In the late nineties, a series of light-hearted restaurant reviews – called ‘The Gourmet Club’ – appeared in Vision KL, the capital’s leading City Lifestyle Magazine. Selected premium dining restaurants were challenged to create “the most imaginative dining experience possible for a small, eclectic group of celebrity diners”.
Seeing the immediate publicity, a number of restaurants approached Vision KL to see what could be done to create long-term interest for the scene. It is hard to imagine now, but little more than a decade ago there were barely a dozen international restaurants of note in KL – with most being loss leaders in 5-star hotels. To grow, premium dining had to appeal to a lot more people. From there, the idea to create an annual gourmet festival was born.
The team at AsiaReach Events decided on a unique format – a full Festival month during which each restaurant would serve its own specially-created Festival Menu at a special price along with a slew of special offers. Local resident chefs would be promoted as the stars of the show. Festival magazines and TV commercials would spread the message far and wide, while a glittering Gala Launch, to which the city’s movers and shakers would be invited, would provide widespread local and global publicity.
In September 2001, the inaugural KL Gourmet Festival (KLGF) made its debut with 13 restaurants participating. The unique set menu approach was an immediate hit – especially with diners trying new types of cuisine for the first time. The Festival sparked a lot of media interest and a greater appreciation of our locally-resident chefs. In 2003, KLGF became the KL International Gourmet Festival (KLIGF) and then in 2006, the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF), enabling restaurants from all over the country to participate.
Over the years, the Festival has grown from strength to strength along with a newly-invigorated dining scene. Credit card companies developed dining programmes, and mini-festivals mirroring the Festival format sprang up throughout the country. Seeing all the publicity and business generated, more and more entrepreneurs have invested in the sector, creating an exciting array of new restaurants and a wider variety of local and international cuisines.
In 2013 a spectacular Festival preview event, Taste MIGF was introduced with Festival restaurants gathering in a specially created Theatre of Cuisines. Created to appeal to international tourists and locals alike, food lovers from the general public are able to go on a Super Gourmet Safari around the Festival Restaurants, using Gastro Dollars to exchange for bite-sized sampling portions from each menu. The event also offers informative workshops and showcases luxury gourmet products. For more information go to Taste MIGF.
Running next to the Theatre of Cuisines, the Epicure International Gourmet Village features stations including its own fair share of delectable gastronomy on which to feast. Items on offer include fine wines, local delicacies, coffees, cigars, cheeses and gourmet nuts to name a few.
The Luxury Plus Showcase includes a raft of upscale exhibitors, such as purveyors of fine art, high-end supermarkets, renowned perfume houses, silverware manufacturers and many more.
Debuting this year is Taste of Malaysia, where visitors can savour delicacies from around the nation. Fare that is unique to each state will be on offer; for tourists and locals alike, this is the perfect opportunity to taste Malaysia’s diverse culinary traditions.
Epicure Lifestyle Workshops and Master Chefs’ Cooking Classes have always been a big draw with the general public. These run throughout the whole event, conducted by some of the Festival Master Chefs and other top industry professionals who passionately share their experiences.
Touted as the hottest fashion party of the year, Style Rocks! is a celebration of two of life’s best loved things; delicious food and chic clothing! Held in conjunction with the Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival, the event is jointly hosted by The Melium Group and the Vision Four Media Group. Each year the party is held at one of the city’s hippest hangouts and is attended by KL’s social elite who come dressed in high fashion.
18 years on since the inaugural edition of the Festival, Malaysia’s dining scene has continued to prosper. Where once the local dining scene sat on two extremes of hawker food and fine dining with very little in between, Malaysia is now a truly ideal foodie’s destination with a comprehensive international selection blurring those lines. Service standards and the quality of food have risen accordingly across the industry and today, Malaysia enjoys a unique place in the hearts of many international diners.
With all the familiar elements that have made MIGF a success over the years still in place, such as enticing Festival Menus, Festival Master Chefs and, of course, the popular Taste MIGF, the rebranding reflects the thriving landscape of Malaysia’s dining scene.
The Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival is moving towards the exciting chapter in MIGF’s history as we continue to help stamp Malaysia’s place on the global gastronomy map.
With an eye towards the future, but always with the same standards of excellence, MIGF continues to progress and stay in tune with the industry.