Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Alternative coffee pods for Nespresso machines

Just some information I found out, that you might be interested to hear.
Found out that the patent on Nespresso machine pods ran out about a year ago, so you can now find alternative Nespresso compatible pods available. Always great to have more options for the one machine! Been sampling Tripod Coffee's pods lately at home (Black Panama, Grey Gaucho, Red Fedora) - Black Panama is probably my favorite so far. ‪#‎coolbeans‬ 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wrapping up 2015

I don't post about difficulty often. It is very private, and I think it's weird to share on social media. But here goes.

Despite what shows on the surface, having my shit together... It's been an extremely challenging 1.5 years, comprising mental hurdles and tough periods that made me doubt my strength. But then I learned the real value of relationships... the friends and family whom you can share your burdens with, unconditionally too, once you accept that you have vulnerabilities. There are people with such great big hearts, strong characters, with giving natures, without an ounce of ulterior motive whom I'm so lucky to have and look up to. It can be hard to truly realize these people until times get rough.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes from the most unexpected of people. I'm closing 2015 with so much love and appreciation for these folks. My mom, Adam & May, Zenos, Fia, Rika, Norman, my brothers, and others. Even my toughass Dad (he can put Gordon Ramsay's bellowing to shame).

The last half year has been amazing and hugely challenging, but in a progressively positive way that has been setting up for what I expect to be a huge 2016. I can barely contain my excitement for all the projects that are being lined up, readying for launch! That's why I'm in Singapore this Christmas. I'm working this holiday — if you can even call it that. Let's call it building.

I'm building.

TL;DR version ➡ The power of planning forward and thinking positive is immense. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

[Video] What's in my mouth Challenge with Wah!Banana

Featuring Fish and Chrysan from Wah Banana.
Location: Lokkee (Plaza Singapura, Singapore)
Directed by Victoria Cheng
Filming by MLC Productions

What should we feed our next guests?
Gastronommy's blind taste test challenge! Victoria feeds Fish and Chrysan of Wah!Banana some items on behalf of Night Owl Cinematics and JinnyBoyTV. 

Instagram @victoriacheng

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

[Esquire] Death of the Food Critic

For Esquire's December 2015 Food issue, I've written a piece on the craft of food critiquing and how it has changed with the influx of food bloggers. Has the proliferation of food bloggers and Yelp-type reviewers diminished the "power" of the traditional food critic? Included in this piece are opinions by my friends Amy Van (food editor, cookbook author, and food stylist, Singapore), André Terrail (La Tour D'Argent, France), Norman Hartono (Tunglok Group, Singapore), Celine Asril (food writer, Singapore), Cheryl Tiu (editor, Philippines), Kenny Leong (wine critic). 

ESQUIRE - A Thousand Words by Victoria Cheng
Death of the Food Critic - December 2015

In my head, I could see the beginnings of a joke set up.
"A dining critic for the paper, a French restaurateur, and a food blogger walk into a bar..."

I have to inhale slowly, the air is so thick, it catches in my throat. It's a lazy languid evening. The haze is dense, hovering like low cobwebs along the street lit Mohamed Sultan Road. Pen in mouth, notebook in hand, I'm reflecting on the conversations about restaurant critiquing I've had with close restaurateur and media friends over the week. I can imagine the five of us sitting here on the wicker armchairs, wine or whisky in hand, opining about the value of a food critic.

Has the proliferation of food bloggers and Yelp-type reviewers diminished the "power" of the traditional food critic? I would ask everyone earnestly albeit pompously tilting a freshly poured dram.

"To some extent, but food critics are far from extinct," his enunciation is French, but not insufferable like the Steve Martin rendition of Pink Panther's exaggerated French; instead, his diction is punctured with crisp European English tones.

"The traditional food critic's knowledge of food, trends, and most importantly products is much appreciated by some readers who ultimately 'select' the food critic they will read," continues André Terrail, who in recent years inherited from his father, Paris' oldest and finest French restaurant, La Tour D'Argent.

After adjusting his Los Angeles cap in contemplation, Norman Hartono, a general manager in Singapore's largest leading Chinese restaurant group, TungLok, would then part with some interesting insight, "The truth is, to restaurant operators, the words of food writers for publications bear more weight than a blogger who became famous overnight. Professional writers are trained, they are experts in this field."

"Blogs are more popular, but not necessarily more credible," Amy Van would solemnly add. She was formerly my editor and mentor at Appetite magazine. She would unquestionably be drinking vino in my invented scenario.

But isn't popularity a form of power, I ask.  She continues to explain that online search is the main source of reviews for an average person. But since there's no filter for who can enter the business of critiquing anymore, bloggers come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Indeed, popularity is about high viewership, even without legitimate content. It unfortunately means there's greater critique power by those who aren't responsible with their words.

"But there are some bloggers who work hard on their craft, some who are or were even journalists before," Norman would say pointedly at myself and Cheryl Tiu, one of the Philippines' most renowned food journalists who has also started a blog in recent times. Similar in age and disposition towards social media, she would be sitting next to me, and probably tweeted a few times together during this conversation. "The pros is that food critics-turned-bloggers can report their analysis straight from the gut onto Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, instead of going through a vetting process by an editor; but the con is that these tend to have less depth, less detailed perspective that correspond to the actual restaurant experience," André counters.

Celine Asril, an articulate Singapore-based food writer disagrees, "I don't think self-proclaimed critics have diminished the power of traditional critics, instead I think they've made traditional critics a breed that is more elusive." Celine is a rare specimen in the writing industry herself, opting to remain as anonymous as possible in order to avoid the inevitible special treatment if she is easily recognized.

André rationalizes, "Very few remain critics remain anonymous, because it's hard to maintain and it's expensive. It's a shame, because it's the only way to remain totally objective."

...While others trumpet their presence for self-important privileges. There have been well-known cases, such as a former S. Pellegrino Best Restaurant panelist and now chairperson who printed her critic title on heavily distributed business cards (article); and bloggers who demand complimentary meals, or else (article).  It's important to make a distinction between self-entitled posers and those who are asking for a favor, the two restaurateurs agree. "Official reviews should be kept objective, but for special occasions, I actually encourage not just writers, but any customer to feel free to make requests for an exceptional experience. Good hospitality extends to every single person who walks through the door," clarifies Norman.

I admire Miss Asril's integrity, having observed her efforts over the years to keep her relationships with restaurant owners at a professional distance, in order to keep her writing as objective as an opinion piece can be. It reminds me of the last generation of great food critics such as Frank Bruni or Ruth Reichl, some of whom have gone almost comical lengths to keep their identities hidden. Elusive breed, indeed.

The irony of the topic isn't lost on me either, as a food journalist turned media presenter. In light of an increasing public presence, I've moved on from restaurant reviewing to sharing the stories behind the industry instead--like the one you're reading one right now. It sits on my conscience better, and I do find these angles more fascinating.

"I used to correct people when they would call me blogger, as I was publisher, editor and journalist, who happens to have a blog," says the petite Chinese-Filipina, nearly echoing my own thoughts, "But you know what today, I realize, some of them don't even really know the distinction between writer/editor/blogger, and the mislabeling is sometimes out of ignorance or innocence." It's starting to not matter anymore.

Even some of the fiercely old school critics have adjusted with the times. François Simon, France's acerbic food critic whom some compare to the character of Anton Ego in the 2007 animated film Ratatouille, expanded his media repertoire with a vlog series. The Straits Times food critic, Wong Ah Yoke's photo is published above his columns. Some might argue in this day of mean-spirited keyboard jockeys and trolls, showing your identity also enforces accountability for your words.

"What reviewers don't realize is that their thoughtless 1-star criticism that was actually caused from having some personal issues before they arrived, rather than a seriously bad experience caused by the restaurant itself, can cost someone their job, their livelihood--they have no idea how stressed how a restaurant gets over one review that these people took 5 minutes to carelessly churn out." vents Norman.

How about the bloggers who make you pay for an appearance and a review--not even being listed as an advertorial-- it is a paid "objective review"? I'd ask while refilling glasses.  It is now time to bring up the inevitable name for Asia's best or infamously known food blogger, Brad Lau of Ladyironchef. There's mixed reception to the mere mention of his name. Some maintain that his first big push to popular viewership is the fiasco a few years ago, when he allegedly made a "do-you-know-who-I-am" type statement to a waitstaff who explained that their complimentary meal was for two persons, not four (article by Yahoo, article by Camemberu).

"I didn't even know that was possible to charge for a review!" The Paris-based André seems amused that such a transaction exists.  He's also drinking wine, a chilled Sancerre, most likely.

"Maybe we should all just become food bloggers," Amy laments jokingly at first, before confiding seriously, "I could be jaded, but it isn't so different than magazines these days." She's talking about the unofficial expectation of editorial writers to mention advertisers; in the era of dying print magazines and low budgets, sales teams are pressuring editorial staff to write positive reviews for customers. For those of us who are a little old school about editorial ethics, I can tell you it feels like a part of ourself dies each time we buckled under the pressure.

Norman then surprises some of us, frankly stating that he values opinions from certain bloggers such as Ladyironchef, who isn't favored by many of Singapore's restaurant brand managers, "At our restaurant Lokkee, Brad gave a lot of great suggestions with the direction we should go in, and offered ideas for dishes inspired by food he saw in Hong Kong."

Go on, we're listening.

"We travel to get new ideas and concepts, and his job is to travel and discover new ideas and concepts. When he shares his opinion with us, it's helpful."

Amy then elaborates, if you're taking payment or are highly popular, it's a responsibility to educate yourself on food and writing, to provide an informed and preferably objective statement. Considering this point, it could be said that many "professional" food writers in Singapore, even from food publications, are not reliable as critics.

We know by now, it is anyone with influence's responsibility to both readers and to the subject to know your craft, to research before reporting. One of our five finally states candidly, "The truth is, there's no place for food writers in Singapore. There's no demand to read magazines, it's all digital now with sensationalist headers or listings. Quality writing isn't motivated. There's no trained food critic with a chef background anymore, they're rare."

Celine astutely concludes, "The food writing scene has changed - as writers and journalists, our nature is to adapt. Standards have changed, but it boils down to who the writer feels they're responsible to: their clients, readers, or themselves."

Perhaps the proliferation of self-styled critics isn't such a bad thing for the dining landscape as a whole. As everyone fights harder to be heard above the cacophony, nature has a way of weeding out the good from the bad.

Now, about that punchline, "A dining critic for the paper, a French restaurateur, and a food blogger walk into a bar..."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Spartan Race Singapore #TeamUbuntu

Spartan Race completed! Don't judge a book by its cover. There's a toughness behind these layers built from fluffy choux pastries and chewy chocolate chip cookies. It's important to specialize and do something well, but it's equally important to keep your interests open and varied.

As team captain (this is funny, because everyone on my team is fitter than me), we named our team Ubuntu, which in Xhosa roughly translates to "I am, because we are." We came out of Spartan Race bruised and battered, but all the more bonded because of it.

A video from my GoPro of the Spartan Race (SPRINT) 15 November 2015

So proud of our team!  A lot of last minute drop outs and last minute replacements (Kevin spur of the moment joined literally 20 minutes before the race started!!!), and most of us didn't have time to train over the month leading up to this race. Team members: Norman Hartono, Izzuddin Tahir, Caryn Cheah, Karen Heng, Kevin Ou, Xindi Siau, Khid Khairudin, Adam Rose, Steve Thoi, Victoria Cheng

 And before the race...
Made some brioche french toast, eggs, bacon, caramelized bananas for myself and Adam!

Thanks for sending our team FRESH coconut water before the race, COCOLOCO! Hands down my favorite coconut water ever. Unpasteurized, and so fresh from the coconut, it expires 2-3 days. The clarity and flavors are amazing.

Backtracking a little more, here's what we had the night before Spartan Race!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Beating Records: Chili Padi Challenge for

Pledging support online for the #XtheHaze campaign adds your voice to a growing movement of consumers who demand that our favourite brands start sourcing only from palm oil suppliers which do not cause the haze.

I think it says something that the haze affected me far worse than 10 chilis did. Because of the haze, I got sick with the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia over the course of two months, in addition to triggering my asthma. The chili just gave me a slightly runny nose... potentially runny poo, but that hasn't happened yet.

See the FULL live streaming video on WillyFoo Live Studio's Page
On the video I nominated Alex Turnbull, DJ/Producer ATRAN (Alex Tran) and Fish (Matthew Stewart) of Wah!Banana.

For I took the HIAM Challenge: eating chilli padi! When challenged, I get competitive and nervously proposed that I try breaking the previous record (6 chilis in a row). I ended up eating TEN without breaking a sweat. I had no idea my body could do that, I was honestly wary about eating even one. Thanks for the spicy genes, mom. Won't lie, I'm kinda proud of tonight's completed mission.

About the Hiam Challenge: Hiam means spicy in Hokkien
The idea is to ‘fight fire with fire’ - when your eyes tear and nose run.. you’re reminded of what happens when PSI hits very high levels
This is part of the “X the Haze” campaign by WWF, People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze) and Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)

About the “X the Haze” campaign: What can ordinary citizens do to fight the haze?

There is currently no consumer demand for “haze-free” palm oil.
Palm oil is used in about 50% of everyday products found on supermarket shelves - e.g. lipstick, ice-cream, biscuits, toothpaste, detergent… Unsustainable, haze-causing, palm oil has become the accepted ingredient in many of these products. Restaurants, bakeries, food manufacturers, etc. do not use sustainable palm oil because there is no consumer demand.

Pledging support online for the #XtheHaze campaign adds your voice to a growing movement of consumers who demand that our favourite brands start sourcing only from palm oil suppliers which do not cause the haze.

Palm oil plantations will then automatically respond to meet this demand - this is how we can fix the haze problem once and for all! Sign the pledge!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Social Media Lies

"You decide to take money for a dress? That's your choice. You decide to spend hours taking the right photo? That's your choice. You decide to live a life that you feel is a lie? That is absolutely your choice."

Nailed it. Social media is what you make it. Don't blame the degradation of your own values on social media/celebrity/the industry etc. It's a tool to communicate, and it's up to you how and what you use it for, whether it's to feed your insecurities, mess around, bolster a business, or share ideas.

I like how he points out that you should take ownership for your actions if you choose to go down that path. No one is forcing you to fake it on instagram, and there are many others who've found 'success' on instagram without sacrificing truth.

Ultimately, he and her are conveying the same conclusion. She gave into the allure of social media celebrity and the pressures of putting out the perfect photos for the likes and validation. She didn't like what it did to her, and is now using social media to communicate her new message (that it is not as picture perfect as it seems). It's the same way some celebs speak out against the nature of magazines - photoshopped photos, near anorexic diets, hours of styling - to look picture perfect for the masses.

It is still YOUR CHOICE how you choose to portray yourself. You can give into the system (and sometimes your values with it), or you can do/post what you think is right. Social media is what you make of it. It's supposed to be a tool, or you can let it consume you.

Let me be clear, that I don't have anything against people who decide to carefully curate picture perfect moments for their instagram. It takes a lot of effort. In fact, I prefer those over social media accounts that air out dirty laundry or try to garner sympathy points.

Original post: 
Essena O’Neill is wrong; Social Media isn't a lie.
Social Media can be whatever the user desires it to be. Allowing yourself to become pressured into a false life that you're uncomfortable with is the result of your own actions and intent. The inability to define yourself, your life, your own sense of confidence comes from a lack of trying to understand yourself.

Blaming Social Media, calling it a lie, further shows your lack of attempt to understand yourself. Yes, deleting your Social Media is a step in the right direction. Disowning personal responsibility for your own happiness and shifting the blame is a step backwards.

I, and many others, have found a greater understanding of ourselves through our Social Media careers. The ability to explore unlimited opportunities, to create what our hearts desire, to speak with our own true voices. We found ourselves through Social Media because we made that choice to do so.

You decide to take money for a dress? That's your choice. You decide to spend hours taking the right photo? That's your choice. You decide to live a life that you feel is a lie? That is absolutely your choice.

Deciding to use Social Media as a tool to tell people Social Media is a lie contradicts that very same notion. Social Media is there to be used for the truth or for the lies. Essena O'Neil needs to find real help instead of redirecting personal responsibility towards mankind's greatest communication tool. I truly hope you do, because Social Media isn't a lie, you were the lie.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Today's tip about food reviewing, by Norman Hartono

"I don't expect everyone to know the ins and out of the industry, and I'm not saying bad reviews shouldn't exist, but that people become more humanized instead of selfish in their reviews (or general customer behavior)."
-Norman Hartono, General Manager of Dancing Crab and Lokkee (Tunglok Restaurants)

[PRESS] Forbes: The Hairy Crab Phenomenon

2 November 2015 by Cheryl Tiu

The Hairy Crab Phenomenon -- And Where To Have It In Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore 

Read Full Article on Forbes

“I like it for the creamy, luxurious texture and flavors but part of me loves the tradition behind it as well,” shares Singapore-based food writer Victoria Cheng. “It’s a precious tradition to sit with my dad at the dinner table, carefully and correctly peeling the crab for each other and savoring every morsel. Likewise with friends, it’s a good bonding experience. We usually end up spending a good three hours over dinner because of the process. It’s nice to do this especially in a culture (Hong Kong and Singapore) notorious for rushed dinners.” Read Full Article on Forbes

Monday, November 2, 2015

[PRESS] Lifestyle Asia: Instagram Me (Victoria Cheng, Gastronommy)

Ah, another round of Instagram Me with Lifestyle Asia!
2 November 2015

Girl-about-town Victoria Cheng is the foodie we go to when we want to learn what’s hot and happening in the city, thanks to her site Gastronommy.
But this past Halloween weekend, she swapped her chef’s apron for a crown and some royal jewels to host the Cointreau x Vanity Halloween Party at Vanity, the new bar at the South Beach Hotel.
With award-winning bartenders from Singapore and Thailand in attendance, and a limited edition Cointreau Blood Orange cocktail available, the night was a wonderland of a time. Told here through Cheng’s eyes throughout the night, it would definitely give Alice herself a run for her money. 
Full article on: Lifestyle Asia 
In collaboration with this event, GrabCar is offering a special promo for Gastronommy readers until 8 November. Use the code COINTREAU8 for $8 off your next ride! (First time GrabCar users only)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday Jams

I was in a Korean restaurant along Tanjong Pagar the other night to hit a serious craving for Seolleongtang, and Shazam'd this song.  I'm digging it.


The New Paper 
Wednesday 28 October 2015 (Singapore)
by Lisa Twang

Article also online at:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chats with an Uber Driver in Singapore

Today's chat with a chatty UberX driver, Sin Choon, in Singapore:
About why he chose to work with Uber over Grabtaxi;
His insistence that I freeze fresh lemon juice in an ice tray, so I can get some vitamin C to help with my cough.
He is pro-government, pro-PAP (that's a first) for the safety standards, work standards, and general living standards of Singapore;
He shared his thoughts on food bloggers and food critics (trust no one);
His thoughts on the local Hong Kong food scene (dai pai dongs don't exist anymore);
To check out the nasi lemak at Changi Village, and that Chinese New Year in Malaysia is more fun than in Singapore. They're more festive and celebrate the tradition with more vigor.

He intermittently quizzes me, sure to name something or somewhere I don't eat: durian.. curry fish head... Chomp Chomp... Geylang... petai beans.... But I eat all. He said I passed the test and can stay in Singapore. "You eat a lot of things ah. You must be in Singapore for the food. I talk to foreigners and they never hear of petai. You can make it here, can get your Permanent Residence already."
Damn straight.
"You can get it easily, just marry a Singaporean, ha ha!"
Fuck off, one-star rating.

(I'm kidding.  He's kidding too.)

[PRESS] Straits Times, Fit & Fab: Food Writer's Secret to Staying Slim

The Straits Times
Tuesday 27 October 2015 (Singapore)
Online Article:

Victoria Cheng x Cointreau Halloween Cocktail Event

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense." 
Alice in Wonderland

Thank you everyone who joined me at the mid-week Halloween cocktail event in collaboration with Cointreau Blood Orange.  You can find all the photos from my personal camera on my Facebook page.  Other photos will be available on Cointreau, Lifestyle Asia, Büro24/7 Singapore, and Vanity Singapore's page.

Just a couple of photos I have on my phone, camera, and computer...Cointreau Singapore's unique collaboration parties...
Posted by GASTRONOMMY on Friday, October 30, 2015


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