Kita which means ‘Us’ in Malay is the perfect name for a food festival game on celebrating the Southeast Asian culinary culture. For founders Darren Teoh, Leisa Tyler and Adrian Yap, food is not only a storytelling tool to talk about national identity, but an emotional language to inspire action.
Kita Food Festival (KFF) will be held from September 27 (Kuching), October 13 to 16 (Penang), October 19 to 23 (Singapore) and October 26 to 30 (Kuala Lumpur). It will feature an assembly of world renowned chefs and food thinkers for a series of fine dining and casual dining events, along with Kita Conversations – a TED style talk about environmentally sustainable food consumption and the F&B industry.
Rewind to 2021 when the inaugural iteration broke through the blitzkrieg of lockdown initiatives in Malaysia. “It was a much-need relief after a challenging period marked by government restrictions due to the pandemic,” said Darren. “What made that first edition so special was the enthusiasm from chefs, suppliers and industry professionals when we reached out to them for collaborative events,” said Darren. The food festival culminating on a high note with a riotous barbecue where everyone came together to cook and eat – bolstering the community spirits dramatically. “It was just the medicine we needed after what seemed an eternity of lockdowns,” recounted Leisa.
In 2022, Kita Food Festival (KFF) returned with resounding success. The event not only drummed up excitement about gastro-tourism in Southeast Asia but provided a platform for intimate and humanising conversations within the F&B community.
Returning for its third year, the annual festival has outgrown its Malaysian playpen and spilled over into Singapore from October 19 – 23 in epic weekender style. Curated by Chef Ivan Brehm of Nouri, this gastronomical deluge has garnered some serious culinary talent from across the globe. “It’s not a Darren and Leisa show,” said Leisa, jesting. She suggested that by involving a guest curator in the process, the festival approach will be more democratic. “Ivan ticked all our boxes where it came to looking for a new perspective to tackle a new country,” proclaimed founder, Leisa, “He knows his way around the Singapore culinary scene, plus is also very worldly, sustainably minded and understands the vision of Kita.”
The 7 events that make up the Singapore Weekender are:
- Four-Hand Dinner – Prateek Sadhu (India) x Michael Wilson (Marguerite, Singapore)
- Four-Hand Lunch & Dinner – Anissa Helou (London) x Mirko Febbrile (Fico, Singapore) – currently SOLD OUT
- Four-Hand Dinner – Matt Stone (Mosey on Inn, Australia) x Peter Smit (Underdog Inn, Singapore)
- Six-Hand Dinner – Deepanker Khosla (Haoma, Bangkok) x Ivan Brehm (Nouri, Singapore) x Hafizzul Hashim (Fiz, Singapore)
- Six-Hand Lunch & Dinner – Ross Magnaye (Serai, Melbourne) x John Kevin Navoa (Hapag, Manila) x Kurt Sombero (Kubo, Singapore)
- Four-Hand Dinner – Putu Dodik Sumarjana (Nusantara by Locavore, Bali) x Malcolm Lee (Candlenut, Singapore)
- Multi-Chef Communal Cook-up – Big Sunday Barbecue
It’s a smorgasbord of international talent, some of whom you’ve probably never heard of, unless you’re a fine-dining junkie. We spoke to some of the participating chefs who are especially enthusiastic about their relative pair-ups. “I thought that my style would marry Matt’s style perfectly for dinner,” said Chef Peter Smit of Underdog Inn, whose food revolves around sustainable sourcing and low-waste cooking.
The feelings are mutual and together with his partner Matt Stone of Mosey on Inn, the duo will be running a menu utilising the whole animal. Michael Wilson, Chef-Patron of Marguerite is also pumped about cooking with Chef Prateek, a trailblazer in modernist gastronomy in India. “My wife’s from Mumbai and we’ve spent a fair amount of time travelling and eating our way through India’s different regions,” said Michael, “together with Chef Prateek, I’m excited to showcase what I love about the diversity of regional Indian cooking.” Chef Deepanker Khosla of Haoma in Bangkok, recognised as one of the most sustainable Michelin-star restaurants in the world, was brought on board by Chef Ivan immediately after he had dined at his restaurant. “What KFF is doing by highlighting regional cuisine is very unique ,” says Deepanker, “I appreciate that it’s not limited to chefs who have achieved heights through lists.”
Chef Deepanker is also on the KITA conversations panel of speakers alongside Matt Orlando and Matt Stone who will be discussing sourcing and sustainability. The TED-style talks will touch on buzzwords in the F&B industry such as ‘global flavours’, ‘redefining luxury’, ‘supply chain’, ‘ sustainable sourcing’ etc, albeit in a fun, witty and laid-back environment. Ivan Brehm, guests curator for the Singapore Weekender KITA conversations hopes that “through these talks, participants can work on improving their relationship with the world through reconsidering their actions on the plate and in the kitchen.”
The Singapore edition will be held on the 23rd October at the Projector, Golden Mile Tower. Tickets are prices at S$99 and includes a networking/cocktail hour. More details can be found on their website www.kitafoodfestival.com.