Nominated for the first time at the World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence, Japanese dining establishment Boruto's head chef Angus Chowwas named Chef of the Year on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old, who began his career in the food and beverage industry at age 21, says: "I felt it was a personal achievement for me to make it to the list of finalists and I was not expecting to win. I saw the awards as an opportunity to meet up with friends in the industry, and I wanted to congratulate fellow nominees and the winners."
Thirty-one awards were given out at the 18th edition of the annual awards held at One Farrer Hotel and Spa. The awards celebrate and recognise outstanding industry professionals who include chefs and restaurant managers. There are six categories: Chef Awards, Hospitality Awards, Service Professionals And Establishment Awards, Wine And Spirits Awards, Special Category and Highest Honours.
Under the Chef Awards category, nine awards were given out. The chef de cuisine of Osteria Art, Andrea De Paola, 26, was named Rising Chef of the Year. The Italian, from Varese in north-western Lombardy, came to Singapore in 2013 to work as a junior sous chef at the now-defunct fine-dining Italian restaurant ilLido at Sentosa Golf Club. He moved on to &Sons Bacaro, also under the ilLido Group, before joining Osteria Art in 2015.
He says: "I came to Singapore as I wanted to have an overseas experience to learn as much as possible and get closer to Asian cuisine. It is a surprise to win this award cooking the cuisine of my country here."
Co-founder and chief sommelier of La Terre Wines and Whiskey Bar, Mr Daisuke Kawai, 41, scored a hat-trick, picking up awards for Bar Manager of the Year, Bar of the Year and Old World Wine List of the Year. He won Sommelier of the Year at last year's awards.
Mr Kawai moved from Japan to Singapore in 2010, working as chief sommelier at Les Amis, then as general manager at Lewin Terrace, before opening La Terre in 2015.
He says: "It is important to believe in yourself and tell yourself that anything is possible, then find a way and take steps towards your goals. I am happy to win three awards, but tomorrow is a new day and I must carry on improving myself and learning."
In the Hospitality Awards category, the Caterer of the Year went to Luxe Catering. Mr Ricky Ng, 46, managing director of Blue Lotus Concepts International, was named Restaurateur of the Year, beating Mr Beppe De Vito of ilLido Group, Mr Desmond Lim of Les Amis Group, chef Julien Royer of Odette and Mr Loh Lik Peng of Unlisted Collection.
Mr Ng says the award is motivation for him to continue opening more outlets. He opened Blue Lotus Chinese Eating House at Quayside Isle in 2013, followed by four outlets last year. He plans to open two more outlets - one with a "super fine-dining" concept - later this year, as well as his first overseas outlet, likely in China.
"Last year, people asked me why I wanted to open so many outlets at a time when it is not easy for the restaurant business. But I saw the opportunities that the soft market offers. It is easier to negotiate rental and save on fixed costs," he says.
Under the Highest Honours category, Violet Oon, 68, of National Kitchen by Violet Oon, located at the National Gallery, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The World Gourmet Summit is organised by food consultancy Peter Knipp Holdings and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.
There were three rounds in the judging process. Members of the public and industry professionals nominated participants and voted in the first round.
More than 600 industry professionals voted in all award categories in the second round. The top highest-scoring nominees in each award category were then put through the final round of assessment by industry professionals, with seven judging in each category.
Mr Peter Knipp, 63, chief executive of Peter Knipp Holdings, says: "It is important to recognise the people, like the service staff, who contribute to the overall experience of diners. The Awards of Excellence also recognise knowledge and competence that come from learning through practical experience in the industry, not just academic knowledge."
The awards also marked the commencement of the World Gourmet Summit, an annual gastronomic festival now into its 22nd edition. It runs till April 29. For more information, go to www.wgsawards.com.