Mouthing Off
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Hotel buffet breakfasts waste food and are terrible for the environment – but I love them

The abundance, the greed, the bowls of lettuce leaves no one will ever touch – lavish five-star hotel buffet breakfasts are symptomatic of many ways we are destroying the planet, but for Andrew Sun, they’re holiday hedonism

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 7:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 6:37pm

A colleague of mine recently wrote an article about her hotel dislikes. As a conscientious person concerned about the environment and social action, she railed against hotel breakfasts.

In particular, she was talking about those lavish spreads stocked with endless choices from different cuisines which snake around long counters making your eyes bulge faster than your stomach – which we Asians especially seem to love. According to my friend, these morning excesses create enormous wastage and are symptomatic of other ways we are destroying the planet.

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She does have a point. The abundance, the greed, the bowls of lettuce leaves no one will ever touch (because who is stupid enough to pay five-star hotel prices to eat boring salads for breakfast?) can be quite obscene.

I’ll apologise to my eco-sensitive friend now because these breakfast indulgences are one of my guilty pleasures.

My morning gorge might be bad for Mother Earth, but I can’t deny enjoying it as holiday hedonism. Some people like to sleep in and chill on vacations. I am up at the crack of dawn fiending for food. And I love it. It’s actually the only time I look forward to breakfast.

At home, I rarely cook in the morning because I’m too busy or I’d rather sleep. Instead, I grab something simple like fruit, a piece of toast, congee, or yogurt and museli. Occasionally, I’ll purposely over-order pizza the night before so there are leftovers for the morning.

The joy of a buffet feast is the chance to make the most of the most important meal of the day. We’ve all been told overeating at night is an easy way to put on weight. A big lunch makes you drowsy the rest of the afternoon. Breakfast is just the right meal to act gluttonous.

I think the problem is customers who pile their plates high then don’t finish everything. I never do that

Trading in my usual cereal minimalism, I fuel up, feasting on hashbrowns and sausages, dim sum and noodles, a packet of nasi lemak and some roti canai, and eggs galore, challenging the cook to prepare them in as many ways as he can. If it’s a classy hotel, there might even be sashimi. Why not. They eat it at 5am in the Tsukiji market. Why not 8.30am next to fried noodles?

Same goes for Indian curry. Some Hongkongers couldn’t imagine masala lamb, dal makhani and tandoori chicken in the morning. At a South Asian resort, I go for it. When in Rome, you know.

What I can’t understand are vacationers who won’t try any new food items at such buffets. I roll my eyes when I see a gorgeous spread of Mediterranean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian dishes, and the Boris Johnson lookalike next to me loads up on toast and baked beans. Now that’s wastage!

I realise that buffets often bin a lot of food. However, smart operators do know how to upcycle much of the items. Today’s leftover smoked salmon is in tomorrow’s seafood quiche. I think the problem is customers who pile their plates high then don’t finish everything. I never do that. I wipe my plates clean, usually with a roti.

My well-meaning colleague considers buffets a vice, but I contend they are no more ecologically criminal than taking a hotel bath every day during your stay, drinking artisan latte brewed with airfreighted beans, or buying a new pair of microfibre yoga pants.

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When my holiday is over, I go back to my spartan breakfast of a Nature Valley bar and some sad looking grapes from a plastic bowl.