After 13 years of bringing the best of international gastronomy to Thailand, the question bears asking... “Is it really possible for World Gourmet Festival to get any better?” The answer to that burning question is an unequivocal “Yes”. Held at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok from September 2 until 8, 2013 the 14th Annual World Gourmet Festival was arguably one of the best yet. Encompassing seven full days and nights, guests had full access to an impressive array of gastronomic events, interaction with some of the world’s leading international chefs, and opportunities to learn from influential wine makers while being embraced by the luxurious splendor of the awe inspiring Four Seasons Bangkok. Besides being a gourmet affair at the highest level, it is also a beloved charity event where a portion of every ticket sold to the numerous chef-hosted wine dinners is earmarked for the Save A Child’s Life from AIDS project under the auspices of HRH Princess Soamsawali in coordination with the Thai Red Cross. Hosted by the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, WGF 2013 was additionally sponsored by Emirates, Citibank N.A, Mercedes-Benz (Thailand) Ltd, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, and Prestige Magazine (Thailand).
Promoted under the tag line “8 Chefs, 7 Days, 7 Countries, 1 Hotel” the lineup of illustrious chefs in attendance at WGF 2013 was impressive and the ability to interact with the them was unprecedented. Each chef hosted two lavish 5-course dinners where they could showcase their individual style of cooking and have their cuisine expertly paired with world class wines. The Chefs in attendance this year were Chef Markus Arnold from "MA Pop-Up Restaurant" in Switzerland, Chef Jérôme Bonnet from Restaurant Daniel, in France, Chef Roger Van Damme from Het Gebaar in Belgium, Chef Hirohisa Koyama from Aoyagi in Japan, Chef Miguel Laffan from L'AND in Portugal, Chef Vito Mollica, from Il Palagio at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze in Italy, Chef Paco Perez from The Mirror Restaurant in Spain and Chef David Rathgeber from Restaurant L'Assiette, in France.
While several of the chefs had never been to Thailand, a few had visited before such as Chef Hirohisa who took notice of how Thai cuisine had evolved since his last visit. He stated, “I was here almost 50 years ago. Thai cuisine has become more modern. There seems to be more balance, less oil seems to be used and more attention is paid to presentation.” The pedigree and caliber of the chefs is noteworthy, and innovation and integrity on the plate seemed to be the overall theme. Chef David, who trained under world renowned Chef Alain Ducasse, takes a very simple approach to cuisine coupled with his classical French techniques. ”For me it all goes back to the quality of the product. I like to work with small independent wineries and food producers. It’s not important how expensive ingredients are, but ultimately how they taste. In the end, it is all about taste” he shared. Chef Jerome also takes a similar approach and focuses on seasonal cuisine. He stated, “I am guided by the seasons and what I find in the local markets. I am inspired by the product, and that is what drives the inspiration for what I cook”.
This year also played host to less known world cuisine such as the food of Portugal featured by Chef Miguel. “I use French cooking techniques, but with Portuguese ingredients. I cook straight forward and simple food that everyone can relate too” he stated. Another pioneer at WGF 2013 was Chef Roger, who took on the insanely risky challenge of creating a 5 course “dessert” menu paired with wines. He shared “I don’t follow trends, but I try to find my own style. I care about the subtly of texture and balancing the elements and flavors such as bitter, salty, savory and sweet”. Each chef drew on their individual strengths and experience and created extraordinary meals that were so much more than the components of food on the plate. It was like having an opportunity to peek into the individual souls of the chefs and experience the pride and passion they have for where they come from and the type of food that they love.
WGF 2013 kicked off with “Grand Opening Cocktails” on Monday Sept 2. Champagne flutes overflowed with sparking libations, the crowd mingled in their finest attire, while the international media documented all the glitz and glam. In addition to the highly coveted wine pairing dinners that took place each night, participants were able to get up close and personal with the chefs at the cooking demonstrations at the Gaggenau show kitchen in "The Lobby" of the Four Seasons Bangkok. These informative “cooking classes” took place twice a day Monday to Thursday and were unique opportunities to witness each chef in action cooking a signature dish while sampling their cuisine. Guests could also meet the chefs, ask questions about their food, and learn more about the chefs. A sumptuous free flow wine lunch buffet was available during weekdays in The Lobby where diners indulged in gourmet delights such as Peking Duck, Chinese Roast Pork, Lamb Roast, Beef Roast, Thai Beef Salad, Roasted Chicken, along with a vast array of achingly beautiful pastries, cakes and desserts.
Guests who were fortunate enough to book their wine dinner on either Friday or Saturday were also able to continue the festivities with a cocktail or two after the dinner at the "Whiskey Lounge", an impromptu conversion of the hotel's Agua bar. Weekday diners took their after dinner drinks in the “Louis Roederer Champagne Lounge", a similar revamp of The Lobby. Wine enthusiast were not neglected, and this year guests could attend either the Pascal Jolivet Wine Tasting or the Ned Goodwin Wine Master Class. Another highlight was the intimate Afternoon Tea with Dilhan Fernando, who is the director of this family owned Dilmah Tea company based in Sri Lanka. WGF 2013 was the perfect event to introduce their new collection of handpicked tea blends called the "Teamakers Private Reserve". “These are rare teas hand-picked and blended by my father (founder Merrill J Fernando). The teas are infused with specially selected spices to enhance the flavor, aroma and color of the teas for a truly indulgent experience” shared Mr. Dilhan. As is customary, the WGF 2013 culminated with the "WGF Sunday Brunch" where signature items of all the chefs in attendance could be sampled along with selected wines that were featured throughout the week-long festival.
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Four Seasons Bangkok
155 Rajadamri Road
Tel: + 662 250 1000
Fax: +662 254 5390
MRT: Lumpini Station