Sustaining communities, filling bellies

Gino Tan, Pan Pacific Hotels Group’s area general manager, Singapore and Pan Pacific Singapore’s general manager, speaks with Karen Yue about his group’s commitment to make food work for all

Gino Tan

Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG) has something up its sleeves in support of World Food Day. Can you tell me about it?
World Food Day, which falls on October 16 each year, is a global day of action against hunger. Last year, PPHG initiated a food donation campaign around World Food Day which combines our passion for all things culinary and our desire to give back to the community we operate in. We raised more than S$30,000 (US$22,034) to purchase food items for needy households in Singapore, and the food bundles were so well-received we decided to make this food donation drive the signature event for our CSR efforts.

We are happy to have the support of our like-minded partner, The Food Bank Singapore, again this year. They also introduced us to urban farm Comcrop, which will supply the fresh produce in our food bundles.

For this year’s campaign, the senior chefs from our five Singapore hotels come together to create dishes using local produce to show our support for sustainable eating. A portion of the dinner proceeds during the month-long campaign (July 15 to August 15) will be used to purchase food bundles for the needy.

Why is this initiative available only in PPHG hotels in Singapore? Why does supporting local farmers matter so much to PPHG?
Being a Singapore-based hospitality company we naturally loved the idea of being able to support Singapore farmers too, so it made sense for us to partner Comcrop. In land-scarce Singapore, where only 10 per cent of food is produced locally, we’re doing our part to promote a very important message on sustainability.

We certainly hope this can be an inspiration to other hotels outside of Singapore, even though food sustainability is not new to PPHG. We have close to 40 properties globally which have in place programmes to achieve that goal in their respective markets. For example, Pan Pacific Seattle, which is Green Globe-certified, donates unpresented banquet food to Food Lifeline, a Seattle-based non-profit organisation for hunger relief, and repurposes food waste from restaurants and meetings as fertiliser.

Will this commitment to support local farmers continue even after World Food Day?
We love supporting local farmers and have been doing that for a while. Many items used for dishes on our buffet and catering menus are sourced locally.

(For example), at Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore, the barramundi in its signature dish, Penang Assam Laksa with Barramundi Fillet, has always been sourced locally and we will continue to do so.

Working with Comcrop has opened up more avenues for us to work together in new creative ways. Our culinary team from Parkroyal on Pickering is visiting Comcrop’s rooftop farm at SCAPE to learn some of their best practices to enhance the hotel’s own community herb garden. The team is also exploring the use of Comcrop’s produce for buffet dishes offered at Lime all-day dining restaurant, complementing the hotel’s DNA as one of Singapore’s leading green hotels.

Hotels and events are known to generate vast amount of food waste (through food preparation and leftovers). What procedures does PPHG have in place to minimise that and ensure maximum use of food resources?
The “forward-planning” of menus is critical not just to our operations but to minimising waste and reducing our carbon footprint. Parkroyal on Beach Road has a system which monitors reservations and the availability of its F&B outlets in real-time. The culinary team has access to the system and aligns their market list according to demand, which helps us better manage our food inventory.

In a similar fashion, food preparation is closely tailored to the reservation covers received daily at Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore, where food for the buffet counters are cooked when requested and replenished according to demand.

Parkroyal on Kitchener Road recycles food in creative ways. For instance, unconsumed bread from the breakfast buffet can used for to make bread butter pudding as a dessert item for dinner. The hotel’s executive chef Low Hoe Kiat had famously created the signature slow-braised pumpkin crab in claypot with pumpkin used as decoration for Halloween! To minimise wastage from food (prepared in advance), the hotel’s dinner buffet allows diners to take their pick from raw ingredients on display for a la minute cooking at live stations.

We ensure we order according to the size of the event as far as possible. At Pan Pacific Singapore, we channel unconsumed pastries from events to the associates’ cafeteria. We are looking to better manage food waste at our hotels in various ways, such as using food waste digester machines to convert solid food waste materials into either liquid nutrient or reusable water. Parkroyal on Beach Road is currently piloting such a machine and we’re looking at how this can work for the rest of our hotels in Singapore, in particular for our largest, the 790-room Pan Pacific Singapore.

Can this initiative bring value to dining events or F&B arrangements during corporate meetings?
There’s more demand for sustainable meeting packages as planners (and delegates) become more socially conscious. The sustainable dishes we launched to support our food donation drive were very well-received because people loved the idea of eating well and doing good at the same time. So I think there’s definitely value in promoting sustainability for our corporate meeting packages… because of its strong element of giving back to the local community.

What other social projects does PPHG have in Singapore or other destinations where it has hotels?
PPHG has made our passion for all things culinary the heart of our CSR efforts by leveraging the culinary skills of our hotel chefs. Since the launch of our Eat Well With Us culinary initiative in 2015, our chefs have been making regular visits to a number of adopted charities – which have grown from four to 10 homes for the elderly, children, and those with mental disabilities – to impart healthy and tasty recipes to their resident cooks.

 

As a natural extension of these culinary visits, award-winning executive chef Andy Oh from Parkroyal on Beach Road is also consulting for Bakery Hearts, a social enterprise which provides employment opportunities for less privileged women, to help equip them with the necessary skills as they enhance their business model and expand their operational capabilities.

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