Singapore Chefs Discuss Street Food, Hawker Centers, and More at Global Chef Exchange Panel

Singapore Restaurant Week Panel

Kristen Hom

Chefs Justin Quek, Paul Liew, and K.F. Seetoh share their knowledge of Singaporean cuisine at the panel.

“Singapore is surrounded by sources of meat, produce, and seafood,” said Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily Meal. “It’s a world-to-table experience.”

In honor of Singapore’s 50th anniversary of nationhood, The Daily Meal co-sponsored celebrating Singapore Restaurant Week from September 18 to 27. On September 24, Singaporean chefs Justin Quek of Sky on 57 and Paul Liew of Keng Eng Kee and food writer K.F. Seetoh, of Makansutra, sat down with Andrews to speak at a panel called Global Chef Exchange held at The Daily Meal’s offices.

The panel was moderated by Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. The chefs started out by telling the audience about their impressions of New York City. It was Liew’s first time visiting the Big Apple and he was impressed.

“Food-wise, it’s amazing. There’s a lot of street food,” Liew said. Seetoh has frequented New York for the past 15 years and agreed.

“It always changes,” Seetoh said. “Like Singapore, New York’s conversation is also evolving.”

The main topic of discussion were hawker centers — Singapore street food meccas. The chefs all agreed that street food is a great way to showcase what people in their country actually eat. Like Singapore, New York’s conversation is also evolving.

“They want to cook you food from their heritage,” Seetoh said. He also proposed that there should be a World Street Food Institute where budding chefs could learn to cook food that they’ve grown up with.

Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain will be opening his own food market in Manhattan sometime in the near future, and while it won't exactly be Singaporean, Seetoh is helping him design it. “It will be a game-changer for street food,” Seetoh said.  

The chefs also stressed that street food is important because it features elements of showmanship and entertainment when they cook with woks and create large flames.

They also gave advice to any chefs who want to be successful some day. Quek said that chefs need discipline and a good foundation. He is the chef at Sky on 57, an elegant restaurant atop the Marina Bay Sands complex, also home to restaurants run by such international celebrity chefs as Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, and Daniel Boulud (all members of The Daily Meal Council).


“Food is trendy and everybody wants to be a TV chef,” Quek said. “You need a good foundation to do so.”