The International Institute of Hotel Management, which claims the title of being the largest hotel school chain in hospitality management, created and conducted the third edition of its famed International Young Chef Olympiad. The International Young Chef Olympiad turned into a hub of all youthful culinary skill and talent during the week gone by, starting with the colourful and grand opening ceremony on 28 January 2017. The competition lasted till 2 February 2017 and took place over four different states in India: Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata. Dr. Suborno Bose, CEO and Chief Mentor at IIHM, in a conversation with Guardian 20, said, “The competition is a pioneering example in the world of the culinary arts because the young come here to share one passion: food.”

The competition in itself is said to be largest of its kind and boasted this year a panel of the well-seasoned faces of the culinary and hospitality industry, both national and international. Starting with the recognised and admired Sanjeev Kapoor who served as the principal judge and mentor to young faces from 45 different countries. The chairman of the jury was Professor David Foskett, who is a pioneer of the industry and is a member of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Britain and the Head of the London School of Hospitality and Tourism. Other than these figures the panel also consisted of Chefs like Boris Leung, Kunal Kapur, Ranveer Brar, Parvinder Singh Bali, Udo Leick, Shaun Kentworthy, Andreas Muller, Andy Varam, Abhijhit Saha, Ajay Chopra and “food guru” Karen Anand. The mascot for the young competitors at the event was Logan Guleff, the Masterchef Junior USA 2014 winner.

The judges had been divided into three different categories: technical, tasting and interaction. The first judges looked at the entire process of performance, to analyse multiple aspects like techniques, skills and other necessities like minimal wastage and cleanliness. The tasting judges tasted the food and assessed it on the basis of the presentation, flavor and other similar key elements. The interactive judges were the ones to finally interview the participants on the basis of their presented meals and performances. 

 The opening ceremony was a complete ensemble of color and performances, aimed to present to the international gathering a taste of the cultural variety. The regional dance forms and musical performances were put up on stage by students from various schools in Delhi. Even the contestants dressed in traditional attires of their respective homelands. Having made the gathering a space where cultural exchange evidently seemed to be taking place, the opening ceremony held up the ethos and mission of the competition: to share cultures.

Professor David Foskett, had much to say about the fundamental idea behind the effort to Guardian 20. “The event doesn’t really aim to teach these young participants anything about running a hotel or about the industry, because they already know all of that and are being taught the same at the Hospitality institutes that they represent. We are here to enable them to share ideas and knowledge of their respective cultures,” says Foskett. He went on to explain through a few lovely quotes for the occasion, as to what he believes is the symbolic value of the culinary industry, “food builds bridges,” he remarked. He also said that chefs worked with their hands, heads and hearts and that’s what makes them artists.

Chef Abhijit Shah, who was among the technical judges of the event, emphatically pointed out the need of skill and technique which he believed is the main take away for the young chefs. He expressed, “Cooking does come down to skill, skills like chopping and knowing how to play with the flame help determine the finest of the finest.” And on the contrary the young and spirited Logan Guleff shared, “I think everyone is taught skill. What I wish to encourage is their creativity, what makes them unique.”

With a wide range of ideas and aims operating in the backdrop, the International Young Chef Olympiad turned into a treasure trove for the enthusiastic younglings that were present to learn, other than the trophy and the cash reward of $10,000 for the final winner. The participant from India Puja Mishra spoke with us. “I am here to participate and to learn,” Puja said, “I am not really trying to think about the results or anything.”

Having lasted for six day the competition was a gruesome journey. The contestants travelled to four different states and cooked for timed challenges. The final results were declared on the last day; Tham Jiajun Mathew of At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, Singapore won the third edition of Young Chef Olympiad. Andrew Ou Kai Peng of Taylors University, Malaysia bagged the 1st runner up and Selah Schmoll of Canadian Food And Wine Institute, Niagara College, Canada took home the 2nd runner-up trophy. Puja Mishra of IIHM, representing India took home the trophy for best cooked vegetarian dish.