting of seven different types of sake including easy drinking table sakes to highly polished premium ‘daiginjo’ sake. I personally fell in love with the Sanka Junmai Daiginjo Super Premium which was light and fragrant with fruity highlights. The Karakuchi Kiippon Junmai Daiginjo Premium was another thrilling discovery, although it was less fruity and more mellow and round. The other highlight was the Okuden Kanzukuri Junmai which is a dry but fragrant sake that went particularly well with the spicy Thai food. The sake tasting was a wonderful alternative to the standard wine tasting that so often accompanies these events and a great opportunity to discover the exciting world of premium Japanese sake.
Cooking Demo by Chef Francesc Gimeno Manduley
Chef Francesc Gimeno Manduley is energetic and vibrant and his personality is directly related to his food. In 2006, Chef Francesc opened a tapas bar named Bohemic Bistro in Barcelona Spain where he experimented with a variety of cooking styles. Chef Francesc’s restaurant focuses on low-cost, high-concept miniature presentations that are deemed as a marvel of ingenuity.
The dish he prepared for WGF 2015 was a stunning Fresh Tomato Soup, Huacatay Gnocchi w/ King Crab. This was a thoroughly modern interpretation of a classic tomato soup. His modern gastronomic version of gnocchi have liquid centers that burst in your mouth. Several levels of flavor added to the complexity of the dish with a formidable chili heat that left it lingering on the palate and in the memory. “I am not serious all the time but am passionate about cooking. I want to have fun and bring my flavors here to Thailand“, said Chef Francesc “ I put my feelings and emotions into the pan. If you taste my dishes you get to know me as a chef. “ I want people to see and feel different textures and flavors. That’s the true passion”. Chef Francesc transmits emotion, passion and sincerity in every one of his creations. Through his dishes, he transports diners back to their childhood, when everything was still open to discovery and there was no time for worry. “For me the smile is more important than the money. If my customers are happy and enjoy, then I enjoy” shared Chef Francesc.