Today in conversation, my editor asked me if it was difficult coming from New York to not be openly critical when writing my reviews. Familiar with the unforgiving culinary journalism scene in Manhattan, she was wondering how I felt about writing in Singapore, where most food critics are only neutral at worst.
In addition to the relatively conservative culture here, it's a small town with a tiny industry network in Singapore. Very few are brave enough to step on some toes (there are of course, the overly obnoxious sorts, who go beyond plain honesty and enter the realm of being diva-levels of disrespectful). Answering her question, I feel my biggest dilemma is deciding how to scale the critiques--do I base my experience according to world standards like New York, Paris, Tokyo? Or do I keep it on a local scale: "Yes, it's good... for Singapore."
Over dinner the other day with fellow New Yorker, Notabilia, she pointed out with amusement, "I notice everyone who has lived abroad at some point says that. 'It's not bad... by Singapore standards'." She moved to Singapore just 6 weeks ago.
Singapore is rapidly changing. It's an exciting time. Within just one year, countless chefs of international acclaim are opening up their doors here- Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Tetsuya Wakuda, Guy Savoy, Susur Lee, Santi Santamaria, just to name a few. And while there are still only a small handful of talented homegrown chefs who can keep up with the big boys, programs like the Culinary Institute of America are coming in and the culinary scene here will only continue to get better. Thus, I can only be inclined to compare Singapore restaurants according to world standards. I have great expectations of this mini island country.