Alumni Stories | Maggie Chiang — The Journey of a Philosopher of Gourmet Art





USJ alumna Maggie Chiang I Man, known as the Philosopher of the Gourmet Art, has an intriguing background that has shaped her unique approach to blending philosophy, creativity, art, and cuisine to create unique aesthetic experiences. Maggie’s pursuit of knowledge and eagerness to explore the interconnectedness of philosophy, art, and food, led her to enrol in the Master of Philosophy programme at USJ.

Philosophy is often regarded as a profound discipline in the minds of most people. It involves incorporating philosophical ideas into one’s work and life, exploring and inspiring different possibilities. How does “she,” known as the Philosopher of the Gourmet Art, use the fusion of creativity, art, and philosophy to conceive unique aesthetic experiences?

Driven by Interest, Fuelled by Passion

Ms. Maggie Chiang I Man, a renowned philosopher of gourmet art, completed her Master of Philosophy at the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy of the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) in 2022. Her work spans various domains, including culinary instruction and food art project design and planning. She is dedicated to merging food and art, assuming multiple roles, and striving for self-improvement throughout the years.

Maggie has a passion for learning new things and constantly striving for progress. Since childhood, she has been fascinated by philosophical literature, art, and dessert baking. After pursuing a career in the culinary industry, she began contemplating ways to further enhance herself. She believes that philosophy and art are closely intertwined, both exploring aesthetics and truth. Thus, upon a friend’s recommendation, she seized the opportunity to enrol in the Philosophy programme at USJ.

Igniting Innovation, Leveraging Acquired Knowledge

The philosophy programme at USJ encompasses diverse teaching units such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, and intercultural hermeneutics. Maggie believes that the programme facilitates students’ reflection on life’s issues and inspires multidimensional thinking in their professional endeavours. Reflecting on her memorable professors during her campus life, she fondly recalls Prof. Fr. Franz Gassner of the Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy. Besides imparting specialised knowledge, she has greatly benefited from Fr. Gassner’s attitudes and empathetic approach towards students’ curiosity and needs.

The Master of Philosophy Programme at USJ emphasises comparative philosophy, considering the thoughts and thinking patterns of different cultures to deepen mutual understanding and explore new approaches to problem-solving. Regarding the application of acquired knowledge in the workplace after graduation, Maggie shared that she often collaborates with different international brands to design food art projects. Her works primarily involved visual and gustatory presentations, such as creating large-scale artworks on dining tables and incorporating culinary delights to convey various themes. After completing her master’s programme, she and her team, Tasteractive, ventured into organising interactive food art workshops. These workshops incorporate diverse concepts from philosophy and aesthetics. She recalls designing six different ingredients based on the participants’ emotions while watching the sunrise during one project. Attendees could choose the food based on their own moods. Maggie also shared examples of workshops that integrated philosophical ideas and artistic creativity. In one event, she experimented with leading participants into a dark room where screens displayed philosophical quotes. Through reading, her team guided attendees to contemplate questions and explore meaning. Later, they intentionally introduced an interactive segment in the workshop, using hummus to create savory ice cream for participants to taste. This was aimed at helping people experience the present moment and express the idea that although there may be darkness in life, there will always be a moment of light. These unique concepts added an interesting and distinctive appeal to the workshop content.

Promoting Philosophy from the Heart

It is worth mentioning that, apart from her love for philosophy, Maggie also serves as the Director of the Macao Association of Chinese and Western Philosophy (MACWP). Starting from her initial passion for reading, she co-founded the association with fellow alumni from USJ, aiming to advance research, exchange, and promotion of Chinese and Western philosophy. She believes that there are widespread misconceptions or unfamiliarity among the general public regarding philosophy. “Throughout the development of human society, it has been shaped by various philosophical ideas. Hence, the association’s mission is to promote public understanding of philosophy and employ easily comprehensible approaches. Simultaneously, our association organizes events that revolve around current societal issues,” she explained.

She cited examples of their activities, such as World Philosophy Day in 2022, where creative and critical thinking were employed to engage participants in philosophical explorations of the concept of imitation or cognitive strategies in the age of media. In 2023, their event focused on the concept of anxiety, as urban dwellers faced uncertainty about their future post-pandemic. Aligning with the theme “The Human of the Future” for World Philosophy Day, the event involved interactive discussions with attendees and invited professors and alumni from USJ, garnering enthusiastic responses from the public.

With regards to inspiring the current students, Maggie always maintains an open-minded attitude towards learning. “As stated in my thesis, if you approach different things with preconceived thoughts and ideas, you hinder your own progress.” She encourages students to ask bold questions, actively participate in their learning, and emphasises that wisdom stems from curiosity.

[Maggie’s finger-food creations for the Open Day of the USJ Faculty of Religious Studies and Philosophy in April 2022]

[Maggie Chiang]