Taiwanese cuisine is virtually unknown in the US and thus has great potential to grow dramatically in that country, a visiting US culinary expert said yesterday.
“There is tremendous potential in the US for businesses selling Taiwanese food, because it is underdeveloped and underbranded,” Kendall College School of Culinary Arts vice president Christopher Koetke said at a forum in Taipei.
The second annual Gourmet Taiwan Summit and Forum, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has attracted almost 400 local and foreign heavyweights in the food and restaurant industry.
They discussed future trends in the industry and how Taiwan can localize and internationalize the country’s delicacies, the ministry said.
Koetke said people in the US may know that bubble milk tea originates from Taiwan, but if asked, they would have difficulty identifying other Taiwanese food.
Taiwan can find its niche in the competitive market and make its food distinct from other Asian foods, he suggested.
“Culinary tourism is on the rise globally ... promoting a country’s food not only presents great business opportunities, but also serves as a great vehicle to attract people from outside the country to visit,” Koetke said.
When people fall in love with a particular type of food, they tend to be drawn to the country of its origin, which would turn into tourism dollars, he added.
Having arrived in Taipei on Sunday, Koetke said he had so far tasted about 70 dishes at either restaurants or night-market food stalls.
Praising the food as being “wonderful” and the hospitality of Taiwanese as “extraordinary,” he said that he would love to duplicate all or part of the food experiences he has had here in the US.
Koetke added that this is a good time for Taiwan to promote its culinary culture in the North-American market, as Chinese food has become so commonplace that it no longer interests people.
People in the US used to consider eating Chinese food as something fashionable and expensive, but that market is “completely stagnating in the US,” with the added perception that it is cheap food, Koetke said.
The reason this is happening is partly because Chinese food is found everywhere and a lot of what is served is of mediocre quality, he added.
If Taiwan can find the sweet spot between authenticity and the mainstream by “not dumbing it down, but changing it for American tastes,” Taiwanese food will be a great hit, according to Koetke.
McDonald’s Corp globalization strategy manager Jia Osiel supported Koetke’s view, saying Taiwan needs to standardize and market its delicacies more wisely.