Whether they’re creating award-winning sparkling wine from indigenous Taiwanese grapes, devising innovative ways to reduce food waste in Singapore or reinventing traditional Sichuan chilli sauce, these chefs, mixologists, food critics and entrepreneurs are keeping us excited about Asia’s food and beverage scene.
WHY HIM? A maverick mixologist with a host of businesses to his name, Shawn is on a mission to elevate Malaysia’s drinking culture. In 2013, he co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s hippest speakeasy, Omakase + Appreciate, which is famous for its hidden door and custom cocktails. He also established Rad Impressions, a spirits education consultancy that offers workshops and courses in bartending and spirits appreciation. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Open Bar by Shawn Chong, which will focus on innovative tipples that incorporate local ingredients.
WHY HIM? At Dewakan, a restaurant in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor, head chef Darren pays homage to Malaysian waters, farms, jungles and mountains with degustation menus that eschew traditional luxury ingredients, such as caviar and truffles, in favour of those indigenous to the country. Renowned for his unique food philosophy, Darren travels the world speaking at various gastronomic events, including this year’s Re Food Forum in Bangkok. He will be speaking at next year’s Food & Society International Conference in Paris. Darren is also co-owner of Food Tour Malaysia, which organises excursions to the most authentic places to eat in Kuala Lumpur.
WHY HIM? This gastronome champions haute French-Asian fusion at his three-storey restaurant, DC, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. As chef and owner, Darren combines classical French techniques with seasonal local ingredients and flavours typical of the Thai city of Chiang Mai, which he considers his second home. In recognition of Darren’s vision, DC received Malaysia Tatler’s T.Dining award for Best Independent Restaurant in 2018. NEXT ON HIS PLATE Darren recently opened a much-anticipated second restaurant, Bref (meaning “brief” or “short” in French), which serves simpler fare in a relaxed atmosphere.
WHY HIM? Perhaps Malaysia’s best-known chef, James trained at Le Cordon Bleu and honed his culinary skills at three-star Michelin institutions in France and Japan before establishing his flagship restaurant, Enfin, in Kuala Lumpur. Opulent decor and an esoteric wine list accompany a refined French menu at Enfin, where European classics, such as caviar with pommes soufflé, chopped egg and chives, sit alongside Eastern innovations, such as abalone with oysters, chicken broth, osmanthus and chrysanthemum. In recognition of his commitment to excellence in F&B, James was named an ambassador for the champagne house Krug in 2014 and is also an ambassador for Hennessey cognac. THAT’S NOT ALL This gastronomic maestro also has a social conscience. When not broiling, charring and dehydrating at Enfin, he works in a local soup kitchen.
WHY HIM? In an age where people are increasingly conscious of nutrition but have less and less time to cook for themselves, food preparation and delivery services like Malaysia’s Dahmakan are becoming wildly popular. Since he founded the company in 2015, CEO Jonathan has taken Dahmakan from startup to star player, securing early investment from a Silicon Valley-based seed accelerator, Y Combinator, to build and expand the company across Asia. Dahmakan acquired Thai food delivery service Polpa earlier this year. THAT’S NOT ALL The former investment banker was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for pioneers in retail and e-commerce this year.