Taipei, Sept. 5 (CNA) Taiwanese cuisine is virtually unknown in the United States, and thus it has great potential to grow dramatically in the country, a visiting U.S. culinary expert said Wednesday.
"There is tremendous potential in the U.S. for a new business," as Taiwanese food is underdeveloped and branded, Christopher Koetke, vice president of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, said at a forum in Taipei.
The second annual Gourmet Taiwan Summit and Forum has attracted nearly 400 local and foreign food and restaurant industry heavyweights to discuss future trends in the industry and how Taiwan can localize and internationalize the country's delicacies, the organizer Ministry of Economic Affairs said.
Koetke said people in the U.S. may know that bubble milk tea originates from Taiwan, but if asked, they would have difficulty identifying other types of 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 opportunity, but also serves as a great vehicle for people outside of the country to pay a visit," Koetke said.
When people fall in love with a particular type of food, they tend to be drawn to the country, which of course would turn into tourism dollars, he added.
Arriving in Taipei Sunday, Koetke said he had so far tasted some 70 dishes at either restaurants or night market food stalls.
Praising the food as being "wonderful" and the hospitality of Taiwanese people as "extraordinary," he said that he would love to duplicate all or part of the food experiences he has had here in the U.S.
Koetke added that it is a good time for Taiwan to promote its culinary culture in the northern American market, as Chinese food has become so commonly found that it no longer interests local people that much.
People in the U.S. used to consider eating Chinese food as something fashionable and expensive, but now it is "completely stagnating in the U.S.," even with perceptions that it is cheap, Koetke said.
The reason this is happening is partly because Chinese food is found everywhere nowadays and a lot of what's served in the U.S. is of mediocre-quality, he added.
As long as Taiwan can find the sweet spot between authenticity and main stream by "not dumbing it down, but changing it for American tastes," it will be a great hit, according to the expert.
Jia Osiel, globalization strategy manager at McDonald's Corp., also supported Koetke's view, saying that Taiwan needs to standardize and market its delicacies more wisely.
For example, she said cheese and yogurt are not promoted as "rotten milk" by Western countries that make a lot of the dairy products, but Taiwan uses a rather negative word for its traditional snack "stinky" tofu.
(By James Lee)