SINGAPORE - After three to four years of negotiations, Singapore will be the first South-east Asian country to get its own Michelin Guide, and hawker food might well be featured.
The bilingual edition, in English and Chinese, will be launched in the second half of next year.
The guide, which foodies the world over turn to for restaurant recommendations, has two main collaborators here. The Singapore Tourism Board will market and promote it, while Robert Parker Wine Advocate, an authority on fine wines, will create an online platform to complement the print version.
The website, www.guide.michelin.sg, is the first for any city's Michelin Guide. At a press briefing yesterday at The Arts House, Mr Michael Ellis, international director of Michelin Guides, said its inspectors have been on the ground to check out the food scene, but declined to say for how long.
They are assessing eateries from the entire spectrum of the local food scene. Michelin typically awards its coveted stars - ranging from one to three - to 15 to 20 per cent of restaurants.
Others which offer quality food at affordable prices are given Bib Gourmand awards.
Mr Ellis said: "The idea is to reflect what is happening in the culinary scene here, and to have restaurants for every budget and occasion."
This means that mid-tier restaurants and even hawker food will be assessed.
"Given the huge diversity and quality of the hawker food market, I would be very surprised that hawker food does not play an important part in the Singapore guide," he said. "If they find hawker food with the quality, consistency and ingredients to earn a star, it'll happen. We gave a star in Hong Kong for dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, showing that it's possible."
For any city's debut guide, Michelin relies on its existing inspectors from all over the world. He added that it was looking to train Singapore inspectors for the job for subsequent editions.
Asked how non-Singaporean inspectors are qualified to judge Singapore and hawker food, he said: "All of our inspectors move around the world. They have been exposed to street food."
One of Michelin's partners here is Resorts World Sentosa, which has several celebrity restaurants. Asked if there might be conflicts of interest, Mr Ellis said the assessment of the restaurants was separate from other operations.
"The key to our success has been independence; that is a religion to us."
Michelin puts out 25 guides covering 24 countries. Singapore's will be the 26th. In Asia, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau have their own guides.
Mr Ignatius Chan, 52, owner of Iggy's restaurant at The Hilton Hotel, said: "We have many restaurants in Singapore, but it may be a challenge to find enough established and quality restaurants that are sustainable on the list over time."
Mr Toby Koh, 45, group managing director of Ademco Security, an adventurous diner who likes to discover new eateries overseas, said the guide will help improve the visibility of Singapore's dining scene.
"I'm sure the guide will spark online debate and controversy. Taste is subjective. But it could help save our local food culture from dying out. Maybe then people will rethink paying $8 for a bowl of wonton mee, for example.
"It will also make the business more viable for the next generation."