Chef Lim's signature Nasi Lemak.

Buffet stations hang from the ceiling, dotting the room with floating food stations, and a number of chefs hold residence at their own ‘Showmanship Station,’ preparing food on-site and eager to answer questions. Chances are, you’re at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia, where 2013 has been named the Year of Culinary Excellence.

General Manager Datuk Peter Brokenshire said that the food service workers at KLCC “pride ourselves on our culinary offerings and believe they will continue to set new standards, creating a point of difference from our competitors and catering to the growing number of repeat clients who are constantly on the lookout for new and unique offerings to add variety to their dining experience.”

Head Chef Richmond Lim has been with KLCC from the very beginning, since it opened in 2004 at a cost of about $175 million. 

Lim said that food at the convention center has always been top-notch because “food in Malaysia is more than just a gastronomic experience, it’s a way of life.”

YEAR OF EXCELLENCE 

Lim said that ambience, color, flavor, texture, aroma and nutrition value all come together and lead up to the one moment that the guest will actually taste the food.

Part of the elevated experience involves hanging pedestals, where buffet stations literally hang from the ceiling to about three feet above the ground, creating a floating effect. The ‘State-of-the-Art Elevated Buffet’ debuted at a celebration for Australia Day 2013, which brought more than 900 guests to KLCC, Jan. 22.

One of the highlights was an Australian yellowfin tuna, weighing in at more than 121 pounds.

Showmanship stations offer a live-action cooking component to the experience.

“Each station features our chefs showcasing their culinary skills live to add a touch of color and adventure to the occasion while offering guests the opportunity to engage with the chefs for an explanation on the different preparations,” said Brokenshire.

TECHNOLOGY IN THE KITCHEN 

There is a big research and development component to KLCC’s culinary offerings, with chefs meeting to brainstorm each month. 

“Today’s technology has gone so far that we can bring fine-dining to banqueting,” he added.

Mostly, it’s the technology in the actual kitchen itself. There are five kitchens at KLCC, each focusing on a different type of cuisine. Each kitchen, whether it’s Chinese, Western, Cold, Pastry, or Malay cuisine, is halal certified, confirming that every part of the process and procedure, including the ingredients, has been audited by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia or Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM).

A group of KLCC’s chefs underwent instruction at the Sunway Medical Centre to help with the creation of special dietary menus. The convention center paid for the chefs to take courses to arm them with the nutritional know-how to prepare custom dishes. 

It’s important to switch the food offerings because, last year, 95 events from the exhibitions and banquets segments were repeat clients.

The first promotion is Chinese food in ‘Modern Ching,’ followed by ‘Contemporary Traditional Malay’ cuisine, which takes a new spin on classic Malaysian foods. The third quarter will focus on KLCC’s State-of-the-Art Buffets,’ and the year wraps up with ‘Indian Delights and Festive Occasions.’

ON CALL SERVICE 

In 2012, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre hosted 1,442 events, up 7 percent from the previous year. Of the events in 2012, 96 percent were local/national and 2 percent international. 

Due to the high percentage of local events, KLCC has revamped level four of the convention center to cater to smaller-sized meetings. 

“TenOnCall comprises 10 highly versatile meeting spaces and saw attendance grow from 12,873 participants between January and December 2009 to 30,218 during the same period in 2012,” said Brokenshire, who added that the number of events in the same time period grew from 396 to 1,049.

“TenOnCall’s preset room configuration means guests can confirm their booking at very short notice and literally walk in and execute a same-day meeting,” added Brokenshire. 

There is a per-guest per-day fee for the TenOnCall option, which includes free-flow food and beverage throughout the duration of the meeting. The meeting option pulls from KLCC’s two public catering outlets, West Wing Café and Park View Deck. 

Recently, KLCC further enhanced the TenOnCall offering by adding a Beanie Experience, where participants can set up bean bags in various configurations and hold training, brainstorming, teambuilding, or creative networking sessions in a more informal setting. 

CONTINUED INVESTMENT 

KLCC is managed and operated by a joint venture company between KLCC (Holdings) and AEG Ogden, called Convex Malaysia. The facility has spent between $12,000-$15,900 each year on retrofitting its entire lighting system, including upgrading to LED bulbs and retrofitting to improve the overall lighting efficiency. 

In mid-2012, KLCC added nearly 28,000 square feet of space to the facility with Hall 6. There were also several internet-related upgrades.

The last 12 months also brought a re-vamped mobile website. Brokenshire said that KLCC recognized the importance of instant-access.

Also, KLCC benefits in some investment from the Malaysian government. In order to help steer business tourism, the government has made an $8-million Subvention Fund available to Kuala Lumpur, used primarily to help bid on international events. 

The convention center helps local association executives and industry partners with its annual Association Seminar, initiated in 2006. 

Even without all of the professional benefits of KLCC, the food alone might be reason enough to host an event in Kuala Lumpur.

Chef Lim eagerly described many of his favorite local dishes, including a Malaysian favorite that he puts his own spin on: Nasi Lemak.

“It’s actually a rice cooked with coconut milk,” said Lim, who said that additional ingredients include chili, anchovies and a quail egg.

“It’s one of our signatures because we serve it in a small, young coconut shell, instead of on a plate,” said Lim. “With the fragrance of the coconut, you feel like you’re actually sitting eating it under the coconut tree.”

Interviewed for this story: Datuk Peter Brokenshire and Chef Richmond Lim, +60 (3) 2333 2888