"Under One Roof" viewers know Moses Lim is Tan Ah Teck. But Moses is also a global food ambassador and founded his own Moses Lim Gourmet Club. For 18 years, this household figure led hundreds on overseas tours to introduce good food — somewhat like his current Grandpa Magnificent role in Okto's "Zero Hero". He spills his foodie thoughts over tea.
How did you become food connoisseur and start gourmet tours?
In 1993, I was in the TV industry and Santa Agency approached me to lead a tour. I started thinking: If I'm not on TV anymore, will I still be invited? I doubt it. I also love travel and food so I thought this could be a back-up plan. So, I suggested a thematic gourmet tour to them. My first tour was Hong Kong.
Then, radio and TV started focusing on food and invited me on programs. I also began knowing many chefs and food associations, starting from Singapore Chefs Association then Hong Kong Chefs Association. From there, I became Gourmet Ambassador. All this started to help with ups and downs of the entertainment industry.
Any tour preparation? What happens on these tours?
Before each tour, I recce the places. I do food tasting and understand differences between their culture and ours. Example, see hum (cockles). In Southeast Asia, it is cheap but in Taiwan, see hum is very atas (high-class). My members are Singaporeans, Malaysians, Americans — mostly Chinese — and if they pay a lot for see hum, they will not be convinced, and my reputation will drop.
Wherever we go, I explain backgrounds, help people understand what they are eating. If people eat blindly, there's no discretion.
My gourmet tours are similar to usual tours. I tie up with travel agencies because I don't have manpower and licence. There are lots of logistics. My record was 8 coaches, 400 people.
For my tours, there're special arrangements — you reach the room, your luggage is there. My focus: good food, good accommodation.
Memorable tour experiences?
China is most interesting. Every province has specialties. Once I went to Shilin, Yunnan for food tasting. They are famous for cocoons which we don't have in Singapore so I thought Singaporeans won't like them. In the end, people complained they don't have enough and kept ordering but I have to stop them because it's too much protein.
In another province, I tasted this soup and after finishing it, they told me it was lizard soup!
Having gone around the world eating, do you ever get sick of gourmet food?
Oh no, food is endless entertainment. Imagine steak - for Asians, many different styles so it's endless. On dessert, there are many types of pastries. Mastering a meal is difficult.
As a food critic, who does the cooking at home?
My wife is Taiwanese and she loves cooking. Because of her, my daughter also cooks.
And you critic her cooking?
No way plus no chance!
After so much gourmet food, what's your favourite home-cooked dish and why?
We eat out so much. When home, it is mild and light steamed fish and boiled soup.
Is there anything you don't eat?
Dog meat. In early 50s, Hong Kong even sold cat eyes. I don't eat pets!
I eat socially-acceptable things. For religious reasons, no blood.
You travel so much to eat good food. What do you feel about wasting food and starving children?
We have to define waste. When travelling in big groups, waste between different tables is unavoidable — some like this dish better, others that dish better. But when eating with familiar people and you know how much you can eat then don't order too much. Don't have to order a whole table of food. If people can't finish then it's wasted.
I don't feel guilty if others can't eat and I can because I'm not doing anything wrong to get this meal. I thank God for my meal and appreciate what I have and where it came from. Even just water.
You have done charity shows and events involving food. Ever considered donating tour proceeds to charities feeding the hungry?
I don't practise this direction because costs of gourmet tours are high. But I support organisations like Peace Connect sending food packs to the poor and disadvantaged children sometimes.
March 2012, I'm going to Da Nang, Vietnam. During my recce, I found this street café that recruit poor kids who are reliable and train them as chefs. I'm bringing my tour to that café to help. There are different ways of charity and I choose this way.
Is there anything you love more than food?
Good health and rest. When you rest, take time to slow down then you have better health and that gives you more time to travel and eat. I was 120kg and pay the price healthwise but now I'm 85kg and feel much better. Health is more important.