Wendy Chan is no stranger to the world of food trade shows. Her New York-based marketing and consulting firm, Definity Marketing, specializes in business development, strategic planning and event production, but she noticed that something was lacking in many of the trade shows. Chan, an Asian food veteran and co-author of New Asian Cuisine, said it can be difficult for buyers who have not traveled to Asia to know what is good.
She was inspired to produce Asian Feastival, a celebration of the many diverse Asian cuisines in Queens. On Labor Day Monday, feastival-goers enjoyed their day off from work by indulging in regional food and drink, listening in on moderated panel discussions, watching cooking demonstrations and sampling fresh Asian produce from an onsite outdoor farmer’s market.
“I’m into giving people a ‘wow’ factor. My goal is to bring all these experts in the Asian food industry to come together so we can provide an impetus for people to explore,” said Chan. “After this they can be inspired to come back and shop and even cook Asian themselves.”
Even seasoned chefs like Adi Yanuar, who works at a Manhattan sushi restaurant, learned a thing or two at Asian Feastival. Yanuar, who hails from Indonesia, is familiar with many types of Asian cuisine, but he still delighted in tasting different styles of cooking.
“I got some new inspiration for the future,” he said. He pointed out the workshops and demonstrations were also helpful tools. “This is a good experience. I like to teach; maybe it will help me know how to explain better to people.”
Another young Asian man was impressed by the variety of different Asian cuisines available across the borough. Wesley Chen, a Los Angeles native who is attending school in New York, admitted he rarely makes the trek from Brooklyn to Queens even though he knows it’s “where all the real Asian people live.”
Citing Korean restaurant Hahm Ji Bach’s pumpkin slush as one of the most unique things he tried at the event, Chen said, “This is somewhat of an encouragement for me to come out to Queens and eat more locally.”
Chan’s vision to highlight the best of the borough was truly manifested through the diversity of Asian Feastival’s participants and feastival-goers.
“For people who haven’t tasted yak, this is their chance to try it, or to taste Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Burmese food,” said Chan, referring to those cuisines as minorities from the perspective of most people. “We can all learn from and respect other cultures. This is why we are all in America.”
Kristen Saberito, a New York University graduate student enrolled in the college’s Food Studies and Culture program, noted the Asian market is very informative for people like herself who are not of Asian descent. She was fascinated by the demonstrations, but it was the tea salad with its unique blend of peanuts, chilies and tea leaves that captured her attention and taste buds.
She pointed out the admission ticket paid for itself because it allowed her to savor dozens of unique flavors at a minimal cost.
“This is a foodie’s heaven without buying a plane ticket to Hong Kong,” said Saberito, who will be visiting the city in January with her class. “This is probably just a glimpse into the Asian food world but it’s a great introduction. I’ll be excited to recognize some things when I’m over there.”