Using food to break down cultural barriers in Tamaki Makaurau

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14 June 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Using food to break down cultural barriers and encourage friendships is the aim of an Auckland couple’s latest exciting venture.

Bee Keng Koh is a woman with a lot on her plate – pun thoroughly intended. What started as a hobby with her husband, New Zealand Herald diversity journalist Lincoln Tan, has developed into one of Auckland’s fastest growing and most exciting food enterprises.

“Lincoln and I have always been food-obsessed, coming from Singapore where food is a huge part of life and where it’s so multicultural. We enjoy trying new foods, and when we came here, we simply carried on trying new foods.”

But 24 years ago, Bee recalls there were far fewer sit-down restaurants, with a lot of takeaways – and even those were limited. These days when she looks around, she says she can’t believe the growth.

“Auckland is now so cosmopolitan it’s one of the best dining destinations in the world. Shortly before the 2020 lockdowns, I was in New York and I wanted Chinese food, but I had to hop on a train and go to Chinatown. The beauty of Auckland is that there is a huge variety that is easily accessible.”

Last year, Bee and Lincoln started the culinary events company Lincoln’s Table. It organises dining experiences at smaller ethnic restaurants throughout Tāmaki Makaurau with the aim of using food to break down cultural barriers and encourage friendships.

Lincoln has long sought to do this through his journalism, encouraged by his Herald bosses, who launched the summer series Lincoln’s Table two years ago so he could share culinary discoveries and favourites.

When readers asked for more, he and Bee launched Lincoln’s Table, and she uses her sales and marketing experience to organise an ever- growing number of events such as restaurant openings, special promotions and celebrations.

After last year’s lockdown forced them to cancel events, they launched an online Facebook group called the Chow Luck Club to keep foodies actively involved in Auckland’s dining scene and help eating establishments promote takeaway options.

The club shows no sign of stopping and now has 7200 members, which prompted their adult children, Ryan, 22, and Megan, 20, to launch a branch at the University of Auckland. Bee says it’s another way to create feelings of belonging and inclusion as well as promote hospitality businesses. The couple will be especially busy during Elemental AKL 2022.

They’re organising four Feasts of Legends events that celebrate world-class cuisine but also highlight the cultural importance of food and eating together in Vietnam, Korea, China and Italy.

As well as festival banquets and performances – both musical and theatrical – there will be stories shared about culinary traditions and how they unite families, friends and entire communities. Each promises to be lavish, but Bee admits she won’t eat a thing!

“We’ve checked it all out beforehand and, on each night, it’s our job to host and ensure everyone else is having a great time.”

Find out more about Elemental here.

This content was made in partnership with Auckland Unlimited.

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