Michelin star-studded summit in Taiwan serves up mouthwatering cuisine

By James Lo

The second annual International Chefs Summit Asia (ICSA) kicked-off on October 15th at the Taipei Marriott Hotel. Held between October 15 – 18, the event featured eighteen culinary masters currently working throughout Asia. Aside from these well known chefs, the event also received additional star power that boosted attention, with attending chefs holding a total of fourteen Michelin stars between them.

A variety of culinary demonstrations were scheduled for the summit, along with exquisite food and various culinary-related conferences and forums. The most sought-after event was the Chefs’ Forum highlighting exchanges between the culinary dignitaries. Other popular events included a seminar exclusively about desserts.

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International Chefs Summit Asia 2018 (ICSA2018), image source: Taiwan Scene

As the majority of the chefs came from outside of Taiwan, MyTaiwanTour had the privilege of organizing various tours and trips introducing visiting chefs to the unique and diverse culinary styles found throughout the island.

Following these tours, Taiwan Scene sat down with two of the participating Michelin-star chefs, Italian Umberto Bombana and Taiwanese Kai Ho.

Michelin three-star King of White Truffles leads with profound culinary philosophy

Born in Clusone, Italy in 1963, Chef Umberto Bombana is known within the culinary world as the undisputed King of White Truffles as well as the Worldwide Ambassador of the White Truffle (a title appointed to him by the Piedmontese Regional Enoteca Cavour).

According to Bombana, his foray into the world of culinary arts began with a childhood fascination with local cuisine. (Read more: Eight Great Taipei Hole-in-the-wall eateries)

Growing up, I was constantly sampling the dishes made by my grandmother, and I always observed her her meticulous preparation process,

said chef Bombana.

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Interview with chef Umberto Bombana, image source: Taiwan Scene

Since Clusone is around 100km from Milan, the area was a popular weekend retreat for city folks. As a result, the town is renowned for its hotel management programs. It was in one of these schools that Bombana solidified the fascination for food inspired by his grandmother, exploring further the profound complexity of cuisines and the joy created by the art.

After graduation, it was only natural that Clusone decided to pursue a full time career as a chef. His journey eventually led him to apprentice with acclaimed chef Ezio Santin, under whose mentorship Bombana would became a culinary master in his own right.

Careers in Asia & culinary philosophy

Bombana’s HK restaurant, the 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, is the first Italian restaurant to receive the Michelin three-star accolade outside of Italy, serving as proof of the chef’s achievements. His success has also enabled him to expand his Otto e Mezzo brand to Macau and Shanghai, as well as opening the Opera Bombana in Beijing and the Octavium, his second eatery in Hong Kong.

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Interview with chef Umberto Bombana, image source: Taiwan Scene

The chef calls Octavium “My personal lab, where I am free to experiment and express my personal culinary philosophies.”

“I believe the most important aspects of a successful restaurant, are the pleasure of the guests and the support of the team,” says Bombana.

“The team is the most important element. One of my restaurants has sixty team members, so from the dishwasher to the receptionist, everyone is focused on working together to keep the guests satisfied.”

Having worked in Asia since the early 90s, Chef Bombana says he enjoys incorporating Asian spices to his Italian cuisines. (Experience Taiwanese food culture at the traditional Market by joining MyTaiwanTour’s Market Tour & Cooking Class)

But according to the chef, there are fundamental differences between Asian and Western cuisines.

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Interview with chef Umberto Bombana, image source: Taiwan Scene

Observation of Asian cuisine

“I love Asian cuisine. I like the expression of the people, culture and tradition.” The chef told Taiwan Scene. “While European cuisine tends to focus on one main element, Asian cuisine is more about spices and tradition. I’m continually surprised by the technique and tradition that goes into Asian cuisine.” 

Bombana’s masterful technique in presenting the best flavors of Italian cuisine was a main attraction for attendees, who lined up for the chance to sample the chef’s creations.

“To me, cuisine is more than mere sustenance,” said the chef. “It’s also about pleasure.”

Continue reading: Taïrroir,  New Michelin star of Taiwan blends Chinese cuisine with western aesthetics