April 20, 2009 / 9:53 AM / 10 years ago

Gourmet gathering in Singapore defies lean times

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Belt-tightening across the world appears to be a boon for one of Asia’s biggest global gourmet food and wine festivals, which a host of renowned chefs left their restaurants to attend.

Some 85 percent of tickets to events at the World Gourmet Summit (WGS), an annual fest organized by Singapore’s tourism board and culinary firm Peter Knipp Holdings, have been sold so far despite the economic slowdown, which has hit luxury goods and entertainment the hardest.

The event has also attracted chefs with a total of 16 Michelin stars between them, including the three-starred Heinz Beck of Rome’s La Pergola. It managed to rope in as partners 20 restaurants, seven for the first time, and 13 establishments to host dinners, wine tastings and cooking demonstrations.

Several wineries from Europe, Australia and the United States are also taking part, as well as two cocktail mixologists and celebrity chefs such as television personality David Rocco.

Organizer Peter Knipp said his firm had to work much harder due to the economic slowdown, and that prices for events were cut by up to 30 percent compared with last year.

But he said the financial crisis had also helped make Asian countries such as Singapore, where there is a wealthy elite that is still willing to spend, attractive to renowned chefs who are facing empty restaurants at home in Europe or the United States.

“It’s good to see that people are not afraid to live well, and that good food at affordable prices is still in fashion,” Knipp said on Monday, the first day of the two-week long WGS.

“We recognize that there’s a recession and we worked around it. In some areas, it actually helped that there is a recession, especially that some restaurants abroad are feeling the pinch harder,” he told Reuters.

Some 17 chefs will take part in the WGS, including two-Michelin-starred Claudio Sadler of Italy, one-starred Atul Kochhar of London and Tokyo’s one-starred Masayasu Yonemura.

Singapore is home to a plethora of restaurants offering probably every sort of cuisine under the sun, and the WGS, now in its 13th year, is part of the government’s efforts to put the tiny city-state on the world gourmet map.

According to the tourism board’s latest figures, visitors spent 1.4 billion Singapore dollars ($929 million) on food and beverages in 2007. Nearly 18,000 people participated in last year’s WGS.

Several surveys show that while the economies of Asia’s biggest spenders — Japan, China and India — are experiencing a slowdown, if not outright recession, people were still keen on keeping up the good life.

Editing by Alex Richardson

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