Food Culture Conference

The Inaugural Food Culture Conference, themed  

‘Quality and Food: a multifaceted perspective’

marks the great success of

Cross-exchange between Hong Kong & France

This 1st edition of Food Culture Conference themed ‘Quality and Food: a multifaceted perspective’ organized by SOPEXA proves out to be a great success with more than 100 participants from professional institutions and F&B industry. Passionate, captivated audience shared around the topic “Quality and Food: a multifaceted perspective”, to promote food cultural exchange between France and Hong Kong.

With support of the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the conference took place on 8 January, 2013. Bringing together professors from both University of Tours – UNESCO Chair – and Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as professionals from the food and wine industry, the conference explored the differences and similarities in the two food cultures. 7 speakers plus 1 moderator and more than 100 attendees took part.

Jocelyne Fouassier, Communication Director of SOPEXA, and Pr. Sidney Cheung, anthropologist from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, introduced the theme, emphasizing the commonalities of each culture, enjoyment and conviviality being the foremost, together with a sense of cultural identity and tradition, tempered with local adaptability, as well as genuine concern for health and wellbeing.

Marc de Ferrière, in charge of the UNESCO chair ‘Protection and promotion of cultural food heritage’, moderated two discussions involving students from the CUHK, wine trade professionals or specialists of the food industry.

At the first, entitled the evolution of food and beverage quality, Isabelle Bianquis, professor of anthropology at Université François Rabelais in Tours, shared her in-depth knowledge of Mongolia’s traditions, where food and alcohol play a crucial convivial role in the society, whether it is by maintaining close relationships between people or by conveying identity through heritage. These notions are very common to both French and Mongolian traditions. Further on, Eric Kwok, one of Hong Kong’s most renowned wine experts, described the evolution of alcohol consumption in China and Hong Kong, from Cognac to Beaujolais Nouveau and the finest French wines. He stressed the importance of AOC and the ongoing quality that every member of the wine industry struggles to achieve. Finally, Sidney Cheung, took the opportunity to elaborate on the fact that, whilst wine and food produce is often traded as a luxury commodity for sometimes astronomically prices, it remains nonetheless, an agricultural product subject to the vagrancies of Nature.

At the second, entitled quality, process of exportation and local adaptation, Jean-Pierre Williot, director of the LÉA Alimentation Department in Tours, spoke of innovation and quality, added-value, adaptation to local markets and the existence of ‘a’ quality more than ‘the’ quality. Sylvie Vabre, specialist in the history of consumption and food industries, then focused on the long path that French cheese had to pursue to go from being ‘indigestible’ to a ‘cultural treasure’. She saw this in three major stages: achieving know-how, entering gastronomy and succeeding in being a farm product transformed by the food industry. Annabel Jackson, head of the HK Slow Food Convivium, shared her recent experience in Yunnan surrounded by what she describes as the purest air there is, in a countryside where farmers wonder what organic farming is as they can’t imagine any other way. She also described the fascinating interest for mushrooms of all kind, and the way inhabitants treasure them, from foraging to cooking. Finally, Peter Cuong Franklin, cooking instructor and chef of his own Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong, expressed his concerns on the difficulty of finding top quality ingredients suitable for traditional Vietnamese cuisine in Hong Kong and lack of variety due to the small size of the Vietnamese community. In conclusion, the key word was deemed to be: ‘adaptation’, whether it is to a new culture, new techniques or new ingredients.


2:30-3:00 pm

Welcome speech

Introduction from Sopexa

Mr. Sidney Cheung, Anthropology Department CUHK

3:00-4:15 pm

1st Round table discussion: Evolution of food and beverage quality

Moderator: Mr. Marc de Ferriere Speakers

Ms. Isabelle Bianquis

Mr. Eric Kwok

Mr. Sidney Cheung

4:15-4:30 pm

Coffee Break

4:30-5:45 pm

2nd Round table discussion: Quality, process of exportation and local adaptation

Moderator: Mr. Marc de Ferrière


Mr. Jean-Pierre Williot

Ms. Sylvie Vabre

Ms. Annabel Jackson

Mr. Peter Cuong Franklin

6:00-7:00 pm


l   Mr. Marc de Ferrière, Professor of Contemporary History (exceptional class) in University of Tours since 2004. In charge of the UNESCO chair "Protection and promotion of cultural food heritages", Also president of the European Food History and Culture Institute, as well as an elected member of the Scientist Council of the University François Rabelais of Tours since 2005. He moderated the debate over this Food Culture Conference.

l   Ms. Isabelle Bianquis, Lecturer of Ethnology at University of Strasbourg from 1994 to 2005
and since 2005 as professor of Anthropology at University François Rabelais of Tours, specializing
in Food Anthropology and Anthropology of Politics.

l   Mr. Jean-Pierre Williot, Director of Alimentation Department in Tours – LÉA, Vice President of Science Council of IEHCA, co-director of the collection of L’Europe Alimentaire, Editions Peter Lang and member of Science Council of AHICF. He discussed how innovations allowed importation of products through examples of Champagne Krug or Butter Echire.

l   Ms. Sylvie Vabre, from Toulouse University, MCF contemporary history. She is a specialist of Consumption History, Food Industries, Rural History and Industry of 14th century.  Her talk was   focused on how French cheese went from being indigestible to a cultural treasure.

l   Ms. Annabel Jackson, a food and wine expert and consultant, who is head of the Hong
Kong Slow Food Convivium and the author of Macau on a Plate (1994), Street Café Vietnam
(1999), World Food China (2003), Taste of Macau: Portuguese Cuisine on the China Coast (2004)
and Modern Indian Cooking (2004).

l   Mr. Eric Kwok, gained working experience from various settings in five-star hotels. He acted as the Chief Sommelier and Restaurant & Beverage Manager of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and the New World Hotel, Hong Kong in respectively. He founded the Merit Wine Boutique since 1997. He was also the wine trainer of elementary wine course for various hotels, members clubs, The Vocational Training Council (VTC) and The Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA). Invited as a juror of various international wine challenges, he has been a member of Hong Kong Sommelier Association since 1998.

l   Mr. Sidney Cheung, Professor and anthropologist, who has recently finished a
food-related knowledge transfer project on developing touristic resources within and for the
local neighborhood in Sheung Wan.

l   Mr. Peter Cuong Franklin, was born in Dalat (Vietnam) and educated in the US and Asia.
He was graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu with a Grand Diplôme
de Cuisine and Patisserie. He has trained and worked at some of the best restaurants
including Michelin starred Caprice in Hong Kong, Alinea and Next in Chicago, and La
Verticale and Madame Hien in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is currently a cooking instructor, consultant
chef and chef/owner of a Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong.


l   We thank Ô muse de Bordeaux for their kind participation through supplying precious sparkling and still water from Bordeaux (Arcachon source).

l   De Balman also offers our speakers with their delicious macarons.
Video of the conference is now available at YouTube: http://youtu.be/wJ4ApvSLBOU

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