Cover Find out who made it to our tastemakers list 2021 | Photo: Jordy Navarra, Matthew and Laurie Westfall, Olivia Limpe-Aw

Tatler launches its directory of the most influential individuals in the food and beverage industry in Asia: The Tastemakers list

This month sees the launch of the Tastemakers list, the third installment of Tatler’s Asia’s Most Influential series, which identifies the leaders across Asia making an impact this year in their respective fields.

Focusing on the F&B industry and spanning a host of professionals from chefs, bartenders, mixologists and restaurateurs to social and FoodTech entrepreneurs, food critics and farmers, the selections include such luminaries as restaurateurs Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark, co-founders of Hong Kong’s ever-expanding Black Sheep Restaurants; DeAille Tam of Obscura restaurant in Shanghai, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2021; Berg Wu, a World Barista Champion and founder of Taiwan’s acclaimed coffee chain Simple Kaffa; and founder of Singapore’s Brass Lion Distillery, Jamie Koh, among many others.

See also: Asia's Most Influential: The Culture List 2021

 

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Colin Mackay

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, Blackbird, Sala, People’s Palace and Sala Bistro

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A mastermind of original restaurant concepts that keep diners coming back for more

Mackay has been an avid foodie all his life. His first restaurant in the country, Sala, opened in Malate in 1997. “Since [then] I have continuously channelled my energy into original restaurant concepts,” he says. He’s known for masterminding other dining establishments that include Sala Bistro, People’s Palace and Blackbird.

Yet, despite his multiple triumphs, Mackay explains that accolades are just the cherry on top of the cake. “What is satisfying to me is seeing guests return to the restaurants, with friends, family or business clients and enjoying what we have to offer. Their appreciation is most important.”

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Jordy Navarra

Profession: Chef and owner, Toyo Eatery and Panaderya Toyo 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Elevating Filipino cuisine with an innovative perspective

Jordy Navarra, the chef behind Toyo Eatery, started out in the industry comparatively late in the game. The people surrounding him lifted him up and provided the chef with a lifetime of lessons and experiences that have helped bring him to where he is today. Despite all the success, including winning the Miele One to Watch award in 2018 and ranking on Asia’s 50 Best three years running, Navarra still feels “like we’ve only just started”. While he believes the Philippine dining scene is still young, he thinks that what he has contributed is a developing curiosity for what food can be. 

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Tony Boy Escalante

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, Antonio's, Breakfast at Antonio's, Balay Dako

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Establishing the pre-eminent out-of-town culinary destination

“Never follow the crowd,” Antonio “Tony Boy” Escalante advises aspiring restaurateurs. In his case, however, the crowd follows him, all the way to Tagaytay, from far and wide. Escalante began doing “private dining” for friends. By word-of-mouth, he says, people became aware of this farmer-chef who specialised in farm-to-table dishes.

In 2002 he opened Antonio’s, which he calls his big break. “The minute my doors opened, my dream turned into reality,” he says. He then opened a second restaurant, this time for casual dining and called it Balay Dako. Soon enough, he grabbed global attention and has been on many prestigious lists including The Miele Guide, Asia’s Best Restaurants and 25 Chefs and Restaurateurs You Should Know. He also received the 2014 World Gourmet Summit Manitowoc Restaurateur of the Year from the World Gourmet Summit.

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Margarita Forés

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, Margarita Forés Concepts 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Bringing fine Italian cuisine to the nation

The image of a woman born to privilege creating a culinary buzz sizzled throughout the local food scene in the late Eighties as Margarita Araneta Forés, from an old rich family, revealed her passion for the gustatory arts. She entered the scene quietly, via small private dinners while slowly growing her catering business. But her love for Italian cooking, discovered while in political exile in New York with her family and honed in Italy via a short immersion, shone.

In 1997, she opened her first Cibo branch, then Café Bola, Pepato, Lusso and her floral atelier brand Fiori di Marghi. As her business grew, Forés began delving into Filipino food, catering dinners at Malacañang Palace and helping government bring the Madrid Fusion gastronomy congress to Manila. Her Asia’s Best Female Chef award from the World’s 50 Best organisation, “opened doors for me globally and allowed me to fulfil my mission to help promote our country’s cuisine, cultural heritage and beautiful produce”.

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Chele Gonzalez

Profession: Executive chef and co-owner, Gallery by Chele and Deli by Chele

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For his innovative use of local Filipino ingredients 

Spanish-born chef Chele González studied culinary arts and eventually worked at Michellin-starred restaurants Arzak, Nerua-Guggenheim and Mugaritz, to name a few. In 2013, he established Gallery Vask in Manila, which became his playground for cooking with local ingredients using global techniques. The restaurant renovated and reopened in 2018 as Gallery by Chele. He recently launched additional concepts Chef Chele’s Kitchen, Deli by Chele and Adviche. “I hope I inspire a lot of people to make things evolve,” he says, looking to a future with more food that is healthy, affordable and sustainable.

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Jessie Sincioco

Profession: President and CEO, Chef Jessie Restaurants

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Maintaining a standard of excellence in the Philippine dining scene

From being a humble trainee in the pastry kitchen of then Hotel-InterContinental Manila to helming her own eponymous group of restaurants, chef Jessie Sincioco was one of the first purveyors of fine dining in the Philippines. “Having been in this business for more than 30 years, creating memorable fine dining experiences I think is my best contribution to the dining scene,” she says, citing that what she considers her greatest credential was when she was chosen to cook every meal for His Holiness Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in 2015.

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Rikki Dee

Profession: Owner, Foodee Global Concepts

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A powerhouse who creates home-grown concepts and introduces international restaurants to the Philippine dining scene

Rikki Dee’s portfolio at Foodee Global Concepts consists of 353 stores (158 Sunnies Studios & Optical and 195 restaurants), 3,800 employees, and a multi-billion revenue up from an average sales of PhP10m per day. Throw in a few office buildings, three malls outside the city and, currently, the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurant franchises in the country and that just about sums it up.
 
It wasn't smooth sailing for Dee though. “Years ago, I was about to retire [after distributing the tasks of running the businesses to his four children]. But I felt I will be sending wrong signals to my next generation as they were just starting in the company. I went back to the action, this time with my children. I motivate and share a lot with them and, in the same breath, learn from them. This is what excites me day after day,” he says.

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Abba Napa

Profession: Creative Director and co-founder, The Moment Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Creating high quality dining experiences priced for all wallets 

Abba Napa is the creative director and co-founder of The Moment Group (TMG), the company she founded with her two partners, Eliza Antonino and Jon Syjuco. Starting with three homegrown restaurants, TMG went on a record-breaking pace of opening one restaurant every 56 days. It now boasts 2,500 employees, 12 food brands and 45 shops including the wholly owned popular brands 8Cuts Burgers, Manam Comfort Filipino, Ooma Bold Japanese, Mo’ Cookies, chef’s table Mecha Uma and Bank Bar. It also went into a partnership with global brand Din Tai Fung, launched its cook-at- home-line Moment the Grocer, as well as its in-house delivery website supported by its own Mo’Go delivery fleet. 

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Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, The Wildflour Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Helming what has become the Philippines' favourite neighbourhood cafe

Le Cordon Bleu graduate and restaurateur Ana Lorenzana De Ocampo is one of the masterminds behind the successful Wildflour Group.

“Wildflour was the beginning of a very wild journey for me and my sister Margie. We couldn’t have anticipated arriving at the places it’s brought us,” she enthuses. The company has since flourished, expanding to include Farmacy Ice Cream (2014), Pink’s Hotdogs (2016) Little Flour Café (2017) and Wildflour Italian (2019). Pivoting to adapt to the New Normal, the Wildflour group launched an in-house online ordering app as well as virtual-only brands that offer their bestsellers, party trays, gourmet pantry needs and burgers.

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Malu Gamboa-Lindo and J Gamboa

Profession: General manager and executive chef, Milky Way, Cirkulo, Azuthai and Tsukiji

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Focusing on quality and authenticity rather than expansion in order to create beloved brands

Having lived right next to their mother’s original Milky Way restaurant founded in 1962, Malu Gamboa-Lindo and J Gamboa declare that they were “literally born into the restaurant business”.

“Our establishments have thrived for so long because we focus on consistently bringing the highest calibre of food and service to all our customers in every meal,” says Malu. “Many have said that our staying power is because we have created the ambience of home and happiness in our restaurants.”

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Elbert Cuenca

Profession: Owner and founder, Steak Room Concepts, Inc 

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A restaurateur committed to elevating the dining experience

In 2007 Elbert Cuenca opened the widely successful, specialised dining concept, Elbert’s Steak Room. “This is what established my name in the industry.”

The owner of Elbert’s Pizzeria and a partner in Metronome restaurant, he says: “I endeavour to help educate and elevate our diners’ level of appreciation for quality, not just with cuisine, but in terms of service as well. I involve myself with restaurant projects that hopefully raise the bar of the Philippine dining scene.” Rather than operating with a costly set-up, he prefers a more personal approach and is committed to happy clients.

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Bianca Elizalde

Profession: Founder, The Wholesome Table

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Ensuring that wholesome eating and organic food are accessible and delicious

“My passion for healthy eating is what motivates me every day,” says Bianca Elizalde, founder of organic restaurant The Wholesome Table. “My love for food goes beyond the ingredients and the manner of preparation, but all the way to how food is grown and how that affects our health and our planet.”

Elizalde has changed the way people view “healthy” food. “Over the years we’ve been able to debunk the whole idea that ‘health food’ was just tasteless, boring diet food. We’ve really worked hard to change people’s mindsets about that, and what it means to be more thoughtful about the food you eat. We also helped local, organic farmers and gave them business to continue doing what they’re doing.” 

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Ige Ramos

Profession: Food writer and cookbook designer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: An acclaimed food writer who views dining as a tool for diplomacy

“I cook books!” award-winning book designer and food writer Ige Ramos often declares. He is the chief creative officer of IRDS, which runs the Republic of Taste Food Network, a platform for his publishing, book design and independent research project in food history and comparative gastronomy. The former president of the Association of Culinary Historians of the Philippines, active member of Slow Food and founding member of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement heralds the importance of food as a way to bridge communities. 

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Micky Fenix

Profession: Food writer, editor, book author and columnist

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: One of the country's most esteemed culinary voices celebrating Philippine cuisine and telling the stories that need to be shared

“This is my country and yet I didn’t know enough about our culinary culture,” says the food writer Micky Fenix about what motivated her to pursue her career after publishing the book, Philippine Cuisine: Our Country’s Heritage. “I discovered that we have a diverse cuisine with similarities and differences. My writing about those celebrates that diversity which makes our cuisine very interesting.”

Fenix is one of the most respected food writers in the country; her column “Country Cooking” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, has been running weekly for many years now. She also chairs the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award and is the president of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines. 

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Felice Prudente Sta Maria

Profession: Food historian

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Keeping the Philipppines' culinary narrative historically accurate and contemporary to push culture forward

“Food appreciation is an inroad into the larger realm of national cultural appreciation,” shares author and food historian Felice Prudente-Sta Maria. “Having a historical food narrative to refer to is essential to appreciate who the Filipino is and should continue to be.”

While she lauds the growing awareness of Filipino cuisine across the world, she stresses the importance of developing local pride.“Food history is commonly perceived as the origin of dishes and the collecting of old recipes. But the scope goes beyond that,” she expounds. “My study of food is to find out who the Filipino is, not only what we Filipinos harvest, cook, eat and drink.”

 

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Claude Tayag

Profession: Chef and food writer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Making a huge impact on Philippine gastronomy as both chef and food writer

“Having been born and raised in Pampanga where the food culture is quite strong, I had been cooking since school days” says Claude Tayag. Known for his restaurant Bale Dutung, Tayag’s culinary journey officially started in 1988 when, he says, “I unfurled my apron to the public at Larry Cruz’s Ang Hang Restaurant.” The road has been speckled with many highlights, among which were a month-long cooking stint at the Prince Albert Rotisserie of the InterContinental Manila back-to-back with French resident chef Cyrile Soenen. And of course, Claude’s Dream, a buco-pandan dessert that found its way on to the menus of many food establishments. 

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Alex Lichaytoo

Profession: President, Bacchus International

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Putting quality first and elevating standards in the F&B industry

Established purveyor Alex Lichaytoo, who’s been awarded the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Order of the Star of Italy) and the French Mérite Agricole, provides the local food industry with not only the best wines but quality ingredients and the latest in kitchenware. “We’ve always wanted to inspire chefs to realise that quality of ingredients is the number one consideration if you wanted to create world-class cuisine, whether it’s in the cookware, wine glasses, tools or ingredients,” he says. As fine cooking is still a growing interest in the country, Lichaytoo stresses that it’s not always about price points—but about the true enjoyment of a dish. 

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Mark Ocampo and Kelly Go

Profession: Co-founders, Auro Chocolate

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Making Philippine-made chocolate glamorous and taking the product to the world stage

A love for chocolate isn’t anything unusual, but Mark Ocampo and his partner, Kelly Go, took their passion to new heights. “Auro combines all of our interests and advocacies”, he says, “from building brands, sustainable sourcing, empowerment of farming communities and eating.”

Since the start, the partners’ goal has been relatable: to create something they themselves were addicted to. “We wanted to bring chocolate back to the Philippines and create something meaningful and show our appreciation for the people who grow [the cacao]." 

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Olive Puentespina

Profession: Founder and cheesemaker, Malagos Farmhouse Cheeses

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Continuously pushing the love local mantra

Olive Puentespina, her husband and her in-laws are all part of the Davao-based family business, the Puentespina Group of Companies. Under this umbrella are the award-winning Malagos chocolate brand (which has earned 44 international accolades to date), the Malagos Farmhouse (famous for cheese) and the Malagos Garden Resort, among other companies. Puentespina's cheese journey began in 2005, in her garden with three of her goats. “Watching milk turn from liquid to this unctuous mouldy, smelly morsel that tingles in your mouth is just so satisfying,” she says. The businesswoman now manages 32 employees, 350 goats and a multifaceted business model. 

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Romy Sia

Profession: CEO, Healthy Options Group

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A pioneer who has brought healthy food and organic products into the hearts and homes of Filipinos

The founder of Healthy Options has a very straightforward mission: it’s to, quite literally, bring healthy options into the hands and onto the tables of Filipinos around the country.

“Educating and empowering people to take control of their health has always been my motivation and inspiration,” says Romy Sia. It was un uphill battle, as the Philippines was not as receptive to wellness trends and wholesome eating. But now, Sia has 33 stores around the country. During a time when the importance of health has been put at the forefront of our lives, Sia shares that Healthy Options has been able reinforce its original message to customers. 

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Jojo Madrid

Profession: Founder, PWC Premium Wine Exchange

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Passion and expertise have driven this wine lover to the top of his game

“To start a wine business, you need to be passionate about it,” says self-proclaimed wine nerd Jojo Madrid. “I’ve been a wine enthusiast since the mid-90s and I was always interested in starting a wine importation and distribution company.” The dream is now a successful business and Madrid, along with his three partners—Eric Recto, Fred Uytengsu and Jeri Jalandoni—and their entire team at local importer Premium Wine Exchange Inc have indeed proven their incredible passion for this mission. 

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Hindy Weber

Profession: Regenerative farmer and co-founder, Holy Carabao Farm; fashion designer

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A wellness, sustainable farming and organic lifestyle advocate whose passion fuels her drive 

Hindy Weber wanted nothing but the best for her family’s health. So after scouring markets and grocery stores for nourishment and not finding everything suitable, along with her husband Gippy Tantoco she decided to grow food at home. Called to her destiny, she began Holy Carabao with friend Melanie Teng-Go.

When the food industry shifted online, Holy Carabao followed suit. Apart from her admiration for the environment, her appreciation for all children drives her to offer better nourishment. Next up for Holy Carabao is Holy Carabao School, an online/ hybrid curriculum for children centred on farming and ecology. 

 

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Cherrie Atilano

Profession: Founding farmer, president and CEO, AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Inc

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A farmer at heart, she celebrates agriculture and tells the world what the Philippines has to offer

“Growing up on a farm added to my holistic understanding of the situation of food producers. This propelled me to always be involved in more inclusive food production and be a voice of local and global sustainable food systems,” says Cherrie Atilano. She has continued to promote food accessibility and locally sourced food. Her dedication led her to start two initiatives amidst the pandemic, namely Move Food Growcery and the Agrea Rescue Kitchen. “We are working with 30,000 farmers across the country,” she says. “We make sure we do things out of love and enthusiasm [while bearing in mind that we work to fulfil our mission] to help more farmers.”

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Chit Juan

Profession: Author; councillor, Slow Food South East Asia; president, Philippine Coffee Board; co-founder, ECHOStore

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For driving the Slow Food Movement forward

Long before sustainability had become word-of-mouth, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle was already promoting conscious food production and consumption. After joining the slow food movement in 2012, ECHOstore has become a crucial presence in the food industry.
“That people are now conscious about what they eat and that somehow, we have influenced them in thinking about where their food comes from [motivates me to do what I do],” says Chit Juan. “We remain true to our mission—to be the access of producers to market and to give consumers a reason to eat well and live well."

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Ernest Escaler

Profession: Founder, Gourmet Farms

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Pioneering sustainable practices and the health food movement thereby bringing healthy eating and loving local to the fore

Ernest Escaler converted a two-hectare orchid farm in Silang, Cavite into an organic vegetable farm now known as Gourmet Farms. Not long after, he opened Gourmet Café at the farm, which soon drew hordes of visitors, mostly from Metro Manila. Even amid challenging times, he developed products such as pre-cooked meals, natural herbal teas and ginger extracts, all delivered to customers’ doorsteps. He advises young chefs and restaurant owners to be passionate about knowing their clients and serving them what they need. “We have recently marked our 40th year in the business. We have not resorted to advertising and rarely done promotions. We owe our success to our good products and a passionate team,” he says.

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Monica and AJ Garcia

Profession: Co-founders, Don Papa Rum

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: For promoting Philippine flavours

Today, Don Papa Rum brings the flavours of the Philippines to all corners of the globe. “Part of the genesis of Don Papa included the opportunity to really showcase our local rum-making heritage on an international scale, particularly in the premium rum segment. ” says co-founder AJ Garcia. “Having the freedom to create and innovate and be able to decide on the direction of how we want our brand to go is quite liberating” adds Monica. “The fact that the landscape is always changing, especially now with the pandemic, gives me motivation. We have not and still do not rest on our laurels.”

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Matthew and Laurie Westfall

Profession: Founders, Full Circle Craft Distillers

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: Promoting locally made spirits and helping to put the Philippines on the global spirits map

“There is a growing demand for honest, handcrafted products. The consumer palate is evolving, and the level of knowledge—on the difference between industrial, mass-produced alcohol and artisanal handcrafted spirits—is growing by leaps and bounds,” declare Matthew and Laurie Westfall, founders of Full Circle Craft Distillers. Their world-class spirits crafted using state-of-the-art German copper stills at their distillery caught the attention of gin connoisseurs globally and won them two gold medals at the World Gin Awards in London. 

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Olivia Limpe-Aw

Profession: President and CEO, Destileria Limtuaco

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A fifth-generation leader of Destileria Limtuaco who is pushing the 168-year-old distillery to greater heights

One of only two Filipinas on the Forbes list of Asia’s Power Businesswomen for 2020, Olivia Limpe-Aw introduced several exciting products using Filipino ingredients: Paradise Mango rum liqueur, Amadeo coffee liqueur, Manille Liqueur Collection (basic ingredient, calamansi and dalandan), Dragon Fruit wine and Very Old Captain Artisan-crafted Rum (basic ingredient, molasses). In the process, Limpe-Aw brought Philippine craft spirits to the erstwhile untapped middle-class. As she remarks, “You not only do your country proud; you also help the local farmers by bypassing the middlemen.” 

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David Ong

Profession: Co-founder and Managing Partner, The Curator, Oto, EDSA BDG (Beverage Design Group)

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A barista, bartender and all-round foodie obsessed with crafting the best beverages and memorable experiences

David Ong has played a major role in elevating the coffee and cocktails scene in the Philippines. He works with friends who share his passion, and the joy they have for their work has shone through, with The Curator making it to Asia’s 50 Best Bars list six times. “The peak for me was in 2019 when both The Curator and Oto made the list,” says Ong.

While The Curator is a café-speakeasy with a quiet hidden backroom bar that comes to life at night, Oto is one of the Metro’s most frequented nightlife spots.

“I think that our contribution is based on the fact that we’ve always stuck to our own guns,” says Ong. To him it is an endless journey to improve their craft, both through execution and innovation.

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Cheryl Tiu-Snyder

Profession: Journalist, content creator, World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars Tastehunter and co-founder, Proclamation Gin

Location: Philippines

Impact statement: A journalist and content creator who shines a light on deserving foods, flavours and finds

There’s a devotion to the Philippines that gives journalist Cheryl Tiu-Snyder's body of work both depth and personality; it helps that she uses her platform to highlight the new yet deserving. “I like to shine the spotlight on the non-commercial, to introduce an audience to a small business or a cultural aspect not known in certain parts of the world,” she says.

Not only has she been recognised internationally as a writer and host, but she’s also the co-founder of Proclamation Gin, a local spirit brand that capitalises on sampaguita as its main botanical. She is also the founder of Cross Cultures, an events and consultancy agency that promotes food culture.

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Caleb and Joshua Ng

Profession: Restaurateurs, Interval and Cut Sando Bar

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving a future-forward approach to F&B in Hong Kong

Identical twins Caleb and Joshua Ng, founders of Twins Kitchen, have long been making their mark on Hong Kong's F&B scene, whether through quaint neighbourhood café Common Ground, Preset Event Space located underneath their original coffee and wine bar, Interval in Central, or food incubator PMQ Taste Kitchen.

Most recently the pair relaunched Interval as two entirely new venues in Cyberport and Lohas Park where they are cementing their future-forward approach by experimenting with low-intervention and biodynamic wines, sourdough pizzas, live-fire cooking and, in the case of the Cyberport restaurant, an on-site farm created in collaboration with Farmacy HK that reduces the operation’s carbon footprint. Their next project, Cut Sando Bar, demonstrates an aptitude for identifying the next great idea in food, combining Japanese-style sandwiches with natural wines and curated music.

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Danny Yip

Profession: Chef and restaurateur, The Chairman

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Giving refined Cantonese cuisine its rightful place on the regional stage

When Danny Yip's restaurant The Chairman ranked No 1 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021, it was a big moment. Not only was it the first time that a Hong Kong establishment had topped the table, but it was the first time a Cantonese restaurant had taken prime position.

And The Chairman is a worthy winner. Not only does the restaurant present refined Cantonese cuisine and advocate for the region’s food culture, but the research that goes into each dish, from seeking out lost or long-neglected ingredients to perfecting traditional techniques, is second-to-none.

See also: Hong Kong's The Chairman Tops Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021

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Helen Kwok

Profession: Coffee influencer, @f.o.v_

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Documenting the development of Hong Kong's dynamic cafe culture and delivering regular doses of coffee content to thousands of followers

A practising architect in Hong Kong, Kwok (better known to her 81,000 followers on Instagram as @f.o.v_, which stands for Food of Visuals) paves the way for coffee connoisseurs and design fanatics with her feed showcasing the latest cafés in the city.

For Kwok, visiting a coffee shop is about more than just enjoying a daily dose of caffeine—it’s about immersing herself in the unique vibe of each venue and communicating with baristas. It helps that her passion for photography results in striking images that capture the essence of each spot she visits. Her work has culminated in essential resources—her frequently updated and free-to-use Hong Kong Coffee Map and the Hong Kong Coffee Guide, published in 2020. 

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Jessica Fong

Profession: Urban farmer, Common Farms

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Making farming feasible again in Hong Kong

Jessica Fong is looking to reclaim some of Hong Kong's former glory as an agricultural producer through Common Farms, the high-tech, forward-thinking urban farm that she co-founded with Preston Hartwick in 2017. By taking farming indoors, she is able to exercise control over climate, lighting, water efficiency and fertilisation, cutting out the need for pesticides and reducing water use, while stacking growing layers to produce 10 times more per square foot than a traditional farm.

Initially based out of a 400 sq ft test farm in Cheung Chau, Common Farms now operates a commercial production facility in Tin Wan, growing a wide variety of microgreens, herbs and edible flowers for home chefs, speciality grocers and high-end restaurants including Belon, Giando, Frantzen’s Kitchen, Tate Dining Room and Roganic.

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Peggy Chan

Profession: Sustainability advocate and chef, Grassroots Initiatives

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Hong Kong's pioneer in plant-based dining 

Nine years ago, Grassroots Pantry opened in Sai Ying Pun at a time when vegetarianism and veganism were still nascent in Hong Kong. Chan manifested her vision for a more eco-conscious, meat-free way of cooking and consuming in her debut eatery, which in 2015 moved to a significantly larger space on Hollywood Road. For four years it charmed diners with its plant-based food, before Chan transformed it into the elegant but sadly short-lived Nectar—a sophisticated, tasting menu-only restaurant. A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Chan decided to close the restaurant and instead got writing.

In December, she announced the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for a cookbook, Provenance, designed to raise awareness of the soon-to-launch venture Zero Foodprint Asia—a non-profit organisation focusing on food systems as the starting point for the fight against climate change. This year Chan has leaned into her networks to promote her philosophy of a plant-based lifestyle. 

See also: Curry Fishballs Are One of Hong Kong’s Greatest Food Inventions, According To Peggy Chan
 

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Roger Chan

Profession: Chairman and founder, MetaDesign and MetaBev

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Supporting and strengthening Hong Kong's F&B community, particularly in its most challenging times

Championing mental and physical wellbeing, Chan has set what might seem like a lofty target for 2021: to run to the moon. But he won’t do it alone—as the driving force behind the newly established F&B Run Club initiative, Chan is a believer in teamwork. The aim of the initiative is to bring the F&B community together at a time that has been particularly tough for those in hospitality and together to walk, hike or run the distance to the moon.

It's not the first time he's championed his community. In 2020, Chan’s MetaBev worked with Chinese bottled cocktail company Laiba to create Bar in a Bottle, a series inspired and made by leading bartenders in Hong Kong during a period of bar closures, with proceeds going back to the venues. The company also partnered with COA to auction an exclusive bottle of Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario tequila to raise funds for Save Hong Kong F&B.

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Wanda Huang

Profession: Forager

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Preserving the traditions and knowledge around wild edibles and medicinal plants in Asia

Foraging for food has never been unusual for Huang, who comes from five generations of Chinese herbalists on her father’s side and a farming background on her mother’s side. An educator by profession, Huang forages in her spare time, not only sharing her extensive knowledge of wild edibles and medicinal plants on private foraging excursions but also taking chefs and bartenders on adventures to seek out local delicacies. Most recently, she has been working with spirit companies, including Fernet Hunter, to distil distinctive drinks using Hong Kong herbs.

To source foraged produce, Huang works with organic farms, which is essential as foraging on government land or in country parks is illegal. Huang wants to preserve tradition, too. As she forages in the far reaches of Hong Kong, she gathers information from village elders who also know about wild edibles, and one day hopes to write it all down. But for now, she educates people through her tours and where possible in the experiential education adventures she leads.

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Keti Mazzi

Profile: Founder, Certa

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Supporting the next generation of Italian producers and bringing their wares to Asian audiences

Italian wine advocate and importer Mazzi is a force in Hong Kong’s drinks industry with her endless enthusiasm for unsung heroes of the wine world. As the founder of Certa, Mazzi represents over 40 Italian food and wine partners, from the luxurious Capofaro resort in the northeast of Sicily to Amara, a blood orange amaro brand that has become a cult favourite among restaurateurs and mixologists in Hong Kong.

At the end of 2020, she launched Certa Platform, an online marketplace pulling together more artisanal products, from small-batch panettone to colatura made from anchovies harvested in spring from the Amalfi Coast. This is all part of an effort to support the next generation of Italian producers by enabling them to find international audiences.

 

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Agung Prabowo

Profession: Co-founder, Penicillin Bar and Dead&

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A trailblazer in sustainable bartending

A veteran of the local bar industry, Prabowo was catapulted to the fore of the Asian cocktail scene when his previous venture, The Old Man, was named Asia’s Best Bar in 2019, a mere two years after opening. Last year, in the midst of the industry’s worst downturn in generations, he confronted the pandemic head on with the opening of Penicillin and Dead&, driving sustainable bartending forward with a unique zealotry for closed-loop processes in drink making.

See also: Penicillin Is Asia's Most Sustainable Bar, As Awarded By Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021

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Alison Tan

Profession: Food designer and co-founder, Otium

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Bringing art, culture and food together in inspiring experiences

Bridging the gap between art, culture and food, Tan is a designer and the founder of experiential pop-up concepts such as Savour Cinema and Synesthesia. Otium, her private renovated warehouse space in eastern Hong Kong, blends performance and lavish dining in unexpected ways, drawing upon mythology and the classical vernacular for a sophisticated gastronomic experience like no other.

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Antonio Lai

Profession: Mixologist and owner, Quinary

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving Hong Kong's vibrant cocktail scene

Responsible for Hong Kong’s first craft cocktail bar and for kickstarting the city’s ongoing cocktail craze, Antonio Lai has continued to innovate by opening another five venues under the Tastings Group banner. A 24-year veteran of the industry, Lai continues to create new libations that intrigue and delight, cementing Hong Kong’s reputation as an Asian cocktail capital. Look out for his next venture, a drinks factory project that will only make fine cocktails even more pervasive.

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Christopher Wong

Profession: General Manager, Carbon Brews

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Keeping Hong Kong's craft beer scene exciting

Though Hong Kong’s craft beer scene is fast maturing, there is still plenty of space for innovation, as Wong has proven with Carbon Brews. Established in 2018, the brewery espouses a democratic, equal-share company structure where all employees collaboratively develop and brew groundbreaking recipes—some involve local auteurs like Christopher Doyle.

 

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Daisy Tam

Profession: Founder, Breadline and HKFoodWorks

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Using her knowledge of urban food systems combined with technology to reduce food waste and feed the homeless

When she was a student in London in 2004, Tam sold apples as a part-time job in Borough Market, where farmers would sell leftover produce. This inspired her to become an academic on urban food systems and use technology to reduce food waste when she returned to Hong Kong.

Apart from giving talks to the industry, Tam also set up the crowd-sourcing app Breadline in April 2020 and has since collected 34,627 loaves of leftover bread from bakeries to redistribute to the homeless, refugees and the elderly, an impressive feat—especially during a pandemic.

See also: Eco Heroes: Daisy Tam, Founder of Breadline And Hong Kong Foodworks

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David Yeung

Profession: Founder, Green Monday, Green Common and Omnipork

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Changing the way people eat while addressing animal welfare and climate change 

Few people, if any, have inspired Hongkongers to consume a plant-based diet like Yeung. On Earth Day in 2012, Yeung founded Green Monday, a social venture addressing animal welfare and climate change, before unveiling plant-based grocery store Green Common. More recently, he launched the popular pork alternative OmniPork, which he says “came out of a selfish agenda. I missed dumplings and luncheon meat, two of Hong Kong’s most iconic comfort foods.”

 

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Elizabeth Chu

Profession: Chairwoman, ZS Hospitality Group

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Bringing fresh new concepts to Hong Kong's dining scene

Chu’s ZS Hospitality Group (the ZS stands for “zao shen”, or “kitchen god” in Chinese) is behind several of the city’s top destinations, including the Cantonese standout Ying Jee Club, quirkier pop concepts Lee Lo Mei and the vegetarian Miss Lee, and popular Korean import Hansik Goo. Next up is Whey from Barry Quek, beloved chef of the bygone Beet, who also fronts the Uncle Quek kiosk at the group’s Central food hall, JAM.

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Elliot Faber

Profession: Founder, Sake Central

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Transforming the image of sake in Hong Kong

Among Hong Kong’s most vocal proponents of sake is Elliot Faber, a Calgary native behind some of the city’s most exciting sake brands and outlets, including Sake Central, Sunday’s Spirits and The Kura Collective. The former beverage director of Yardbird and Ronin is also one of the few Sake Samurais outside of Japan, a title bestowed on those who have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation and promotion of sake across the globe.

See also: The Love Boat: Inside Elliot Faber And Tiffany Ung's Wedding On A Yacht
 

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Gabrielle Kirstein

Profession: Founder, Feeding Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Redistributing surplus food away from landfills and to those that need it most

On a mission to tackle the issue of food waste, Kirstein left the corporate world in 2011 to set up Hong Kong’s first surplus food bank. Feeding Hong Kong redistributes quality food from companies and restaurants to charities and shelters across the city. As she says, “Feed people, not landfills”.

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Gregoire Michaud

Profession: Founder, Bread Elements, Bakehouse and Bread Pantry

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Making artisanal baked goods more accessible in Hong Kong

Acclaimed for his baked goods, the former Four Seasons Hong Kong pastry chef seeks to make his pastries and breads more accessible to Hongkongers. Last October he opened his second Bakehouse outlet, where a queue constantly snakes out of the Soho bakery’s door, and more recently he launched Bread Pantry, which takes his artisanal baked goods, characterised by their quality ingredients, to supermarkets and food halls across Hong Kong.

See also: How Hong Kong's Vegetables And Char Siu Inspire Bakehouse's Gregoire Michaud

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Heidi Spurrell

Profession: CEO, Food Made Good Hong Kong

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Advocating for a more sustainable food industry in Hong Kong

Spurrell is a leading advocate for sustainability in the global food industry, having worked with several NGOs specialising in supply chain challenges and the shift to alternative proteins and plant-based diets around the world, and now Food Made Good Hong Kong, a chapter of the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association.

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Holly Graham

Profession: Managing Editor, Drink Magazine

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A driver in Asia's drink industry and a champion of the women who work in it

Having spent only six years in the Asian bar scene, Graham has styled herself a force to be reckoned with through her work for industry publication Drink, and more recently by launching the Asia Women in Booze platform to champion women in the drinks business throughout the region. Graham’s advocacy goes beyond Asia in her role as an academy chair for The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards.

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Janice Leung Hayes

Profession: Founder, Tong Chong Street Market and Honestly Green

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Driving demand for local Hong Kong produce and championing sustainability in the city

A prolific writer and editor, Leung Hayes’ sphere of influence also extends beyond the written word. An instrumental player in Hong Kong’s food scene, she brought Tong Chong Street Market to life, creating a now insatiable demand for locally grown produce, as well as Honestly Green, a social enterprise and consultancy that focuses on food sustainability.

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Jason Cohen

Profession: Founder, Nomad Caviar

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Transforming the way we purchase and consume caviar

After working as everything from a hotel consultant to executive director of Ce La Vi, Cohen’s latest venture is caviar. Through his brand Nomad Caviar, he hopes to make the exclusive delicacy into an everyday luxury. Sourcing from a family-owned farm in China, which upholds high industry standards, he simply packages Kaluga in 500g, 1kg or 1.7kg tubs to sell direct to consumers. He is already making the mounds of glistening black beads that overflow from his blue tubs the party accessory of the season.

See also: Affordable Caviar By The Kilo? Meet The Hong Kong Brand Making This A Reality

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John Nugent

Profession: Group Beverage Director, Leading Nation

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Renowned mixologist with a winning speakeasy concept

Nugent prefers that his work speaks for itself or, rather, reveals itself to those who search for it. The Diplomat is where the burly Seattle native delivers an artisanal precision he spent 14 years perfecting. For a masterclass in proportion, go no further than his world-beating Gibson, while his menu of humble bar food just happens to include the city’s best burger. But you won’t find him shouting about it; diplomats are experts in subtlety, after all.

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Kai Yi Carrie Chan

Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Avant Meats Company

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Developing cultivated meat products from fish cells

“I have happily skipped meat for half a decade,” Chan says. “Knowing how industrialised concentrated animal breeding inevitably brings side effects to public health.” In 2018, Chan founded China’s first cultivated meat biotechnology company, which uses cell technologies to cultivate traceable meat that does not involve animal slaughter.

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Lorenzo Antinori

Profession: Beverage Manager, Caprice Bar at Four Seasons

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: A mixology maestro who always has a refreshing take on Hong Kong's drinks scene

The affable Italian mixology maestro is a refreshing figure on the drinks scene, demonstrating inimitable sprezzatura and a solid intuition for unconventional cocktails. His long-awaited reimagining of the hotel’s flagship bar (soon to be unveiled with a new name and look this June) will be quite unlike any other bar in the city.

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Margaret Lam

Profession: Instagrammer, @little_meg_siu_meg

Location: Hong Kong

Impact statement: Influencing Hong Kong's foodies through her dedicated and detailed Instagramming

Better known by her online moniker, Little Meg, Lam is one of Asia’s most prominent food influencers despite staying in relative anonymity, and a trusted source for where to dine well. Her Instagram account covers, in fascinating detail, the laborious cooking techniques and the specificity of ingredients at the world’s best restaurants; each caption and recommendation is a lesson in deconstructing how and why a dish works.

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May Chow