S'pore as food capital

There is good reason for Singapore to aim to become a widely recognised food capital of Asia. It has the culinary variety, talent and logistical infrastructure, plus enough "foodpreneurs" and droves of foodies to make this happen. Some would argue that it has already achieved this status based on the criterion of number of "best restaurants" per capita - a critical mass that ought to prompt Michelin to launch a Singapore "red" guide (viewed as the last word on fine dining). Of course, a well-rounded perspective of a food capital would include "street food" to die for as well.

A key question that arises: How is Singapore to keep raising the bar and sustaining the effort to be worthy of this epithet? There is a large pool of chefs and hawkers here but many are getting on in age. Keeping alive food traditions and persuading the next generation to cook - in hawker centres, mid-range eateries and haute cuisine restaurants - remains a big challenge. Indeed, food quality in the mass market is dropping, say many, perhaps because of uncommitted hired hands and quick-serve processes.

In all market niches, training is paramount. The prestigious Culinary Institute of America's first batch of 33 students finished a two-year course here early this year. At the other end of the spectrum, a social enterprise group Dignity Kitchen runs six-week courses for those who wish to be hawkers. More culinary programmes are needed across the board to keep boosting standards.

The industry should join hands to help youngsters who aspire to become food masters. For small operators, the pay must be sufficient and the working hours manageable. They can also benefit by using centralised dishwashing services and integrated cold rooms in food hubs.

To promote culinary creativity and distinctive service, industry players ought to support multi-platform talent hunts, pop-up events, visiting hawker programmes and masterclass workshops to celebrate the best in traditional, contemporary and fusion food here and elsewhere.

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