World Gourmet Festival At The Four Seasons Hotel In Bangkok
The ninth annual World Gourmet festival swept into Bangkok’s Four Seasons Hotel this past September 22nd and entertained food enthusiasts for a week with dinners, afternoon teas, cooking classes and a brunch. Seven guest chefs from as far away as the U.S., Russia and Iceland displayed their culinary talents for an appreciative audience that was treated to great food with fine wines to complement the chefs’ inventive creations.
This year’s festival was a bit smaller than preceding years as two late and unavoidable cancellations by chefs trimmed the field from the original nine down to seven. But there was still plenty of talent present and enough events to satisfy the demand from guests. The festival was deemed a success by the hotel’s management and plans were being made throughout the festival week for next year’s 10th anniversary celebratory event.
Since journalists were given easy access to the chefs throughout the week there was ample opportunity learn about the chefs’ backgrounds and influences and what brought them to their current level of culinary prominence. And make no mistake; this group has been awarded its share of honors over the years from various international food organizations and top travel and food publications, attesting to their level of skill and dedication to their craft. This year’s chefs were Jeffrey Jake from The Carneros Inn in Napa Valley, California; Michael Ginor from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York; Maurizio Quaranta from Locanda del Pilone in Alba, Italy; Glen Ballis from Nedal’nij Vostok in Moscow; Siggi Hall from Siggi Hall Restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland; Celina Tio from the American Restaurant in Kansas City and Michael Laiskonis from Le Bernardin in New York City.
Each of the chefs cooked dinner two nights in one of the hotel’s restaurants with the exception of Michael Laiskonis who is the Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin. He, instead, prepared pastries for three afternoon teas. And all seven of the chefs collaborated on the seven-course Friday night Gala Dinner which also featured live entertainment and an auction with a portion of the proceeds going to HRH Princess Soamsawali’s “Save A Child’s Life From AIDS Project.” Also, the contributions of some of the hotel’s chefs can’t be overlooked. Without a lot of coordination and overseeing from the hotel’s Executive Chef, Nicholas Schneller, Shintaro Chef Satoshi Sawada and Biscotti chef Danilo Aiassa, the event could not be staged.
To give you an idea of what the dinners are actually like, here’s the menu from Siggi Hall’s Monday and Tuesday night dinners that were held in the hotel’s Shintaro Japanese restaurant. The starter was a variety of traditional Icelandic treats made up of herring with horseradish sauce, cured salmon and a langoustine tail. The next course was a piece of Arctic charr, a whitefish, with langoustine sauce served on a bed of julienned green leeks. The seafood theme continued with the next offering which was a baked cod with an almond crust. Next was another traditional Icelandic ingredient but from the land this time in the form of lamb fillet that was accompanied by a lamb sausage. A blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream finished off the meal. Also included in the 4,800++ price were five different wines and coffee.
It may sound a little pricey but if you love good food and wine you would be hard pressed to find better value for money in many restaurants in Bangkok, not to mention Singapore or Hong Kong, especially when you take into account what wine prices are like in this country. Another fact to consider is that most of the ingredients for the various dinners were brought in by the chefs themselves (often in their luggage) so that they could produce their dishes as authentically as they do in their own restaurants at home.
The other chefs presented menus that were equally ambitious and equally representative of their culinary pedigrees. Celine Tio’s menu featured a slow-cooked pork belly dish to emphasize her American roots-based style of cooking. Australian Glen Ballis’ dinner highlighted his combinations of top-quality international ingredients that also utilized some Russian influences. Jeffrey Jake's offerings underscored the influence of the abundance of fresh produce that he uses in his native Napa Valley.
Michael Ginor, whose Hudson Valley foie gras farm produces some of the best foie gras in the world, used that delicious ingredient in all of his dishes to great effect, creating what was probably the richest and most expensive (5900 baht++) menu of the festival . Michael has also been involved with the festival since its inception and has been instrumental in recruiting chefs for the festivals throughout the years. Maurizio Quaranta, the recipient of a Michelin star for the restaurant Locand del Pilone in his native Piedmont area of Italy, displayed how his native Italian cooking style has been influenced by his interactions with, among others, top-quality Spanish chefs. And Michael Laiskonis’ elegant and light desserts added just the right touch to the Gala Dinner and the high teas that featured his award-winning work.
In the final analysis, the World Gourmet Festival is quite an achievement, especially for a hotel staff that continues to run a large five-star hotel at the same time that it is producing 23 special food events in the course of one week. And that doesn’t include all of the preliminary planning, the marketing and promotional efforts, the logistics of transporting the guest chefs and their assistants and all of the other myriad details that are involved. This one-of-a-kind event in Bangkok is the result of lots of hard work and inspiration from many people and it is hoped that next year at this time food and wine lovers here will be talking about what a great success the 2009 version of the festival was. The city certainly needs all of the first class events it can get to help promote itself as a serious dining destination in Asia and the World Gourmet Festival is leading the way.
See http://bangkokdining.ning.com/profile/blog/list for info on Bangkok restaurants.