Dining Meet Our 2023 Tastemakers Panel

Meet Our 2023 Tastemakers Panel

Meet the T+L Tastemakers Awards 2023 panelists, a diverse ensemble of editors, trusted food writers, enthusiastic eaters and merry drinkers.


By Veronica Inveen Published on Dec 11, 2023, 10:45 AM

Meet Our 2023 Tastemakers Panel

Everyone comes to Asia to eat. Yes, heritage, nature, beautiful traditions and inventive modernity – but, c’mon, really to eat. And the outstanding F&B culture here encompasses all of those facets in delicious spades. It’s one of the top reasons our readers say they country-hop around our region: food quests, hard-to-book restaurants, chefs and bartenders they’ve seen on TV or are hoping to discover. What’s cooking, Asia? Everything! And what better guide to it than your on-the-ground source for insider intel for the past 15 years? That’s T+L, and we can only do it with our amazing network of tuned-in friends and contributors… and this year, our Tastemakers 2023 panelists.

We asked trusted food writers, enthusiastic foodies and merry drinkers for their picks of the best restaurants and bars around the region, and after months of extensive research and deliberation, we nailed a solid inaugural list to guide your foodie travels in Southeast Asia.

Since this ranking is founded on personal encounters, please do not think of it as absolute; nevertheless, we consider it a respectable and exciting overview of present culinary preferences and a reliable gauge of the finest dining and drinking establishments throughout our oh-so-happening region.

Here are our T+L Tastemakers 2023 panelists who gave us their top recommendations for not only where to eat and drink in their home countries, but also the places that have stood out during their travels.

Kee Foong

Freelance writer, traveler and polyglutton who has joyfully eaten his way around the world without necessarily knowing the language of a place. Just as happy with street food and hole-in-the-wall joints as Michelin and World’s 50 Best Restaurants. When in doubt, point and try. @keepicks

Agnes Chee

Agnes Chee is a food columnist residing in Hong Kong. She writes a weekly food column published in Hong Kong Economic Journal and frequently contributes to other publications in China. @yanwei525

Chris Dwyer

I’m a British freelance food and travel writer who has been lucky to enjoy wayyyy too many good meals, from roadside stalls to Michelin-starred temples. @chrismdwyer

Elaine Wong

Elaine is CMO of Tasting Kitchen (TK), Asia’s premier epicurean lifestyle media group. A seasoned brand curator, food and beverage enthusiast and travel connoisseur, Elaine enjoys life as a digital nomad, discovering extraordinary experiences while connecting to cultures and communities around the world in the pursuit of meaning and happiness. She’s mostly in Macau / Hong Kong but is always on the go and ready for spicy noodles or Champagne. @e_for_eat

Jed Doble

After a long stint in banking, Jed transitioned to publishing and is now a highly regarded food writer and publishing professional in Jakarta. Founder of Foodies Media in 2016, Indonesia’s top F&B outlet, he’s dedicated to sharing the pursuit of deliciousness. Jed collaborates with esteemed titles such as Condé Nast Traveler, Time Out Jakarta, SilverKris by Singapore Airlines, and Time Out Singapore. A true food enthusiast, he comfortably enjoys meals at roadside warungs or Michelin-starred establishments. @jed.doble

Aja Ng

From writing menus and reviews to being chef on a private yacht, developing recipes and making content for food networks, to consulting in kitchens and working with restaurants on public relations and marketing, Aja spends much of her work and leisure time researching, planning, analyzing and obsessing over food. Good food equates to pleasure, and she is blessed to be constantly surrounded with nature’s bounty. @aja_ng

Nik Michael Imran

Chef Nik Michael Imran is of Australian-Malaysian heritage and is based in Kuala Lumpur. He grew up under the cooking influence of his chef dad before competing in MasterChef Malaysia in 2011, which ignited a burgeoning career from terrestrial television to regional food channels. Nowadays, he travels the region as a Culinary Advisor for Emborg or cooking at home with his wife and daughter. @nik9_

Monica Tindall

Monica Tindall is the founder and editor of The Yum List, a luxury gourmet travel website based in Malaysia and covering the world. With well over a decade on the job, she has penned more than 5,000 gourmet travel articles, consults internationally for the F&B industry, and is a judge on several industry panels. @theyumlist

Aaron Khor Ching

My passion for food, especially local cuisine, blossomed during family dinners in my modern Peranakan upbringing. Raised in a household blending traditions, my father’s cooking of traditional Peranakan dishes for occasions like Chinese New Year and Christmas was a cornerstone. We embraced diverse culinary cultures at our table, not necessarily fusion but a respectful coexistence of traditional styles. This inclusivity is what I adore about food—it transcends boundaries. I pursued a culinary career at KDU University College in Malaysia, worked at Restaurant Locavore and Dewakan, and now own Fifty Tales, where I celebrate our rich local culture through food. Living in a culturally diverse country fuels my culinary exploration, connecting the past with exciting new tastes. @aarondotk

Alison Christ

Christ, Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, hails from New York with a long stint in Washington, D.C. After leaving America in 2012, Christ spent five years in Hong Kong working as a natural wine spokesperson, sommelier and consultant. In 2017, she relocated to Malaysia where she continues her passion for organic wine. Alison curates innovative, fun and inspiring experiences and blind tastings. In 2022, Alison founded Cheong Somm Wine Bar in Penang. @christthesomm

Jin Perez-Go

Jin Perez-Go is food and travel content creator and is behind one of Manila’s most followed social media accounts, Jin Loves to Eat, where she documents her meals and travels around the globe. She loves exploring new cities, discovering new flavors, and is constantly seeking the next gastronomic adventure. She has been a constant figure in the Philippine dining scene for over a decade. A respected foodie among peers, Jin keeps her followers satiated with her honest reviews, recommendations, and food advice. @jinlovestoeat

Grace Ma

I’ve been covering the latest trends and interviewing trailblazers in the lifestyle, travel and dining arenas for more than 15 years. While discovering the most exciting dining spots around the world and picking the most brilliant culinary minds on their inspirations are my motivation, what comforts my stomach and soul is a piping hot bowl of minced pork noodles slathered in vinegar and chili. @littlehappyideas

Daniel Goh

Daniel Goh is editor of SpiritedSingapore.com, an online publication covering the drinks and dining scene in Singapore. Daniel is a Certified Specialist of Wine, a French Wine Scholar, and a Whisky Ambassador. @danielgoh

Nimmi Malhotra

I am a wine writer and judge based in Singapore. I also specialize in bar culture, gastronomy, and travel and work with a number of magazines and online platforms including Channel News Asia Luxury, The Peak, and the Drinks Business. I hold a WSET Diploma and a master’s in marketing from Monash University, Australia. @nimmimalhotra.wine

Sarah Huang Benjamin

Sarah is a culinary creative and chef based in Singapore and KL. Her recipes and content showcase modern, approachable ways to recreate flavors from across Asia. With a background in sociology and heritage research, Sarah believes that food is a vehicle for storytelling, and that beyond just delicious food, eating and cooking are ways of understanding other people and cultures. Sarah has previously hosted cooking shows on the Asian Food Network and elsewhere. @sarahhuangbenjamin

Christian Barker

During two decades as a journalist and editor, Christian Barker has covered style, culture, entertainment, travel, business and luxury for publications including the FT, SCMP, GQ, Forbes, Esquire, CNBC, and Travel+Leisure, among others. He also established luxury website BLLNR.com, and was founding editor-in-chief of classic menswear bible, The Rake magazine. Passionate about sharp tailoring, tasty tipples and good food (from authentic hawker fare to the fanciest fine dining), Sydney-bred Barker has lived in Singapore for 18 years. @christianbbarker

Litti Kewkacha

A food enthusiast turned F&B entrepreneur, I’ve spent the past 25 years traveling the world, particularly indulging in fine dining. Starting as a Tastemaker (social media ambassador) for 50 Best, I now proudly serve as the Chairperson for the Southeast Asia region. @litsfree

Nalina Suranakarin

Nalina, a prominent luxury marketing and branding specialist in Thailand, is a lifestyle connoisseur with a deep passion for gastronomy. In the past year, she has explored the finest hotels, upscale dining venues, and local gems across Asia and Europe. Known for impeccable taste, meticulous attention to detail, and a love for luxury brands, storytelling, and craftsmanship, Nalina is set to share her insider’s knowledge on the crème de la crème of international luxury experiences. @nalinalifestyle

Mapeng Phongsila Commak

As a food activist and avid traveler, I’ve dedicated the latter half of my life to savoring the culinary delights of northern Thailand. While some associate good food with luxury, I believe it’s a reflection of place and people. It involves reacting and harmonizing local ingredients, promoting the health and welfare of the community. Recognizing and respecting this philosophy is the essence of my travels. @phongsilacommak

Mario Tolentino

Chef Mario Tolentino, founder of Point of View Hospitality, is a culinary veteran with more than two decades of global experience. With a portfolio spanning NYC, Miami, LA, San Francisco, Hong Kong and most recently Bangkok. Mario has successfully created and rebranded numerous hospitality concepts. His journey, beginning at the California Culinary Academy, includes winning appearances on “Chopped” and “Recipe for Deception.” With his “cool, calm, and creative” mantra and a keen eye for emerging trends, Mario’s leadership and adaptability continue to redefine the evolving dining landscape. @chefmariotolentino

Vincent Vichit-Vadakan

I write about food because I am endlessly curious about what we eat and what it says about us and our outlook on life. People who are passionate about making and sharing food are almost always generous souls with good stories to tell. In addition to writing about food, I am a versatile cook, whether at home or in professional kitchen. Chances are that I am thinking about my next meal. I’d love it if you could join me. @vincentinparis

Megan Leon

For the last decade, I’ve been surrounded by the F&B industry through culinary school, working as a cook and currently as a writer. The love of food through culture has long been ingrained in my roots thanks to my mom who also comes from the industry and has taught me everything I know. This quote resonates always: “good food is the common ground shared by all and immigration is fundamental to good food.” @lagringabkk

Daniel Hoai Nguyen

Daniel Nguyen is the founder of Song Cai Distillery, a Vietnam distillery and winery. He has nearly a decade of experience working in agriculture in Vietnam, encompassing highland forestry to lowland fisheries. His work spans fermentation, the documentation and conservation of heirloom species, as well as the production of world-class spirits and wines. He is the Vietnam country host of Roads and Kingdoms, founded by Anthony Bourdain, specializing in immersive culinary and cultural experiences. @rhizome7

Nhi Nhan

Nhi Nhan is a food blogger and writer, sharing her passion for culinary exploration through captivating storytelling. With a keen eye for detail and a discerning palate, she crafts engaging articles for a leading food magazine. Her unique blend of creativity and expertise shines through her delectable tastes and insightful reviews. Nhi has cultivated a loyal following who eagerly anticipate her next mouthwatering discovery. Through her work, she continues to inspire and delight food enthusiasts worldwide. @anotherfoodaddict

Jovel Chan

For the past 2.5 years, Jovel has tracked Vietnam’s dining scene, featured on platforms like TODAY, Our Grandfather Story, and Epicure. Beyond writing, she’s an industry speaker (Meet the Experts 2022) and F&B judge (Diageo World Class Finals Vietnam, Vietnam Whiskey and Cocktail Festival). In 2023, the Singapore Tourism Board appointed Jovel ‘Vietnam F&B Consultant,’ leading chef collaborations. As an F&B consultant, she offers invaluable insights to Golden Gate Group, PepsiCo, and Kantar. Lastly, she founded SAIGON SOCIAL, organizing food and drink experiences, including #SaigonSupperClub. @jovel.chan

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