Kita Food Festival Celebrates Southeast Asian Culinary Culture

Kuala Lumpur's Hide restaurant at last year's Kita Food Festival.
Kuala Lumpur’s Hide restaurant at last year’s Kita Food Festival.

If you love eating food, thinking about food, and talking about food, you’ll love the Kita Food Festival which returns to Malaysia and Singapore this year with an exciting line-up of dining events, talks and food celebrations.

The festival will be held from September 27 (Kuching), October 13 to 16 (Penang), October 19 to 23 (Singapore) and October 26 to 30 (Kuala Lumpur). It will feature both Malaysian and renowned international chefs for a series of fine dining and casual dining events, along with two Big Sunday Barbecues and The Great Mezze.

It will also include a series of TED-style talks and symposiums titled Kita Conversations with discussions from chefs, food producers, historians, anthropologists, and food suppliers all talking about what is pertinent to the industry now, such as sustainability, food waste, and how to make a business profitable.                                                                                          

An annual event celebrating Southeast Asian culinary culture, the Kita Food Festival showcases an array of experiences with some of the finest chefs, winemakers and food thinkers from around the globe. The aim is to put a spotlight on Southeast Asia’s emerging food scene and to inspire the next generation of food producers.

Kita Food Festival Canchita and Nouri at Joloko
Canchita and Nouri at Joloko, during the 2022 festival.

The word Kita means ‘us’ or ‘we’ in Malay, appropriate since the festival is all about embracing cultures and bringing food lovers together to enjoy sharing and learning about sustainable food production with the theme “We Are One”.

The Kita Food Festival was founded by three folk who together have more than 50 years of experience in food, festivals, media and business. Malaysian-born chef Darren Teoh is head chef of fine dining restaurant Dewakan in Kuala Lumpur. Australian-born food and travel journalist Leisa Tyler has been based in Asia since 1998 and sat on the board of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 10 years. Malaysian-born Adrian Yap, founder of Tiffin Culinary, hosts pop-up events and food hall Tiffin at the Yard.

Tyler says that following the success of the 2021 and 2022 Kita festivals, they are proud to be back and bigger than ever. “While the 2021 Kita festival was localised due to closed borders, and the 2022 festival featured chefs and speakers from across Southeast Asia, 2023 will cast an even wider net, with chefs, culinary historians and business leaders from across the world,” she said. “(The) festival is in the vanguard for culinary initiative, innovation and thought leadership that puts community and creating a robust and sustainable F&B industry at the centre.”

Kita Food Festival from TravMedia
The Kita Food Festival will feature both Malaysian and renowned international chefs.

Teoh said they hoped Kita Conversations would be a catalyst for a positive conversation around food that wasn’t always discussed in the region. “A lot of the people we are inviting aren’t only good cooks but some of the most original thinkers surrounding food in the world. Kita Conversations is a food and beverage industry-led event, for the industry.”

This year’s guest curator for the Singapore Weekender event is chef Ivan Brehm from the Michelin-starred restaurant Nouri and creative space Appetite in Singapore.  He will be instrumental in bringing together some of the best chefs in the region, as well as showcasing his own talent to guests attending the event.

Another highlight will be Horizons, a free-to-attend mentorship program which is designed to inspire, evolve and broaden the horizons of Malaysia’s next generation of top chefs.  The program will include 12 hand-picked young chefs (under the age of 28 years) who have demonstrated a commitment to their craft.

The Great Mezze is a festival highlight.
The Great Mezze is a festival highlight.

They will be taken on a journey of culinary experiences from masterclasses and study groups with chefs and farm experiences around Malaysia.  Along the way, they will be mentored by some of Kuala Lumpur’s top chefs including Daniel Yap (Gooddam), Gary Anwar (Ember Modern Bistro) and Haznizam Hamzah (W Hotel Kuala Lumpur).

At the end of the program, they’ll cook a specially prepared dinner for invited VIP guests using mainly proteins, vegetables and grains that are usually considered grade two or surplus, namely food that is often destined only for landfill.

“The Horizons program is very close to our hearts, and together with Kita Conversations, the key reason Darren Teoh and I started Kita Food Festival,” Tyler said. “By giving committed young chefs an opportunity to experience ethical farms and manufacturers first-hand, plus giving them one on one time with senior chefs, we can not only sharpen their skills and open them up to new opportunities but support the type of producers that will take Malaysia’s food and beverage industry to the next level.”

The Horizons program gives young chefs an opportunity to experience ethical farms and manufacturers first-hand.
The Horizons program gives young chefs an opportunity to experience ethical farms and manufacturers first-hand.

Among the Kita Food Festival events on offer:

Kuching: Roots Bistronomy with Chef Anthony Yeoh (Summer Hill, Singapore) and Chef John Lim (Roots Bistronomy) casual dining event on September 27.

Penang: The Great Mezze on October 15 brings together eight lauded chefs, two to a counter, working over open flames with Malaysia’s finest produce in the courtyard of China House in Penang.  The event will feature an internationally acclaimed mixologist, live music, a DJ, natural wines and a dance floor.  

Singapore: The Singapore Weekender with Chef Ivan Brehm includes fine dining and casual dining events, Big Sunday Barbecue and Kita Conversations 19 to 23 October.

Kuala Lumpur: Fine dining event at one Michelin star restaurant, Dewakan, with chef Darren Teoh along with chef René Stein from Tisane, a one Michelin star restaurant in Germany.

The Big Sunday Barbecue at Tiffin at the Yard in Kuala Lumpur on October 29 is an event not to be missed.  A coterie of some of the region’s best grill masters will join forces to open flame grill meat, seafood and vegetables – all with a ‘zero-waste’ approach to turn ‘ugly’ food into beautiful creations.

Kita Conversations: This ongoing dialogue on all things food including its production, history and consumption in southeast Asia will include speakers such as David Thompson. Tickets for each event will go on sale in early August.

For more information about the Kita Food Festival and to stay up to date with news and upcoming events, visit the festival website.


Leave a Reply