Magnificent Muhibah Finale!

In an evening filled with fellowship, healthy competition and goodwill, the 2018 edition of the Malaysia International Gastronomy Festival (MIGF) recently came to a triumphant close at the highly anticipated Awards & Finale Celebration.

Festival Royal Patron Tunku Naquiyuddin ibni Tuanku Ja’afar and Dato’ Steve make their way down the catwalk with Master Chefs on either side

The final, flavoursome course in the month-long food festival embodied the spirit of muhibah – which defines this year’s festival theme – and brought together Master Chefs, restaurant teams, VIPs, the who’s-who of Malaysian society and festival foodies for what could lay claim as the capital’s party-of-the-month.

Held at the uber-trendy restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-bar Ruyi & Lyn, the event was graced by Guest of Honour and long standing Director General of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, a staunch supporter of the Festival since its inception 17 years ago. In that time, MIGF has risen to become the region’s longest-running and most prestigious gastronomy event of its kind, helping to foster an ever more diverse spread of restaurants in Malaysia.

Tunku Kecil Besar Tunku Datuk Mudzaffar Bin Tunku Mustapha, Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, Payal Gautam, Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Tuanku Ja’afar and Datin Seri Raihan Abdul Rahman

Arriving together with MIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day, the two leaders made their way down the red runway of Ruyi and into the sprawling main room – an eclectic mix of contemporary flair and elegance splashed across a cavernous interior.

Awaiting their arrival was a crowd of culinary connoisseurs, Festival Master Chefs and accompanying teams who were ready for part one of the awards ceremony. As Datuk Seri Mirza and Dato’ Steve took to the stage, chefs lined up behind them and came forward to receive some 153 awards that encompassed all aspects of the dining experience.

The golden gongs – MIGF Awards waiting to be given out

Part 1 of the awards ceremony in progress

Besides the hardworking Festival Chefs, participating restaurants are honoured, from the menu and marketing down to the quality of service, best value offers and best use of the Festival theme. Categories include the Judge’s Choice, voted by the Festival Advisory Committee; the People’s Choice, decided by guests at Taste MIGF; and the Diners’ Choice, based on scores obtained from those who attended Publicity Dinners throughout the Festival.

The winners of the People’s Choice for Most Creative Food Presentation at Taste MIGF 2018 – DC Restaurants, Champignons, Hugo’s In The Sky and Nadodi – flanked by Guest of Honour Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab and MIGF Organising Chairman Dato’ Steve Day

A group shot for posterity following the end of the preliminary awards ceremony

Cheers went up and cameras flashed as winners from each category went up to collect their accolades from the Guest of Honour. Among those who devoured awards was forward-thinking Malaysian restaurant Gen, the sensational SukaSucré, the toothsome Tangerine and bastion of fine dining DC Restaurant which collected a whopping 16 awards at this initial ceremony.

As part one of the evening wrapped up, chefs and guests were free and easy, enjoying the delectable canapes created by Chef James Ho and the Ruyi team. Equally as eye-catching as it was tasty, the spread contained nasi lemak sushi, lemongrass lobster skewer, crispy duck roll with hoisin sauce, deep fried crab meat lychee ball, chilled pumpkin cream in shooter glass and much more. Meanwhile, DJ Niza Minx served up a lively mix of upfront house that put the sound system through its paces.

The creation of a multi-coloured muhibah mocktail! 

A rousing toast to a muhibah festival!

It wasn’t long before the next phase of the evening kicked into gear as James Brown’s I Feel Good belted out over the speakers. Festival Royal Patron Tunku Naquiyuddin ibni Tuanku Ja’afar marched down the runway with chefs in tow, receiving a warm welcome from the crowd.

Taking a seat in front of the stage with the Organising Chairman and Guest of Honour, they watched as Chefs took to the stage, this time with colourful cocktail shakers in hand. United as one, chefs invited the VIPs on stage to pour the vibrant liquid contents of each shaker on to a mound of crushed ice. Thus, was created the multi-hued muhibah mocktail from which a collective toast was made under a spray of confetti. With jubilant cheers of muhibah, glasses were raised to celebrate another successful year.

Dato’ Steve welcomes a packed out room to the finale of MIGF

And with that Dato’ Steve made his welcome address, which included his traditional avalanche of alliterative synonyms for the word ‘gourmet’. “Tonight’s awards are for excellence and in my opinion, they are going to the best restaurants in Malaysia,” he said, leading right into the main event of the night – the presentation of MIGF Premier Awards.

Drumming up hype, chefs were once again introduced one by one as they dashed down the runway and back on stage, eager to see who the big winners of the night would be.

DJ Niza Minx spinning up a storm behind the LED DJ booth 

Dato’ Fazley Yaakob of Mamanda and SukaSucre strikes a quick pose as he strolls down the catwalk

This year includes a number of new special distinctions such as the Chef Personality Award, doled out to those individuals who showed an irrepressible muhibah spirit during MIGF2018. Nero Nero’s Chef Giuseppe Lioce, Samplings On The Fourteenth’s Chef Valmurugan Subramaniam, Spice Garden’s Chef Bharat Batra and SukaSucré’s Dato’ Fazley Yaakob each picked up one.

This year’s coveted Chef Congeniality Award, presented to the most admired and amiable Festival Chef as voted by his peers turned out to be the affable Chef Jun Wong of Kikubari, who was enthusiastically applauded by other chefs as she raised her trophy in the air.

Chef Jun Wong of Kikubari picked up the Chef Congeniality Award

The momentum built up as more new awards arrived in the form of the Golden Cauldron Finalists – created due to the overwhelming amount of talent and effort in this year’s line-up. A total of seven finalists were announced and these were eventually whittled down to two; MIGF Gold Awards for both Asian and Western cuisines, recognising those chefs who showed outstanding and inspirational creativity and professionalism throughout the Festival in each respective cuisine, were given to Lai Po Heen and DC Restaurant respectively.

Then the moment that everyone had been waiting for; the Golden Cauldron Award which honoured the Best All-Round Restaurant in MIGF. While all restaurants performed tremendously, there could be only one winner, and that was DC Restaurant. For the second year running, Darren Chin proudly hoisted the sought-after trophy, barely able to conjure up the words to express how he felt.

Chef Ricky Thein of Lai Po Heen and Chef Darren Chin of DC Restaurant picked up the MIGF Gold Awards for Asian and Western Cuisine respectively

The grand winner: DC Restaurant takes back the MIGF Golden Cauldron for best all-round restaurant 

“I honestly wasn’t expecting this and I’m deeply honoured to receive this award again,” said the humble chef, mentioning that he wanted to give others a chance to shine through this year.

“It’s very hard to survive in this industry – to dedicate yourself to gastronomy and to have the kind of self-believe it requires, takes a certain portion of your life. I think it’s very important all restaurateurs, chef owners and chefs need to remember that there is a future for gastronomy in Malaysia and I hope this Festival will continue to create that kind of impetus.”

While the final awards ceremony of the evening came to an official close, the celebrations were far from over as guests let their hair down to party, dance and keep the muhibah spirit alive, well on into the night.

All smiles from Chef Darren

The Mamanda and SukaSucre teams with their trophy haul