One for the archives! At the glitzy grand finale held at Wet-O-Wild, Nicco Park, on the evening of February 2, YCO champ Mathew (third from left) posed with the star-studded jury of YCO ’17 — Ranveer Brar, Sanjeev Kapoor, Ajay Chopra, Andreas Muller, Suborno Bose, Abhijit Saha, Sharad Dewan, Karen Anand, Mathew’s mentor Satish Madaan, Boris Leung, Andy Varma and others.
“I have the easiest job here tonight, to make you all dance!” said singer Shayne Hyrapiet. He started the night with We Are The World and then was true to his word as London thumakda, Las Ketchup, Badtameez dil and Kala chasma followed. (Right) The boys from the Middle East even did the belly dance to Afghan Jalebi!
“This is not just a competition. It’s an Olympic, the objective of which is friendship and bonding,” said Suborno Bose, chairman, YCO, International Council, as he unveiled the trophy with David Foskett, chair of the YCO jury. “I have been involved in competitions for over 40 years and this is one of the best,” said London-based Foskett, whose Practical Cookery books are in the syllabi of many culinary institutes.
MasterChef India Season 5 winner Kirti Bhoutika was spotted in the FROW.
Did the culinary competition remind Logan Guleff, winner of MasterChef Junior US 2014, of his days as contestant? “Yes, there was one moment which took me back to the show. I was having a tough time and Gordon Ramsay came by and helped me out. He said: ‘Get your stuff together and gamble it all’. What he meant was go big or go home. So when I saw one of the contestants having a tough time too, I tried to help him with words of encouragement,” said Logan, seen here doing a Bolly step in a blue kurta he had picked up on his shopping spree at New Market, with t2!
AND THE YCO CROWN WENT TO...
Tham Jiajun Mathew from Singapore
Mathew, 24, beat nine other countries — Australia, Canada, England, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines and Sri Lanka — in the final round where the contestants had to push out 20 plated dishes in two hours! A t2 chat with the student of Singapore’s At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy who took home a cool
What is your earliest memory of cooking?
I started cooking as I didn’t have a helper around when I was young. My mom passed away when I was six. I had to make my own meals and do my own laundry. My earliest cooking memory is when I cooked my very first pasta, it tasted horrible! But we all start somewhere, don’t we?
What are the lessons you’ve learnt from YCO?
There were so many lessons learnt from YCO, namely how to work under pressure and how to cope with stress.
You must be excited to go home and show the trophy to your family and friends in college...
There are mixed feelings about going home. I am excited to be seeing my family and friends, but sad to be leaving the friends I’ve made, and everyone in India who have been amazing and made the trip so, so enjoyable.
What do you like best about India, having visited Delhi, Bangalore and Calcutta?
Definitely the hospitality and the food! Everyone in India is so warm and welcoming. I think I speak for all the contestants when I say that we really felt at home.
Is there any chef who inspires you?
My inspiration is chef Esben Holmboe Bang from the restaurant Maaemo in Norway. I hope I’ll be able to go work there someday, it’ll be so cool!
What is your food dream?
To have my very own place, and to work with friends and form a really strong team... and hopefully get a Michelin star or two!
How do you plan to spend your US $10,000 prize money?
I am going to treat myself to a really nice meal, and then the rest of the money is going to go into realising my dream.
Of all the dishes you cooked here, your favourite would be?
The vegetarian dish of Butternut ‘Donut’ en Papillote with a Caramelised Onion Royale, Spinach Mushroom Feta and Almond, Spiced Butternut Puree and a Chickpea Tuile. It was through many trials and errors that we managed to come up with that dish and I was really happy with the outcome.
Finally, how would you describe the YCO experience?
Amazing. I would do it all over again if I had the chance. I made really good friends in the process, and it really opens your eyes to the world. I would like to thank a few people, namely Sasha Vanessa Fernandez (UAE), Takudzwa Matinenga (Zimbabwe), Ecem Karakus (Turkey) and Aman Kasera (IIHM student) for making this trip extra, extra special and so hard to forget!
FIRST RUNNER-UP: Andrew Ou Kai Peng from Taylor’s University, Malaysia, was shocked when he heard his name called out. “I’m extremely happy! I didn’t expect anything, I just participated to enjoy and cook. Everyone here is very good, but I must have done something right during the day,” grinned the 22-year-old.
SECOND RUNNER-UP: Canada’s Selah Schmoll from the Canadian Food & Wine Institute was stoked having realised that her country made it to the Top 3, two years in a row. “I was hoping to place but I can’t believe I actually did! I think practising at home is what helped me the most,” said Selah, 23, who planned to leave all her “clothes here to make room for the trophy”.
Text: Deborima Ganguly
Pictures: Rashbehari Das