The go-to man for Singapore hawker food comes in the form of straight-talking photographer-turned food evangelist, KF Seetoh. Formerly known for his shoots, many now know him for food. Seetoh who started off with bylines as a photojournalist in the 80s, now makes headlines in the media. We wouldn’t have expected him to be accorded any less attention, especially not after being touted by CNN as the ‘Guru of Grub’!
Makansutra, a business he founded was birthed in answer to an internal calling to shoot, tell and celebrate the great Asian Food Culture. In relation to Singapore Day 2012, Seetoh is determined to remind overseas Singaporeans pining for the humble plate of char kway teow or the irresistible bowl of piping-hot laksa about Singapore’s incomparable hawker fare, variety and heritage.
Seetoh is honoured to once again be involved in Singapore Day. He has his work cut out in the weeks and months leading up to 14 April 2012. Until then, Stanley Leong steals some time with KF Seetoh for a Q&A. In typical no-frills fashion, his answers are short and sharp, like a man on a mission – a mission of mixes, marinades and mouthwatering madness coming to the US of A this Spring.
Q. You must feel very powerful to be THE man who will determine what thousands of homesick Singaporeans will be feeding themselves miles away from home come 14th April 2012?
A. Not powerful, but honoured.
Q. Having done Singapore Day before, what are the challenges that come with trying to whet many an appetite and to put a satisfied smile on Singaporean faces overseas?
A. Putting together the perfect menu; coming up with it is challenging as participants now have exacting standards and expectations.
Q. What was the process like in shortlisting and finally appointing the respective hawkers to fly to New York to cook up a feast?
A. You gotta choose hawkers who are consistent and flexible. They can modify a bit using unfamiliar ingredients and equipments, yet still churn out good food. Not all can do that just because they are famous.
Q. How notable are the hawkers that have been selected to participate in Singapore Day 2012?
A. They are all Makansutra rated and part of Singapore food culture.
Q. What will you be busy with from January to April concerning Singapore Day 2012?
A. The legwork of getting the ingredients and the right equipment for them (the hawkers), and the official paperwork.
Q. What will you be busy with on the event day itself?
A. Ensuring the food comes out right and suggesting operation methods for hawkers so it (the food preparation, cooking and serving) goes faster.
Q. What is the most satisfying aspect about being involved in Singapore Day 2012?
A. It’s all part of my job as a food culturalist…just to see happy faces, is the main joy (and) meeting overseas Singapore folks who share this common love for food culture is another plus.
Q. Share with us some of the feedback you’ve received from overseas Singaporeans at past Singapore Days that indicate they really appreciate the effort the local hawkers make in flying over to cook them their favourite dishes from home.
A. They are mostly very appreciative of what OSU is doing, especially the food part, in remembering them. They all want to come back and chow down.
Q. If you had to choose to have only one Singaporean dish while far away from home, what would it be? Why?
A. Bak chor mee, ’cos only we got lah!
Editor's Note: Read up on some of the participating hawkers and the irresistible dishes they'll be whipping up in upcoming features in the coming weeks!