Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Re-imagine Possibilities at World Street Food Congress 2017 with Seetoh

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

This morning I met up with KF Seetoh of Makansutra for a Singapore style kopi (coffee) and breakfast at one of the homegrown food guru's favourite haunts.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

What better place than a local kopitiam or coffee shop to tap Singapore's makan guru about street food.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

We are now exactly a week from the fourth World Street Food Congress 2017 in Manila from 31 May to 4 Jun.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

Once you are acquainted with Seetoh, you will soon realise that the man is always talking about possibilities. Every other sentence he speaks is energised with the prefix "just imagine.... ."

Makan guru's eyes lit up as he shared the theme for WSFC 2017 - "Re-imagine Possibilities".

Indeed, the global street food landscape has shifted quite a bit since the inaugural WSFC back in 2013 - I was privileged to be involved as a ring side observer since the first WSFC.

Yes, changes in the world of street food have opened up new possibilities and we can turn them into opportunities for all, by daring to imagine.

This resonates with me as my approach to life is, whatever happens to me, I ask myself, "What is this an opportunity for?"

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

Seetoh noted that street food is gaining traction globally - he astutely noted that it is not merely a trend. We can let trends pass. Trends, like for example the salted egg yolk croissant, came and went as soon as the next food fad arrived. Wash and repeat. Wash and repeat.

To Seetoh, traction is more resilient as it is grounded in authenticity and heritage.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

In the global village we live in, people are better travelled than ever. Having enjoyed street food first hand, they now demand authenticity in street food when they are at home. They want to replicate the same street food experience in its entirety, down to the colours, sounds and smells. Not only that, it goes far beyond taste buds and sensory experience to the realm of meaning.

More people are now conscious that eating well is "a privilege as a visitor" to this world as Seetoh puts it.

Yeah lo. YOLO!

Seetoh noted that, more and more countries that do not have an Asian style street food culture want it on their home ground. France want it. Germany want it. New York City will have it soon in the way of the much anticipated Bourdain Market.

Just imagine, what possibilities and opportunities there are with this global demand for street food that is set to grow.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

Seetoh was full of excitement about the Bourdain Market which is targeted to open in 2019. Singapore hawkers will anchor the Bourdain Market. Fifty percent of the stall holders in the Bourdain Market which Seetoh helps Anthony Bourdain to curate will be from Singapore. 

It makes sense - cosmopolitan Singapore has the widest street food diversity. With a well established hawker centre culture, Singaporean hawkers are also expected to adapt more seamlessly to a Western food hall setting.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

For street food to travel globally, two critical issues come to mind.

Continuity and professionalisation.

Ah... just imagine the possibilities and opportunities there.

Seetoh cited the example of education, one of his pet topics.

The desire for continuity creates the need for street food education. Just imagine, a culinary institute that teaches Indonesia's iconic Nasi Padang. This culinary heritage will not only be preserved, it's progress and evolution will be well supported - keeping it relevant with the times, ensuring it's continuity. 

Just imagine, authentic nasi padang travelling the world. If any national cuisine deserves UNESCO cultural heritage recognition, nasi padang would be high up on Seetoh's list.

Just imagine what other iconic street food can we support in the same way and what is the outcome. Nasi kandar, all kinds of laksa, chicken rice... just imagine.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

Going global demands international standards of hygiene and food safety which is underpinned by modern management know how.

Now, just imagine what possibilities and opportunities there are to professionalise street food?

Schools, standards and audit institutions, etc

Many, isn't it?

Then, there is the increasingly pervasive automation and disruptive information technologies. What possibilities and opportunities are there for street food here?

We need a platform to systematically germinate the ideas, nourish it with the light of other ideas, curate it, store it properly etc so that all stakeholders can have easy access to it.

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

And, here is where Seetoh's creation, World Street Food Congress comes in.


It's a gathering of diverse street food stake holders from culinary schools to government, policy think tanks, corporations, private investors, entrepreneurs, chefs, food manufacturers, suppliers, and media etc.

It's a stage for street food stake holders to imagine together.

Thought leaders like Anthony Bourdain and Greg Drescher from Culinary Institute of America will join KF Seetoh to facilitate the dialogue at WSFC 2017. 

This year's congress is bigger at SM Mall of Asia Concert Ground in Pasay City, Manila - WSFC's largest venue with biggest capacity thus far. The stage is definitely ripe for "ideation, networking and realisation" of possibilities in world street food.

Just imagine what opportunities such a gathering of engaged and best minds can generate.

We leave that to your rich imagination 😄

There are still limited opportunities to join the dialogue - get your dialogue tickets here 👈 click

WSFC-KF-Seetoh- Makansutra

I can't wait to go to Manila for WSFC 2017 next week (31 May - 4 Jun 2017) to listen to street food experts from around the world, and join over 100,000 foodies at the jamboree to taste heritage bites from The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, India, Japan, Germany, USA and Mexico.

Just imagine what fun and inspiration I am going to have 😄

Follow WSFC 2017 for updates 👈 click

Date: 24 May 2017

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