Friday Foodie: Rachel Gouk

Content Creator, Food Critic, F&B Consultant, and Tastemaker Rachel Gouk is a notable figure in the food and beverage industry in Shanghai, China. Originally from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Rachel has been working in the media industry across Chinese, English, and cross-cultural platforms in Shanghai since 2011.

Rachel founded Nomfluence in 2018, a platform in which she could share her views, experiences, and knowledge about the food and drink industry.

We caught up with Rachel and split some tasteless wang hong food in a mall restaurant with music that was too loud and waiters who were full of hate. Just kidding – see below.

Hi Rachel. It’s your choice for brunch this weekend. Where are you picking for Saturday and Sunday?

Do I have to go out? Usually if it’s my choice, I make my own brunch at home. If it was my treat, I’d bring people to Highline, The Cannery, The Commune Social… there’s plenty – just look up my Instagram or WeChat @nomfluence for recs.

What chef is killing it in Shanghai?

Paul Pairet.

He tried 15—or was it 20?—versions of the club sandwich before he put it on the menu at Polux. Polux is a beast. And I think it’s a feat to do such high quality at such high volume. Then there’s the UVC menu, four years in the making, that one. “Simple is never simple.” That’s what he said to me. If there was ever an obsessive perfectionist, it would be Paul Pairet.

If you had a weekend to escape Shanghai and go to another city in China just for eating, where and why?

Honestly, I haven’t explored Chinese food enough to recommend a place to go. If I were to plan a food trip, I’d do Gansu or Xinjiang. The food from those regions are more towards what I personally like to eat.

What pisses you off in a restaurant? For us it’s when the music is too loud (or bad).

Sure, loud music or shitty music is always a turn off. Especially in moderate to great restaurants. I guess things that piss me off are still the wang hong or zhuang bi food and drink. Trying too hard when you don’t need to or something that looks pretty but has zero substance.

Then there’s rude service. I don’t mean bad service when they’re first timer servers or still in training. I mean those who downright don’t give a shit and would spit in your food if they could could. The furthest those characters should get is the first HR interview and that’s it.

Look into your crystal ball/bowl – what is going to be a big eating trend in 2020 in China?

The demand for healthy, safe foods will continue increasing.

That’s not to say there’s a large impact when you compare the demand of healthy foods vs meat. It’s just that the demand for healthy or green foods—vegetables, organic, non-meat, etc.—started from almost nothing. So any growth, percentage-wise, is on a massive scale for the population of China.

Low ABV cocktails too.

Save for the luxury market, whatever the mass market is eating has got to be affordable. I think an increasing number of people are prioritizing price point over quality these days.

Unfortunately, more wang hong shit. Things that are made for the camera. Half-meter high burgers covered in molten cheese, multi-coloured coconut smoothie bowls that only get half eaten, cakes in the shape of soap, cocktails served in miniature bathtubs. It’s going to continue, unfortunately, until we reach a breaking point of sorts. It’ll trend until it stops. Please, let that be soon.


Photos by Rachel.

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