Discussing the HK Michelin Guide Controversy with Backchat

I was invited to speak on a panel discussion this morning at a RTHK 3 programme called Backchat, which is “a current affairs programme with expert views and comment from listeners” and the topic was: Can foreign food critics truly appreciate local food? (Click here for the Podcast)

(HAHA … I’m an “expert”! What a joke!)

This was obviously my first time speaking on the radio and the experience was just incredible. I was a little nervous at first, but the hosts were basically in control of the whole discussion from the start and its pretty obvious when they give you the cue to speak …

But let me backtrack a little and give you a little background information on the hosts and panelists / guests:

  • Host: Hugh Chiverton; he’s been hosting Backchat since 2004 and he’s also the head of Radio 3 (or RTHK 3)
  • Cohost: Andrew Work; Executive Director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
  • Guest 1: Sandi Butchkiss; Long-time food writer, now contributing to Culture Magazine
  • Guest 2: Simon Vuo; Deputy Assignment Editor for Ming Pao
  • Guest 3: Walter Keh; Hong Kong-based food critic
  • Guest 4: Me

So Hugh and Andrew were over by the Kowloon Tong studio (the main studio on Broadcast Drive), Walter was calling in from China, and Sandi, Simon and I were at the Admiralty studio (Since Kowloon Tong is a bit out-of-way for most people, RTHK has a satelite studio in the heart of the city so that the location is a little more convenient for guests).

We talked about a number of issues related, but not limited to:

  • Can foreign food critics truly appreciate local food? (Yes if you understand and respect the culture and cuisine for who and what they are)
  • Michelin Guide, perhaps not taken so seriously outside of France
  • Good food = comfort food (Andrew mentioned the experience the star critic had in the movie Ratatouille, I think that’s spot on!)

If you are interested in the subject matter, I suggest you stream the podcast and listen to it (its about 15 minutes long).

In the end, I don’t think there was a conclusion. Well, the controversy started because the topic was so subjective in the first place. But having been there and having also spoken with fellow panelists face-to-face, I do believe the general consensus between the guests were that no one (at least no one outside of France) should take Michelin Guide seriously. Yes, it is recognized globally and why should it not apply to Hong Kong? The heart of the problem is, if these so called Michelin “inspectors” want us to take their guide book seriously, then maybe they ought to think about taking our cultural perspectives seriously too.

They can’t apply an out-dated rating system that’s been developed for French culture and cuisine and expect that format to be used as a cookie-cutter for the rest of the world … I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. Until they make that change, I’m afraid this guide book will remain in the hands of those who are wealthy, but are so unsure about what they like to eat, that they have to refer to a guide book to tell them what to eat.

By the way, I have a newfound respect for radio hosts. They have such a sexy voice and they speak so eloquently … they’re so good with words!!!

Oh, also, an estimated 50,000 people tunes in for the programme every morning! Unfortunately, I have yet to see a spike in visitors 😦 lol …

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One Response

  1. […] last year a Michelin Guide was published for Hong Kong and Macau, and while there was some controversy [You can read a contrary view by following this link – Ed.] about how the reviewers for the guide […]

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