Saturday, 12 August 2017

"Thought leaders" and the plutocrats who love them

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Eric Alterman
I haven’t seen much discussion of Daniel Drezner’s new book, The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats Are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas—which is weird, because it’s the kind of book that is written more to be reviewed and argued about, as opposed to actually purchased.


Drezner’s book is the latest investigation into the state of America’s public intellectuals and the “debate” they conduct with their patrons and their public, and, especially, among themselves. He joins a distinguished procession of thinkers who have tackled the subject, including Walter Lippmann, Randolph Bourne, Lewis Mumford, Edward Shills, Irving Howe, Russell Jacoby, Edward Said, and, most recently, Richard Posner. Drezner is a reliable and intelligent guide to the current state of play. But while focusing on the trees, he doesn’t always pay proper attention to the forest, which in this case is the power of money to corrupt and control literally everything with which it comes into contact—most particularly intellectual culture.

Drezner by no means ignores the issue. Early on, he makes a crucial distinction between old-fashioned “public intellectuals” and the now-trendy “thought leaders.” The latter model is one that sells itself less to an identifiable “public”—something that has become increasingly difficult to define in a society continually segmenting itself according to ever-more-narrow criteria—than to plutocratic patrons. Once upon a time, we relied on intellectuals to “speak truth to power,” as the saying goes. Of course, real life was never so simple. But the adversary culture that arose in the bohemia of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century and among the (mostly) Jewish intellectuals who founded the independent Partisan Review in the 1930s offered at least a basis from which both to critique capitalism and to imagine alternative systems that might one day replace it.

Today, our most famous purveyors of ideas sell themselves to the wealthy much like the courtiers of the Middle Ages. Drezner notes that these ideas are therefore shaped by the “aversion” that plutocrats share toward addressing the problems we face. Inequality? Global warming? Populist nihilism? An explosion of global refugees? From a Silicon Valley perspective, Drezner notes, such things are not a failure of our system but rather “a piece of faulty code that need[s] to be hacked.” Examining data from a survey of Silicon Valley corporate founders, Drezner notes their shared belief that “there’s no inherent conflict between major groups in society (workers vs. corporations, citizens vs. government, or America vs. other nations).”

“Intellectuals who wish to cater to this crowd will find it difficult to contradict the narrative of meritocratic achievement,” Drezner explains. His discussion of the function of the TED phenomenon is especially cogent: “TED talks are designed for thought leaders to appeal to plutocrats. At less than twenty minutes, they are mercifully short—a perfect format for potential patrons. The working rich are busy people operating on a compressed schedule. Time is their scarcest resource, and they have limited attention spans…. The format itself also rewards more utopian thinking. There are no discussants for TED talks, no critical feedback.” It’s important to remember that we are not talking about the Koch brothers’ spending or the corruption of traditional think tanks by corporate money or the purchase by foreign governments of this or that policy shop. This is what’s happening on the progressive side.

That money demands compromises from culture is not exactly breaking news. But its effect on progressive politics has been devastating, and here, Drezner’s account fails to do the problem full justice. The labor movement long ago lost the ability to compete with corporate America and individual billionaires for the funds needed to make ideas meaningful in the real world, so liberals and progressives must now drink from the wells of wealth. After all, here is what then-Senator Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope (2006) about his time as a rising Chicago politician:
Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means—law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. They believed in the free market and an educational meritocracy; they found it hard to imagine that there might be any social ill that could not be cured by a high SAT score. They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital. Most were adamantly prochoice and antigun and were vaguely suspicious of deep religious sentiment.
After spending so much time with donors, Obama admitted, he found himself “avoiding certain topics during conversations with them, papering over possible differences, anticipating their expectations…. [A]s a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population—that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve.”

Most of the other stories Drezner relates also have the power of money as their underlying theme. Nicholas Kristof’s ill-informed protestations notwithstanding, the age-old problem of political scientists who write impenetrable prose in their own language has been largely rendered obsolete by the rise of social media. Those who wish to participate may do so. But it won’t help them get tenure, as Drezner’s own career demonstrates. (A prominent blogger, he was rejected for tenure at the University of Chicago but is now happily ensconced at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He also blogs for The Washington Post.) What’s more, a whole school of social-science-literate journalists, led by Ezra Klein of Vox and his many imitators, has sprung up to bring the findings of the field to interested readers. Notably, Klein needed to become an entrepreneur as well as a journalist to fulfill his vision: When he took the idea behind Vox to The Washington Post, the paper wasn’t interested.

But the more worrisome question is the comparative lack of social status, income, and prestige enjoyed by nearly every type of social scientist except economists. Drezner points out that while economists are perhaps more liberal on many issues than most Americans, they are more conservative than other social scientists, especially when it comes to their field of expertise. Just like the Silicon Valley billionaires, Drezner writes, “economists share a consensus about the virtues of free markets, free trade, capital mobility, and entrepreneurialism.” Economists are better paid than other professors, and they are quoted infinitely more often and more respectfully in the media. They fill the top jobs in most presidential administrations and, especially lately, have taken advantage of a bull market for their commentary as op-ed writers.

All this despite the fact that the profession’s record in providing politicians and citizens with the knowledge necessary to deal with the problems we face is, with just a few exceptions, abysmal. And these exceptions—people like Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Simon Johnson—are almost always outliers in the system and bitter critics of the consensus that operates among both economists and the journalists who consistently rely on their expertise. Significantly, even though they are no doubt the leading lights of the progressive side of their profession, none were considered for top jobs in the Obama administration, or in the one that Hillary Clinton hoped to lead.

The primary talent demonstrated by the “thought leaders” who rise to the top of this stew—people like Thomas Friedman, Niall Ferguson, and the heavyweight champion, according to Drezner’s own poll (in which I participated), Henry Kissinger—is to somehow flatter great wealth even as they pretend to challenge it. Should they pull it off, they get to feel good about themselves as enormously well-remunerated and highly respected public servants. The truth, however, is that by comforting the comfortable, they end up further afflicting the afflicted. It’s no wonder that not only Donald Trump but the entire Republican Party and its supporters now feel that they can ignore the arguments of this class. It was they who built this city: this city of ruin.

Friday, 11 August 2017

To stay ahead Peninsula and Four Seasons let customers do the talking

The Hong Kong-based Peninsula Hotels group owns 10 high-end stopovers from Shanghai to Tokyo, New York to Bangkok, with three premises slated to follow in London, Yangon and Istanbul. To understand more about the firm’s expansion, we met the company’s Swiss-born COO Peter Borer.
Looking dapper in a dark-blue Zegna suit and sitting arrow-straight (“Hoteliers should never lean,” he insists), Borer has worked at the company for more than 40 years. We settled into the 6th-floor Marco Polo Suite of the Hong Kong flagship to discuss the shifting sands of the luxury market and why he isn’t afraid of Airbnb.

Monocle: It’s an interesting time for the hotel industry. How is the luxury market changing?
Peter Borer: To me the greatest luxury in life is to have a choice. I’ve been in this industry for 45 years and changes have always occurred. If you want to stay relevant, you evolve as luxury evolves. Thirty years ago we had to introduce a fax machine; it was breaking news because the Telex was starting to look dated. Today we offer clients a hi-tech environment even if the decor, like in this room, might look rather traditional. So the investment in products is important but so is investment in human resources. We’re at the door of China [in Hong Kong] and there’s slightly different customer behaviour so you have to train your people to make sure that your new customers feel as welcome as your old customers.

M: How are customer expectations changing?
PB: They’re better informed. A customer who came to us 20 years ago maybe came to Hong Kong for the first time and had very little knowledge of the city. Today it might be a first visit but they know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. So we have a responsibility to make sure that we deliver what we’re promising; to me there is nothing worse than to overpromise and underdeliver. That will erode your brand very quickly.

M: How do you keep consistency and a Peninsula thumbprint across 10 properties?
PB: The buildings are a good showcase of their location. The Peninsula in Paris, for instance, is a palace that was built way back at the beginning of the 20th century. Then you bring in components such as technology, which reminds people they’re in the Peninsula. In the end it really boils down to the service. When we open a new hotel, for a year in advance we recruit about 20 young people and bring them to Asia to train them in the Peninsula way before we ship them back. It’s not the hardware that stays with you, it’s the software: it’s the service you receive, and that takes time in any hotel. Don’t ever go to a hotel that has just opened; give them at least six months.

M: How do you keep talented people on board?
PB: Fresh blood, at times, is very good. But you need loyal staff because they know the guests and they know the culture. It should never be one or the other. I surround myself with very talented young people who give me energy – and hopefully they feel they work in a good environment as well.

M: Tell me about your management style.
PB: You’ll have to ask them – and I will leave the room.

M: We already have; they were dreadfully complimentary. What makes a good hotel manager?
PB: You have to be extremely passionate if you are in the hospitality industry; it is much more than a job. I work, even now, five days a week, 14 hours a day. It’s your life. In my case, I don’t have a family, so passion is hugely important. I’m not complaining – I’d do it all over again. I’m not very patient though: if somebody doesn’t like your magazine, they won’t come to you and throw it in your face. But if somebody in the lobby is not happy with their coffee they will call for me and I will have to stand there and listen. So we are always present. You have to be able to rectify right away; that means you have to be fast.

M: So you need to be diplomatic?
PB: You have to be slightly schizophrenic because this is not me: this is a job. If you come and visit me at home I’m a different person. Every morning the show starts at 06.00. You need to have the ability to sit in a suite with a head of state and make decent conversation and five minutes later you are in a situation where a colleague has a very peculiar problem and needs a lot of help right away. So life is incredibly rich, incredibly exciting and never boring. No day is like any other. During my time here I took this hotel through the opening of the tower [an extension added in 1994 to the Hong Kong flagship], we went through the Sars virus, we went through the Asian financial crisis, we went through the handover [of Hong Kong to China in 1997], we went through the millennium. So lots of very positive moments and lots of moments that make you reflect.

M: How have disruptive apartment-rental technologies affected business?
PB: It’s a very simple choice. Do you want service or not? And if you’re happy to have your own environment, please: there is a choice. The more competition we get the more alert we have to be to innovate and bring in new service offers so it’s a good thing. I love competition so I’m not worried – and there is enough to go round for all of us because the world is opening up.

M: What have been your career highlights?
pb: What gives me the greatest pleasure is seeing that I have touched lives that became successful and many of those people are still in our company. People you worked with, people you’ve promoted, people you hired: looking at their success is incredibly humbling and, at the same time, very rewarding.

M: Will hotels in the future be different to the hotels we see now?
PB: The products will certainly evolve. We are spending a lot of time with people from Dyson and Samsung and so on, talking about the future of what we can offer our guests, as well as our staff, to make working here more efficient and more healthy in terms of air purification, for example. That’s the way it goes on. The service level will have to adapt because these modern technologies will come in. But the meaning of luxury is, in the end, a person who stands in front of you, serves you well and has a good attitude – and that will never, ever go away.

Key facts

Founded: 1928.Hotels: 10.Owned by: The Hongkong and Shanghai HotelsRooms: 2,887New openings on the cards: Three

Four Seasons is known the world over for its top-notch hotels. The company traces its origins to Toronto in 1961, where it was founded as a motor-hotel for business travellers. Since 2013 its president and CEO has been Allen Smith, an affable 60-year-old American who was formerly in charge of one of the world’s largest property-investment firms. He is refreshingly frank about the direction he thinks Four Seasons should take: do less but do it better.

Despite his willingness to chart a new course for the hotel brand, Smith says that a constant in Four Seasons’ ethos is the understanding that service is its strongest asset. That remains the case whether the location is a redesigned former sailing club in Miami or one of the company’s longstanding properties in cities including Damascus, Vancouver and Kyoto. We met Smith at Four Seasons’ testing laboratory in Toronto to find out more about the brand, its imminent expansion into Asia and how it is now branching out into residential developments.

Monocle: Are there things that you have decided Four Seasons should not do?
Allen Smith: We don’t chase trends. We are a brand that stands for timelessness in what we do. Since I joined, we have opened 22 new hotels but we have also exited seven. That speaks to our willingness to say there are certain situations where, for a variety of reasons, it’s time for us to move on. It’s a strong statement of how important product quality is to the brand. Our growth needs to be measured. You have to be willing to wait for the right opportunity.

M: When you took over, you mentioned wanting to do less but better. What did you mean?
AS: Four Seasons is an extraordinary brand – and it was before I arrived. When I talk about quality over quantity, I’m making it clear that Four Seasons is not in the commodity business. Every single one of our hotels is unique and every single one is custom-built in its character. If you’re going to pursue that strategy, you can never compromise on the quality of the physical product or the service you provide. If we wanted to simply drive unit growth, we could make lots of compromises to accumulate hotels. But that’s not the business we’re in.

M: But you are diversifying. How does that work?
AS: Four Seasons is known as a hotel and resort company. In reality it’s about hotels, resorts and residences. If we look at our new projects, 80 per cent are mixed use, consisting of both hotel and residential components. In many cases the hotel would not get built but for the residential element. But to sell those residential units you need the hotel to provide the services. That combination defines the approach we take now; it has allowed us to go into projects we wouldn’t have otherwise done, such as Twenty Grosvenor Square in London. Another extension of the brand is in the Four Seasons Jet: the concept is an end-to-end travel experience where everything you can think of has been thought of, from the moment you leave your house to the moment you return. That experience resonates with people.

M: How has technology changed the face of the hospitality industry?
AS: You have technology-based disrupters: companies that have scale and financial resources we can’t match. We’re relatively small in comparison. To think we can go head to head with Priceline or Expedia or Airbnb in the online world – we can’t win that game. I think of the next tier – Marriott, Accor, arguably Hilton – as consolidators. They are focused on every hotel segment, from economy to luxury. That allows them to face off against online competitors. And then you get to the luxury space, we represent one of the largest of that ilk. We have this unique pedigree and history, we have a company based on a principle called the Golden Rule [treating others as you’d hope to be treated yourself]. It isn’t a slick corporate slogan, it is something that resonates deeply with our employees. One of the things I never lose sight of is that this is the ultimate people business – and the people at Four Seasons have a passion for service that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

M: What sets Four Seasons’ approach apart?
AS: I routinely get letters from our guests sharing experiences they’ve had with us – often joyous but in other cases tragic. A woman was travelling with her husband when he passed away unexpectedly at our hotel; she wrote me a five-page letter about what our team did to support her. As she put it, through their care and compassion they “allowed me to keep breathing”. It’s extraordinary. What’s so compelling is that these are situations for which there is no playbook, there’s no training manual. We don’t always get it right – we’ll be the first to admit that – and that was one of the brilliant things about Izzy [Isadore Sharp, 85-year-old founder and chairman of Four Seasons]. He realised that when you make a mistake, correcting it is often one of the best ways to win back your customers. The genuine emotional connection our employees seek to make with people is really extraordinary.

M: How are your guests’ expectations of luxury travel changing?
AS: Innovation has become much harder. There was a time when you could innovate by introducing things in the guest room, such as complimentary bath amenities. We have gone well past that. Innovation today is around guest experience. Guests are looking for a personal connection; they’re looking for a set of authentic experiences. And those qualities can only be delivered effectively by people who have a deep understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, a passion for service and a level of emotional intelligence that allows them to exercise judgment in the moment. For that reason it’s hard to do well all over the world and that’s why we stand out.

Key facts

Founded: By Isadore “Izzy” Sharp. The first Four Seasons hotel opened on Jarvis Street in Toronto in 1961.Current portfolio: 105 resort and residences in 43 countries.Annual revenue: €3.8bn.Employees: 45,000 worldwide.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Karma Cola vows to take on the world

The co-founder of the ethical cola company signed up by Jamie Oliver's restaurant group says the deal shows the business is a real "contender" in the lucrative British beverage industry.

Karma Cola's Simon Coley said the decision was a year in the making and came after the group did extensive trialling in one of its restaurants.

"They gave a card with every purchase of Karma Cola with a little note saying should we keep stocking this," Coley said.

"All 150 came back saying yes, so they couldn't really not do it after that."


Simon Coley and two business partners set up Karma Cola in a shed in the central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn in 2012 with the intention of creating a range of fizzy drinks that would be organic, sustainable and help those that provided the raw ingredients.

The idea caught on and last month the company sold its 100 millionth bottle.

"The world consumes 1.8 billion cola branded drinks every day so it's an extraordinarily large category in the beverage industry," Coley said.

"We wanted to do some good and thought this was an industry where that was a possibility."
The company has stuck with its original ethos despite the added costs involved in sustaining an ethical, fair-trade business model.

"There is a commercial tension. We're trying to manage our margins to keep the price attractive for consumers and at the same time protect the producers who ultimately benefit from the sales of these drinks," Coley said.

"I don't think we'd have the success we're experiencing if we didn't do what we believe in and wear our heart on our sleeve."

Coley said the company had no plans to change its business model despite a doubling of sales in each of the past two years.

"We're seeing more brands and chains of these fast casual dining restaurants like Jamie's Italian in the UK wanting to differentiate themselves by choosing products like ours that have similar values," he said.

Along with Jamie Oliver's restaurant group, Coley said Karma Cola had recently done deals to sell its drinks in the Wahaca Mexican restaurant chain and Honest Burger chain in the UK.

"There's a whole group of these sorts of fast casual dining restaurants that are trying to do the same thing - give a great experience and care for all the ingredients and the people responsible for producing them," Coley said.

When it comes to the health-side of the carbonated drinks industry Coley said they were making progress there too.

The company has just developed a sugar-free version of its products which will be launched in Jamie's Italian and has also designed a 250ml can for its products to create a smaller portion size.

"We're focused on making this work in other parts of the world now," Coley said.

"The story is catching on and because we're trying to make something that benefits all of the people in the supply chain, there's a real fascination and interest for giving us a hand."


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Modernity has shaped our risk-averse behaviour

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute
Back in the late 1980s, Dana Carvey of “Saturday Night Live” used to do a funny impression of President George H. W. Bush, in which the character would justify his own supposed timidity by muttering “wouldn’t be prudent” to himself about every small risk. The impression neatly captured the contemporary notion of prudence: faintheartedness, caution and a general bias against action.

So perhaps it seems odd that this is my advice for young people heading out of school and into the world: Be prudent.

Yes, it sounds boring, but it may turn out to be a more radical suggestion than most graduates hear.

I thought prudence was not my cup of tea. When I quit college to go on the road as a musician, I was being imprudent. When I quit music to go back to school in my 30s, it was imprudent. When I left a tenured professorship for an unsecure job? You guessed it — imprudent.

Then I had an epiphany. When I finally read the German philosopher Josef Pieper’s “The Four Cardinal Virtues,” which had sat unread on my shelf for years, I was shocked to learn that I didn’t hate prudence; what I hated was its current — and incorrect — definition.


Mr. Pieper argued that we have bastardized this classical concept. We have refashioned prudence into an excuse for cowardice, hiding behind the language of virtue to avoid what he calls “the embarrassing situation of having to be brave.” The correct definition, Mr. Pieper argued, is the willingness to do the right thing, even if that involves fear and risk.

In other words, to be rash is only one breach of true prudence. It is also a breach to be timid. So which offense is more common today?

A new study by the University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt helps answer this question. He started with the premise that people who agonize over important choices may systematically make wrong decisions, defaulting to either “yes” or “no” with too much regularity. To investigate, Mr. Levitt found several thousand people in the throes of a difficult decision, weighing choices like job offers and marriage proposals, who volunteered to let him make the decision for them — with the flip of a coin.

Heads meant to decide in the affirmative; tails meant to decline. (Let it sink in that thousands of people agreed to have their most important decisions made by a stranger — worse, an economist — flipping a coin.) When given heads, Mr. Levitt found people were much more likely to take the decision affirmatively than they would be if left to their devices, so the experiment was effective.

But the really interesting result concerned the participants’ happiness. In follow-up interviews six months later, Mr. Levitt found that the average “heads” person was significantly happier than the average “tails” person.

Here’s what all this means: Our sin tends to be timidity, not rashness. On average, we say “no” too much when faced with an opportunity or dilemma.

Once you start looking for this imprudently risk-averse behavior, you see it everywhere, particularly among young people. According to data from the General Social Survey collected by the National Opinion Research Center, people under age 30 today are almost a third less willing than under-30s in 1996 to relocate for their careers. And as the economist Tyler Cowen observes in his new book “The Complacent Class,” the fraction of people in this age group who own their own businesses has plummeted by about 65 percent since the 1980s.

Economic changes have contributed to both trends, to be sure. But there is another culprit: a diminishing frontier spirit and an increasing paranoia about taking big leaps.

My checkered past, it turns out, may not be a litany of imprudent decisions. True prudence means eschewing safety and familiarity in favor of entrepreneurial living. It requires clear eyes, a courageous heart and an adventurous spirit.

So take a risk. Be prudent. Don’t wait for social scientists to flip a coin on your behalf. Choose heads.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Singapore's street food is value for money and diverse

Nancy Trejos

Marvin Lowe lines up at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle at 10:30 a.m. for a lunch of bak chor mee.
The bowl of noodles is tossed in black vinegar and chili paste and topped with pork dumplings, minced pork and meatballs. Liver slices and dried sole fish are also in the mix.

If he’s lucky, Lowe may be able to get his meal within 90 minutes. Last year, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles became one of two street food stalls in the world to earn a star in the Michelin Guide. Now, diners cue up for more than an hour for the hearty bowls of noodles that will usually cost less than $10.
Lowe does not mind the wait. He's been eating at Hill Street for years.

“Growing up, it becomes part of your memories,” he says. “That’s why you keep coming here.”
Singapore has its share of fine dining, but many locals and visitors prefer to go to its many food stall — or hawker — centers to taste inexpensive yet well-prepared dishes.

There are more than 100 hawker centers in Singapore, and the number keeps growing. Some have 10 or fewer stalls in them. Some have more than 100.

At each one, you can find a variety of cuisines because of Singapore’s proximity to so many other foodie destinations — Malaysian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Middle Eastern. The large immigrant population has made its mark on the culinary scene.

You can find savory and sweet at each hawker center. There’s usually something to satisfy every craving — Hainanese chicken rice, laksa and curry puffs among them.

“The hawker center in Singapore is a service to the people,” says Tang Chay Seng, chef and owner of Hill Still Tai Hwa Pork Noodles, which his family started in the 1930s.

Seng has been cooking since he was a child. He’s now in his 60s.

And a new wave of younger chefs is putting its spin on traditional dishes.

At Amoy Street Food Centre, two culinary school classmates, Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham, started A Noodle Story, which has earned a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for Singapore. Bib Gourmands are selected by Michelin’s anonymous food inspectors, and cost diners $40 or less.

"No doubt, there will be some critics because of our age," Khoo says. "We prefer to let our food do the talking."

A Noodle Story markets itself as the place for "the first and only Singapore-style ramen."
The noodles are accompanied by Hong Kong-style wontons, a soy-flavored hot spring egg and a crispy potato-wrapped prawn. This is topped with barbecued pork then garnished with sliced scallions and red pepper. A small bowl, which is not that small, costs $5. A monster bowl is $9.25.

"Singapore's hawker centers are something very unique in this part of the world," Khoo says. "It's a melting pot of different cuisines at affordable prices. Most Singaporeans have most of their outside meals in hawker centers because it's cheap, delicious with huge varieties."

Perhaps one of the most popular hawker center dishes is Hainanese chicken rice. It is a simple dish — boneless chicken, rice cooked with chicken fat and bones, ginger, salted vegetables and broth. Simple, yet various food stalls vie for the title of best Hainan chicken rice producer.

At the Tiong Bahru Market Hawker Center, Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice has received a Bib Gourmand designation from the Michelin guide.

“It’s comfort food really,” says Naseem Huseni, a tour guide who specializes in food. “When I travel and come back to Singapore, this is the first thing I want to eat.”