A grand closing ceremony brought down the curtain on the 8th International Young Chef Olympiad 2022 earlier this month. The week-long culinary competition themed on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was hosted virtually this year with over 40 participating nations. The closing ceremony was hosted at IIHM Global Campus in Salt Lake with limited guests following Covid protocols and was joined virtually by hundreds of guests, mentors and participants from various time zones.
The grand finale conducted with the top 10 finalists from Round One required the participants to make four portions of an innovative chicken dish by using at least 50 per cent of the given ingredients along with four portions of a dessert dish. The round was won by Italy that took home the golden trophy, the Best Young Chef title along with a prize money of $5,000. The top 11 to 20 competitors had to prepare a similar chicken dish for the Plate Trophy round, won by Armenia. Apart from this, participants were honoured with various awards appreciating their culinary skills. Snapshots:
The Telegraph had a chat with the YCO 2022 winner Matteo Cignetti from École Hôtelière de la Vallée d’Aoste, representing Italy, who is also one of the awardees of a certificate of merit for the Prof. Zenobia Nadirshaw International Diamond Research Awards (a research paper presentation on YCO’s theme of 2022 — the UN Sustainable Development Goals).
What is your earliest memory of juggling with pots and pans in the kitchen?
When I was about seven year old and started making classic chocolate chip biscuits. I think it was one of the first recipes I tried. Before that I used to play with a pretend kitchen that my parents gave me for Christmas.
Was this your first participation in a cooking competition?
It isn’t the first time that I am participating in a competition but it was the first time I participated in a competition in an online format. It was special and exciting in the same way. Before this competition, I had participated in other competitions at regional level and I came first in the national competition for the best student in hotel management schools.
How did you prepare for YCO?
For this competition, I prepared myself with intensive training and rehearsals, especially in the last month before the competition.
What was that one advice from your mentor that you think helped you to sustain in the competition?
My mentor always says to be happy with where you are and where you have arrived, but to continue to look to the future with humility and with your feet on the ground, only in this way can you continue to grow. I think he helped me a lot in the grand final because he allowed me to live it serenely and without the stress of having to win, but with the objective of finishing among the best.
What are the things you kept in mind for the final round?
During the final round I kept my concentration and my work outlook to the maximum, but I remembered that there were many people who supported me and loved me no matter what!
When did you desire to become a chef?
I started dreaming of becoming a chef in primary school. It’s a world that has always fascinated me and it’s always been what I want to do in life.
How was your experience of participating in YCO?
The YCO experience was special and intense. It was full of a thousand unique emotions that cannot be described. I had to compete with other young people of the highest level and preparation, but at the same time I had to prove that I was capable and had the skills to rise to the challenge.
Was the virtual format a challenge in any manner?
The online format was very special and unique, combining shots and work was a challenge. Not having any visual contact with the judges, I couldn’t sense their emotions and looks in relation to the working method and had to try to make them participate in the actions that were taking place at a distance.
What is the most memorable lesson you took back home from this competition?
The lesson I remember the most is the one of a local judge who told me “if at any time you panic, stop, take 20 seconds to breathe, concentrate and start again stronger than before”. This helped me the most with the concentration throughout the competition
A person you desire to cook for some day?
I would like to cook for anyone who has a healthy desire and willingness to have an experience, to learn and know, in a way to grow together. Not one person in particular but anyone who is motivated and loves the world of cooking!
Who is your inspiration from the culinary world?
My greatest inspirations are Niko Romito, an Italian chef of the highest level, who is making essentiality his cornerstone so as to favour the tastes, smells and flavour of the dish. At the same time, I am fascinated by Virgilio Martinez Veliz, a Peruvian chef, who is making the most of his country’s biodiversity by covering the territories and small things that make his territory unique.
What are your future plans?
In the near future, I want to start travelling and working, so that I can discover as much as possible all the techniques and approaches related to products and processes in different countries. I would like to leave Peru to move to the Nordic countries and complete my training in Asia. I hope to return to Italy to open my own restaurant and promote the incomparable products of my territory.
Nick Low (right), British deputy high commissioner to Calcutta, was present at the closing ceremony, cutting the birthday cake for mentors and participants with Suborno Bose, chairman, Young Chef Olympiad and CEO, International Hospitality Council, UK, and Chairman, International Institute of Hotel Management.
The coveted Best Young Chef Golden trophy was held by Suborno Bose as the ceremony took place virtually, joined by all participants, mentors, judges from across the world on Zoom. “IIHM Young Chef Olympiad 2022 was one of the most iconic and historical, with more than 42 countries participating in the culinary and research rounds. The grand final and plate trophy rounds were extremely interesting with Chef Andreas Muller from Germany and Hong Kong leading a team of expert judges from across the world under the watchful eye of the chairman of the jury, David Foskett. After a gruelling day of competition, the cup, after many years, returned to Europe with Matteo from Italy winning the Gold, Singapore claiming the Silver and Iceland taking the Bronze position. The plate round, fought between the 11 and 20 position holders after round one, was won by Armenia, which was absolutely well deserved,” said Suborno Bose.
The Olympiad flame that was ignited on the opening ceremony was carried by student representatives in the closing ceremony.
Sanjukta Bose, director IIHM Kolkata with Suborno Bose
From left to right: Sumeet Suri, general manager of JW Marriott Kolkata with wife Roma Suri, General manager of Novotel Kolkata Sandeep Johri, general manager of ITC Royal Bengal Gaurav Soneja and general manager of The Park Pramode Bhandari
Vijay Shrikent, general manager, Taj Bengal
Sourav Ghosal, general manager Taal Kutir Convention Centre
Chef Shaun Kenworthy with wife Pinky
GRAND FINALE RUNNER-UP
Chong Jia De from At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy, representing Singapore, was placed second in the competition. “To be honest, as a junior student in school, I never thought that I would get an opportunity to represent the school in an international competition such as the Young Chef Olympiad. This was a stepping stone for me,” said Chong.
Halldor Haflidason from Hospitality and Culinary School of Iceland, representing Iceland, came third in the grand finale. “For this competition we trained a lot, day and night. All the work finally paid off. Alongside getting the third place I got two special awards too. One being the best ambassador for a paper where I wrote about my future as a chef and the second being the best hygiene and kitchen practice. I am very honoured and proud to have gotten this far,” said Halldor.
WINNERS IN OTHER CATEGORY
Mohammadreza Hashemieshghpour from Paniz Mehr Iranian Culinary Academy, representing Iran, was one of the awardees for Best Hygiene and Kitchen Practice.
Mya Hilts from Canadore College, representing Canada, was one of the awardees for Best Knife Skills.
Donovon Aaron Tan from B.H.M.S. — Business & Hotel Management School, representing Switzerland, received the Kitchen Cut Management Award.
Sourav Valentine Gomes from IIHM, Calcutta, representing India, was one of the awardees for Ambassador Awards.
PLATE TROPHY WINNER
“When my name was announced as the Plate Trophy winner, I was surprised, emotionally shocked, excited and at the same time I was proud that the name of my country was announced as the winner for such a prestigious award. I was happy that our hard work has paid off. YCO has been an interesting, amazing and great experience. Proper management of time and correct classification of actions helped me to win,” said Gayane Simonyan from Centre D’enseignement Professionnel Franco-Armenien, representing Armenia.
Pictures: B. Halder and IIH