THERE is one dinner that still makes Dr Diana Tan, 33, drool, even though it has been almost a year since she savoured it.
It was at last year's World Gourmet Summit, an evening with Jeremy Leung, the former chef of the Four Seasons Singapore who moved to Shanghai three years ago to helm the kitchen at the chic Whampoa Club.
Dr Tan paid $188 for the meal at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia's Summer Pavilion restaurant and she says it was money well spent.
'He came up with a wonderful menu that married East and West very nicely,' the general practitioner said.
|FRAGRANT LOBSTER: Go on an aromatic journey at the Shangri-La Hotel with Beijing lobster la mian in traditional meat sauce.
'I especially liked the dessert, which was a steamed pear served with ice cream. It came with pi pa gao (a Chinese herbal cough syrup) and almond cream, and the contrast of warm and cold created the most delightful sensations on my taste buds.'
Encouraged by the positive experience, the foodie is looking forward to this year's summit, which will be held from April 7 to 26.
She has signed up for one event so far - the Masterclass by French pastry chef Pierre Herme, hailed as the Picasso of Pastry, on April 19 - but has yet to decide what dinners she wants to attend.
This is her third gourmet summit and she had spent about $500 in total in previous years.
She says: 'I'm willing to pay up to $250 for a meal. Anything more than that, and you have to tell me what you're giving me to justify that price, as good food is relatively cheap in Singapore.'
She is among the 13,000 gourmands expected to take part in the annual gastronomic event, now into its 12th year.
The $2-million summit, jointly organised by food consultancy Peter Knipp Holdings and the Singapore Tourism Board, will pack in 76 events in three weeks.
It started in 1997 with just 12 events over eight days.
But over the years, the summit has gained a hardcore following of gourmets who sign up every year for events. New fans are seen every year, drawn by the array of world-class cuisine and culinary heavyweights.
The event has also put Singapore on the map as a gourmet destination, with brandname chefs such as France's Philippe Legendre and Spain's Santi Santamaria saying they come here because of the reputation the event has built up.
In the last four years, more visitors from countries such as the United States and Australia have also penned the Singapore event in their diaries, flying in specially to attend events.
So what is the enduring appeal of the summit?
|GOURMET #1: Dr Diana Tan (above) has signed up for a class by French pastry chef Pierre Herme, famed for his macarons
The gourmet fans LifeStyle spoke to said they are drawn to the festival and continue to sign up for events because of the chance to appreciate good food prepared by the creme de la creme of the culinary world.
The summit has introduced Singaporeans to international talents such as American TV host Anthony Bourdain, Australia's Tetsuya Wakuda, France's Alain Soliveres and Alain Passard and Italy's Gualtiero Marchesi.
The main attraction this year is Anne-Sophie Pic, 38, the first French woman chef to get three Michelin stars in over 50 years.
Her appearance does not come cheap though: Her fee for one dinner and one demonstration is 15,000 euros (S$32,136) and this does not include charges for air fare and accommodation.
The April 25 dinner she is helming will cost customers $728 a head, while her one-hour Masterclass is a comparatively more affordable $88.
But Mr Francis Poulose, 39, managing director of Peter Knipp Holdings, says diners are getting a 'very good deal'.
'Our costs have escalated tremendously. Air fares are up by 35 to 40 per cent, and rooms are up by 50 to 80 per cent,' he says.
A foodie who is not fazed by the steep prices is Mr Timothy Barnes, 31, the director of operations for Asia Pacific at a telecommunications firm.
|GOURMET #2: Mr Timothy Barnes (above) will be dining with Discovery Travel and Living host Ian Wright
The Australian expatriate, now participating in his third summit, has booked a dinner with Discovery Travel and Living host Ian Wright. The gala event at the InterContinental Singapore costs $248 a head.
'I'd probably end up going to three or four events,' says Mr Barnes, who will be attending the dinner with his wife.
'It's much cheaper to go to Orchard Road to sample all the fine cuisine than to go to France or Italy.'
Meanwhile, restaurant manager Amy Ostric, 25, does not mind spending A$1,200 (S$1,500) to fly all the way from Sydney for a gourmet holiday.
She was planning to visit her mother and sister who are based here, and decided to time her trip to coincide with the summit.
She has paid about $400 for four events - an evening with Australian TV chef Curtis Stone and three Masterclasses - and she says she can't wait for the gastronomic adventure to begin.
Speaking to LifeStyle on the phone from Sydney, she says: 'Four hundred dollars is not much, considering the quality of the chefs. It's going to be fun.'
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on Mar 23, 2008.