Raise a glass to anniversary

Ten years after its launch, food and drink expo is poised for a record crowd at celebration

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 9:46am

If there ever was an ideal city for a restaurant and bar expo, Hong Kong could stake a good claim for being one. With more than 11,000 bars and restaurants packed into the city, it is arguably Asia's gourmet capital.

This month sees the 10th anniversary edition of Restaurant and Bar Hong Kong, the annual get-together for suppliers and restaurateurs in Hong Kong's food and drink trade. More than 80 per cent of the expo's attendees are from Hong Kong, says Stuart Bailey, general manager of Diversified Events Hong Kong, the masterminds behind the event. Given the city's extraordinary concentration of food and drink outlets, he says there are more than ample interested parties in Hong Kong alone.

"In 2002, we began a journey, armed with the belief that Hong Kong and Macau needed an event at which to come together on an annual basis to meet, share ideas, source new products and be inspired to produce an even better restaurant experience for their diners."

The next edition, he recalls, was threatened by the Sars epidemic, but he and his fellow organisers "were amazed by the support that the industry in Hong Kong gave us. Since then [the event has] grown and grown."

Last year's event attracted a record 12,107 attendees, and Bailey expects at least that many again this year. "When we started Restaurant and Bar Hong Kong, we had around 4,000 visitors," he says.

The event is unique in that it caters to the high-end of the industry, a sector that is not undersubscribed in Hong Kong. As a result, suppliers and delegates represent quality establishments and there is a real emphasis on sourcing the finest quality products.

This year has more suppliers, products and features than ever before, a demonstration of how the event has developed in its first decade.

iResources Holdings, suppliers of Okinawan wagyu beef, along with Wave Front Enterprises, distributors of the award-winning Hokey Pokey ice cream from New Zealand; seafood importer and distributor Seabo International; and jack-of-all-trades gourmet food and drink supplier Easywin International will all have representatives at the event, among many other top-quality suppliers.

There is also a section dedicated to tableware, furnishings and other items that all upper-tier restaurants require. Axxis Marketing, agent of German crystal brand Rastal; Starcorp, distributor of a revolutionary wine-by-the-glass system; and Premier International/Cuisintec, a provider of innovative food and beverage equipment, will be displaying their products.

Of course, one of the main draws to the event is the collection of seminars, forums and master classes put together and headed by industry-leading professionals (some of which will be presented in Cantonese). Along with networking space and an area to socialise at the Show Bar, there is ample opportunity to meet and foster new contacts.

The Chef Masterclass series will explore a variety of cuisines under the instruction of some of the world's most accomplished chefs, including Mango Tsang, executive chef, Chinese cuisine, of the Dynasty Restaurant in Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong.

Hourly demonstrations will "excite, inform and inspire". Situated in the heart of the show, this is the destination event for any chef visiting the expo. The Escoffier Kitchen, sponsored by Disciples Escoffier Hong Kong, will also provide demonstrations, including two chefs simultaneously producing different dishes from the same set of ingredients.

Industry concerns will be dealt with in the Restaurant Business Forum. This series of presentations, discussions and panel debates will look at some of the industry's most pressing issues, including WOM (Word of Mouth) co-founder Fergus Fung discussing the future of the industry with Groupon CEO Danny Yeung and Hong Kong Bar and Club Association vice-chairman Wing Chin. Simon Tam, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, will discuss how to reduce wastage and promote environmentally-friendly establishments.

Wine and other drinks are major components of the expo, and the Wine Tasting Theatre offers participants an opportunity to come to terms with wine under the tutelage of some of the industry's leading experts.

Regional wines will be explored with experts including master of wine Debra Meiburg (Italian), Antonio Silva (California wines), Peter Kwong, Chief Star Sommelier (German) and Nelson Chow of the HK Sommelier Association (Spanish), among others.

The expo will also crown a number of champions in a variety of fields, from the Hong Kong Barista Championship (it is a preliminary event for the World edition) and Hong Kong Siphonist Championship, to the Wine by the Glass awards, the House Wine awards, Sparkling Cocktail Challenge by Perrier and Hong Kong International Beer awards.

The expo takes place alongside complimentary expos, the Asian Seafood Exposition and Frozen Food Asia, meaning participants can make the most of their visit and check out other facets of the industry while visiting the main event.

As is fitting for an event such as the 10th anniversary of this hugely successful series of expos, the 2012 edition will also feature a gala dinner, to be held at the conclusion of the first day.

Seats to this exclusive event are limited and it is advised to book early to be a part of the celebrations.