The World Gourmet Summit is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year with initiatives to nurture budding chefs and hone the skills of Singapore's culinary professionals.
The annual gastronomic event, which will be held from March 28 to April 24 , will introduce three award categories to its Awards of Excellence, which recognise the best in the food, beverage and hospitality industries here and across Asia. There are 31 award categories, including Restaurant of the Year and Chef of the Year.
While the list of participating chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants has not been confirmed, diners can expect an epicurean line-up of dinners and masterclasses. More details will be announced from February.
The new award categories are Chef's Choice Award (Asian Cuisine), Chef's Choice Award (Western Cuisine) and Apprentice Chef of the Year Award. The first two awards will be decided by a panel of about 100 Singapore- based chefs.
The Apprentice Chef of the Year Award is open to chefs who have had fewer than five years of culinary education and apprenticeship experience. There is no age limit. Kitchen apprentices, chefs and culinary instructors can nominate potential candidates for the award.
The World Gourmet Summit is organised by A La Carte Productions, a division of food consultancy Peter Knipp Holdings, and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
On introducing an award to recognise apprentice chefs, chief executive of Peter Knipp Holdings Peter Knipp says he hopes to raise the profile of "these hidden talents". He says: "We want to create a road map to push these young chefs to the next level and provide another level of encouragement to be a Michelin-starred chef from Singapore."
Besides grooming budding chefs, the summit wants to hone the skills of culinary professionals through the Overseas Development Programme, which was launched in April this year.
Eight recipients of this year's Awards of Excellence were attached to restaurants and visited wineries around the world. Through their two-week attachments that were supported by the STB, they picked up new cooking techniques, expanded their knowledge of ingredients and exchanged insights with their overseas counterparts.
Participants of the Overseas Development Programme include chef-owner Janice Wong of 2am:dessertbar in Holland Village, sommelier Fazil Mohamad of Salt Grill & Sky Bar at Ion Orchard and chef-owner Bryan Chia of sharing plates restaurant Morsels in Mayo Street. They shared their overseas experiences at a press conference at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy yesterday.
Chef Wong, 32, was attached to the three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, and worked under its pastry chef Jordi Roca. She says: "I left Spain feeling full of encouragement and motivation to do better and continue pushing the limits and boundaries of pastry-making. It was truly heartening to create alongside a chef-artist who constantly challenges himself."
Through such cross-cultural experiences, Mr Knipp hopes to enhance the quality of the culinary talent pool here.
"When it comes to dining service, our restaurant industry professionals are still lacking knowledge of the finer things," he says.
"By exposing our top talents overseas, they will take service standards a notch up and this encourages lifelong learning."
The World Gourmet Summit is one of the oldest food and wine events here.
Mr Knipp says: "We have always managed to stay relevant by introducing new cuisines, adapting to dining trends - such as the rise of small plates - and adding fun elements to fine-dining with the movement towards casual fine-dining."
• For more information on the World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence, go to www.wgsawards.com. Public voting ends on Dec 22.