Jenifer Kuah, Co-Founder Of Sitka Studio-Restaurant, Says Dining Out Will Return To Its Former Glory
Something of a serial restaurateur, Jenifer Kuah co-founded a slew of cafés in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, including Butter + Beans, Food Foundry and Alta Café, but her presence is most felt at Sitka Studio and Sitka Eatinghouse + Winebar. We check in on her amid the covid pandemic:
How did the dining scene change for you in 2020?
My family and social life have always centred around coming together over food, but this came to a screeching halt in March 2020, which was completely surreal. Two days before the first lockdown in Malaysia, I had just been to Hong Kong to eat at The Chairman, Yardbird and Ho Lee Fook. The memory of this trip sustained me throughout 2020, as traveling for new food experiences suddenly became out of reach.
What measures did you implement at your restaurants and cafés?
We had to shut down completely during the first lockdown. Subsequently, we did not consider delivery as the Sitka/Studio/Alta experience is all about dining in the ambience we have created. Our food was not designed to withstand delivery.
But you eventually decided to offer takeaway and delivery?
We created the Alta Burger during the second lockdown, and it's been selling well.
Didn't you also find a way to fine-tune Sitka Studio's fine dining for delivery?
Yes, I enjoyed developing our Studio @ Home box in addition to the Alta Burger. Recreating the tastes and experiences of our outlets for home has been rather interesting.
TATLER TIP: Experience Sitka Studio's contemporary menu without even leaving home. RM650 gives you a bottle of Pet Nat wine and six courses, including Black Truffle Toast, Kombu-Cured Japanese Scallops and 28-Day Aged Duck—a customer favourite.
Virtual meetings and events—yay or nay?
While I appreciate the time-saving aspect of virtual meetings, I miss in-person catch ups. Nothing beats chatting over food and drink.
How can consumers lend a hand besides, well, continuing to 'consume'?
I am so very thankful for those who have supported us during the pandemic by ordering delivery and choosing to dine in when it's allowed. Help us observe SOPs for as long as they are required—the fines are hefty!
What do you think 2021 holds for F&B? And looking further into the future, how will the dining and drinking experience change as a result of the pandemic?
I remain optimistic for 2021, seeing as the vaccinations have started in Malaysia and most everyone will be vaccinated by early 2022.
I do not think restaurants and dining out will change. Connecting over food is an age-old activity that will return to its former glory. Malaysians love eating out and I hope to see bustling hawker centres, cafés and restaurants in six to eight months' time.