Omnivore And The Ever Improving Shanghai Food Scene

The Omnivore World Tour, Shanghai 2015, is in town this month; a global culinary festival featuring top international and Shanghai-based chefs. There will be a selection of master classes, pop-up dinners and the legendary Omnivorious Party from 18 June to 20 June. We spoke to some of the city’s finest chefs, who are involved in this year’s programme, about the culinary festival and Shanghai’s dining scene.
The Omnivore brand began as a French magazine in 2003, with an aim to pave the way for “young cuisine.” In 2006, the company created their first-ever culinary festival, connecting French chefs with international chefs in a few locations around the world. By 2012, they had the means to take this concept on the road, and embarked on their inaugural Omnivore World Tour, inviting international and resident chefs to join annual food festivals in cities around the globe. Omnivore founder, Luc Dubanchet, believed that by fostering a connection between talented international and local chefs, they were giving them a platform to “share their cooking, ask questions about techniques, learn from new cultures and create motion to better imagine the future of food”.
Shanghai is one city lucky enough to be welcoming back the Omnivore World Tour for the fourth time; this gave us a reason to look inwardly at the local food scene, and how it came to be placed on the world foodie map. Madison’s Austin Hu, a Chinese-American chef who trained at the French Culinary Institute and the Gramercy Tavern, thinks that the current food scene in Shanghai is incredible. “We are continuing to pull international talent from overseas, as can be seen by the soon-to-open restaurants from Alan Wong, Wolfgang Puck and Joel Robuchon; established chefs and restaurant groups in Shanghai are maturing and expanding their offerings, such as Bull and Claw and Mammamia, and we are constantly feeling the good pressure from young, up-and-coming owners and operators like Egg and Baoism. I think this past year has just been an indicator for Shanghai's future, like most other sectors in China, growth in the F&B industry has been exponential. Consumers here have the means to eat out, the desire to try new things and people everywhere are starting to take notice”.
Many other local chefs echo Hu’s sentiments and believe that the dining scene is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Chef Michael Wilson, from Jing’an Restaurant, knows that it is an increasingly competitive
dining scene, “The scene is becoming more refined every year. Everyone has to keep up with the quality to stay in the market and remain competitive”.
What is evidently clear to everyone in the industry is that the bar has been raised over the past few years and continues to rise. Chef Paul Eschbach, from Jean-Georges at Three On The Bund, told us that there is pressure to remain at the top of the game. “There is an intense push internally from chefs to keeping moving and keeping creating. Many of those chefs are participating in Omnivore. With chefs like Paul Pairet making culinary headlines week after week, and other amazing chefs who are arriving every year, like Nicholas Le Bec and now Robuchon, it only raises the bar for the whole industry; vendors and suppliers included”.
Each time the Omnivore World Tour descends upon the city, an international spotlight is placed on Shanghai, and that is great news for not only established chefs in town, but also young, up-and-coming chefs looking to make their mark on the food scene. Jenny Gao, co-owner of Baoism – who have created a new, young vision of popular Chinese street-food – told us, “Omnivore brings a global lens and a world stage to the cities it holds events in. It has a great way of putting established legends in the culinary world alongside up-andcoming local chefs, with master classes and pop up dinners. It's these sorts of exchanges that shine a light on the local food scene and that lead to innovation and progress.”
On a local level, Omnivore also allows Shanghai residents the chance to become better acquainted with what is available to them in the city. Chef Bina Yu, from Chi-Q, also at Three On The Bund, explains, “It lets people know that there is a food scene in Shanghai, and offers a chance for those in Shanghai to see who is out there.” In Yu’s case, she hope that it will bring more awareness to Korean cuisine in Shanghai, and allow her the opportunity to show people what they do at CHI-Q.
Looking towards the future, the food festival is extremely beneficial for the Shanghai food and beverage industry and, with the growth potential and spending power of the Chinese middle classes, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Chef Christopher Pitts, from Table No.1, passionately believes in its importance. “Omnivore is investing in the future food scene of Shanghai. You could argue that our scene is not nearly as strong as Hong Kong or Singapore in regards to foodies, but this revolves around culture. The next 20 years are going to be huge for the Chinese middle class, and this is where you get the majority of informed foodies. Foodies engage in food events like Omnivore. They are helping to build our food culture by highlighting our city’s chefs, as well as exposing the Chinese to other international chefs to educate them, which is really great for everyone involved”. 
And as to why many of the good and the great chefs of Shanghai are willing and excited to take part in this gruelling schedule of culinary events, well they tend to agree it’s because there is a pretty good party! On a more serious note, however, true to its core concept, Omnivore is a great platform for young chefs. Jenny Gao believes that this is particularly important in China. “Omnivore has always been about supporting and promoting young and upcoming chefs, which is something the world needs, and China especially. I think the Shanghai food scene is at an exciting point. There are more young chefs entering the industry as F&B is being seen as a more legitimate option to pursue”.
What’s more, if you put enough creative talents in one room, exciting and innovative projects are bound to come together. Christopher Pitts explained one such scenario. “It’s actually how I met Scott Melvin (Commune Social) for the first time, when he was doing a demo for the event. We went out with the Young Turks, both who have their own places now (Lyle’s and The Clove Club), had a great night and the rest is history. This event you could say indirectly helped me get my job at Table No.1. Without the event I might have never met Scott. That is what this event is about; allowing anyone to engage with chefs on a personal level”.
We are certainly looking forward to more culinary partnerships, increasing our food knowledge, pop up dinners and extravagant parties when the Omnivore World Tour rolls into town at the end of the month.
Master Classes
An impressive list of 14 high-calibre, international chefs will share their culinary secrets, and champion the spirit of “jeune cuisine”, including Shanghai’s very own Bina Yu, Paul Eschbach, Austin Hu and Michael Wilson, on the 19 June and 20 June.
Free (tickets required). Three On The Bund. 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu. Web:
Pop Up Dinners
Omnivore’s Pop Up Dinners feature the one-of-a-kind experience that happens when two talented, but very different chefs, come together in the kitchen. On 18 June, it will be Hideaki Sato (Ryugin, Hong Kong) along with Mathieu Viannay (La Mere Brazier, Lyon, France) and on 19 June, it will be the turn of Jowett Yu (Ho Lee Fook, Hong Kong) and Thomas Lim (Goldie’s. Los Angeles, USA). RMB 600 (five courses with wine pairing). 
Three On The Bund. 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu. Web:
Omnivorious By Badoit
Shanghai’s global culinary soiree of the year! On 20 June, 14 of the talented, young chefs, involved in Omnivore Shanghai 2015, will create inspiring, innovative bite-sized morsels. Partygoers can savour a selection of eight morsels and two drinks whilst mixing and mingling in an electric, festive culinary atmosphere.
RMB 200. Three On The Bund. 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu. Web: