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The Fun Gambit
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As a dance routine, it looked slightly chaotic, with many things going on at once and performers not quite in tune with each other, or The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men. But as a gambit, it worked to bring a lighthearted tone to the world of fine dining. That is the appeal of the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF), which aims to introduce fine dining to a wider, more disparate audience, and this was fully mirrored by the Media Launch at Centre Court, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, on 13 September.

Things started as early as 8am, with Master Chefs from MIGF’s 28 participating restaurants and student chefs from BERJAYA University College of Hospitality gathering for their rehearsal. With a total strength of 150-odd bodies in chefs’ whites and hats – plus a few in chefs’ “blacks” – it was a team effort in coordination and timing to choreograph the moves as a whole. From the cue at the 3.30pm launch – the pulling of the ribbon by Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day and Guest of Honour Dato’ Dr Ong Hong Peng, Tourism Ministry Secretary-General – a group of students rushed down from the Bukit Bintang entrance to position themselves on the Spanish Steps, while there was also a body of movement towards Centre Court, in front of the stage. Also, the Master Chefs got busy getting into position, setting up and decorating the serving trays, and plating their signature dishes, for the big reveal – all in the four minutes it took the song to play.

The grand design of the launch, from the team at AsiaReach Events, managed to puzzle passers-by and assembled guests and media – “Why are there so many chefs around?” – and then wow them. From dropped jaws to a hearty applause, the launch gambit – complete with red, white and black umbrellas to mark the theme, “It’s Raining Chefs!” – received a warm response from the audience.

Overheard were snippets of comments, including “wow, there’s so many of them”, “how cute” and “who came up with this crazy idea?” Director of Berjaya UCH, Jochen Kern, who proudly led his students, commented, “This is the fifth year that I am involved in MIGF. This is a fantastic event that in previous years witnessed helicopters flying in and people jumping off towers. This year, It’s Raining Chefs!”

Datin Suriani Abdul Rahman, PR Manager of The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, one of the hotels taking part in MIGF 2011, said it was an impressive gambit to attract people’s attention to the Festival. And indeed, the launch did that in spades.

Cheryl Lum, Director of Communications at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, another MIGF participant, said: “I think the performance was well executed and is an excellent way to garner attention for the event. With social media, the video will be distributed and shared by all, which gives MIGF a lot of exposure.”

There was also a buzz of interest created among passers-by. PR consultant Sharani Shanmugam said she was on her way back to work when she saw a group of chefs standing at a corner holding umbrellas (and this was a bright, sunny day). “I was curious, so I stopped to have a look. Next thing I knew, there was music and these chefs started dancing. And more of them started appearing from different corners! Amazing! I’m in the PR line and I can honestly say this was a great way to get people interested. It certainly got me interested!”

“I’ve never heard of this festival before. I’m here in Malaysia with my family to visit friends and family and now that I’ve seen the performance by all the chefs, I am tempted to find out more,” said Daniel Goh from Australia. “The food on display looks really good too!”

The launch also impressed Jeanette Cole, from England, who said: “If the organisers wanted to get attention, then they did a good job. Look at the crowd! It’s funny and entertaining to see so many chefs all dressed up, dancing with umbrellas! Good job, good job! Unfortunately, I will be leaving the country next week, so I won’t be able to enjoy the special menus offered by the restaurants. But I would love to come back next year to experience it.”

And among those who already have experience of MIGF, the launch just made it all the more interesting. Nikola Hassan, Senior Marketing Manager of Kuala Lumpur Pavilion Sdn Bhd, said, “I love MIGF and look forward to the restaurants’ new highlights so I can tour around and try things. It’s exciting and I am planning which restaurants to visit with my friends.”

Rebecca Saw, a blogger and self-confessed glutton, said, “MIGF is a great avenue to taste fine dining at a new level with that extra touch, new ways of cooking that are exotic. Last year, I saved up to visit three restaurants.”

Also hyping up the excitement at the Media Launch were the brass band from SMK Cochrane, which were kept busy drumming up interest in the proceedings, and FUJIFILM Malaysia, with three photo printers, on which the participants could immediately print out their snapshots for free.

So, if you think the Media Launch was cool, wait till you see the perfect culinary storm being cooked up by the MIGF Master Chefs for your dining pleasure this October.