|I was about to make a soup and then I realised I didn’t have enough time so I turned it into an amuse-bouche
17, winner of Young Chef
India Schools 2013
Ja Simran ja jee le apni zindagi...
The popular punchline from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge cooked up a whole new meaning this week when Calcutta girl Simran Kapur, 17, claimed the Young Chef India Schools 2013 crown at the University of West London.
The Class XII student of Modern High School won the Young Chef finale — held by the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), in association with t2 — with a dollop of amuse-bouche served to some of the best-known Indian chefs in London.
Wearing the judges’ hat on Tuesday were Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to get a Michelin star, Cyrus Todiwala, chef and TV food presenter, Andy Varma, Calcutta boy and owner of London’s Chakra restaurant, with t2 columnist Shaun Kenworthy and Sanjay Kak from IIHM for company.
“What is an amuse-bouche?” they tested the teenager, when she pointed to her dish of prawns as one. “It’s a bite-sized portion of food that amuses the palate,” she said, composed and confident.
Only hours ago, Simran’s heart had been pounding as loudly as the pepper she pounded for her chicken dish. “In the morning, after I entered the kitchen at the University of West London, I almost had a nervous breakdown. My phirni was not turning out well, my rotis were breaking, I hadn’t started the main course... in short life was hell,” she recalled.
Like Simran, her five other competitors had made it past 4,000 students who participated in the Young Chef competition over six months. Finally, after gruelling tasks in the kitchen, the best ones from Calcutta, Pune, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and Bangalore were selected to travel to London for the September 17 finale.
A finale that Simran aced with her Prawn Amuse-Bouche, a starter of Coriander and Sesame-coated Fish, served with a portion of coriander and mint chutney, Pepper Chicken for the main course and Phirni for dessert.
“I was about to make a soup and then I realised I didn’t have enough time so I turned it into an amuse-bouche,” explained Simran, a move that chef Kak said “gave her an edge” in the race for the Rs 5 lakh jackpot, which she will “save” for her “education”.
Contestants were judged on flavour to format. “While most of the marking was based on the taste of the food, we did look out for how the kids worked under pressure and managed the kitchen, all this in an alien environment down to the western-style gas stoves,” said judge Andy Varma.
“Her food was great and she handled the pressure very well,” said Kak.
Simran, wearing two tiny cuts on her fingers as her “battle wounds”, couldn’t stop grinning. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”
The most challenging part? “Making the phirni...” The most rattling moment? “Each time chef Shaun announced how much time was left!”
Talking of time, just like Kajol’s character in DDLJ (1995), Simran’s time to live her dreams might have just started.
“She’s a Punjabi from Bengal — with a foodie combination like that you can’t go wrong!” smiled judge Atul Kochhar.
Touche. Or rather, bouche!
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