Diner’s Diary

This smells fishy: cook-off for Hong Kong food truck licences a closed event

Contest to whittle 51 applicants for city’s first food truck licences down to 16 won’t be open to media, the judges’ names are a secret, and we won’t even get to sample winning dishes. What are they afraid of?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 5:18pm

On Tuesday July 26, the 51 applicants for Hong Kong’s first food truck licences will put their culinary skills on the line as they prepare their signature dishes in a cook-off at the Chinese Culinary Institute in Pok Fu Lam.

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Given the high profile of the scheme, first proposed by Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, you might think the government would be keen to publicise this event. But no. When I asked the Tourism Commission if I could attend the cook-off, I was told it was a closed-door event and no media representatives would be invited to witness it. Tourism officials also refused to divulge the names of those judging the contest to avoid any risk of favouritism or of giving some participants an advantage.

So how is the public to know if the contest is conducted in a fair manner? And why aren’t the applicants doing their cooking in food truck kitchens, to simulate what they’ll have to go through if they get a licence? Oh wait, the regulations allowing food trucks haven’t been passed yet.

Having food trucks in Hong Kong is a great idea, but what they serve up must be great fare too

I’m not the only one who thinks this process rather clandestine. Food blogger Gary Suen quipped: “Maybe they are just scared of anything remotely related to a referendum or public opinion, even for trivial matters such as who made the best food truck food.”

While media representatives will be invited to attend a press conference the following day to find out who has won the coveted 16 licences to run food trucks around Hong Kong, reporters still won’t be able to sample the winning dishes, nor will they be able to preview the food when the trucks eventually roll out.

What gives?