Young Chef

t2 brings you helpings from the Delhi leg of YCO 2018

  • Published 5.02.18

The IIHM campus in Delhi was buzzing with excitement on January 29. After all, it was all set to be the host for the first round of the 4th International Young Chef Olympiad, presented by the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) in association with t2.

Twenty-four out of 43 contestants — divided into three groups with eight members each — were fighting to prove their mettle. The stressful two hours saw the young chefs making four portions of Poached Egg Florentine served in pastry tartlet cases, along with Lemon Souffle and fresh Egg Custard, following recipes given to them. The first round was a test to showcase their basic culinary skills and their ability to adhere to the recipe.

Snapshots from the cook-off...

Gaurav Dangol from Nepal was the first to finish cooking all the dishes. “I could work so fast because I have been practising a lot. Apart from that, I was multi-tasking too. I think that helped me a lot,” said the 20-year-old who is visiting India for the first time.

Emmanuel Daniel Lesperance from Seychelles had a lot riding on him. “A lot was going through my mind. Everyone in my country is supporting me and I want to make them proud,” said the young chef who had a tough time with the lemon souffle as he had to make a second batch after he forgot to add the egg yolk. 

Surya Sekhar Roy Choudhury, representing India, was counting seconds but he managed to finish cooking just in the nick of time. “When the second egg for Poached Florentine didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to, I went completely blank. I took a few seconds to calm down,” said the 24-year-old. The toughest element for him? “The Egg Custard for sure.”

Yannick Haast of Belgium wants to be a Michelin star chef someday. No wonder, a judge he is looking forward to meeting is Michelin star chef Chris Galvin. The most challenging dish of the day for him? “I found the Lemon Souffle to be the most challenging as it’s all about getting the perfect shape,” said Yannick. 

Lim An Rui Andre has some big shoes to fill. It was his country, Singapore, that had lifted the title of Young Chef Olympiad last year. “I am definitely under a lot of pressure. But I would say that it’s a good kind of stress. Tham Jiajun Mathew (the 2017 winner of YCO) did give me some tips but it was my mentor and I who came up with ways to innovate,” said the 23-year-old.

For Owen Thomas Macca of USA, it was his first time travelling out of his country. “I am grateful and extremely lucky that I am representing my country on such a big platform. I had my share of struggles with the oven as they aren’t the kind we use back in the US. Also, the clock was running a lot quicker than it should!” laughed the 20-year-old.

Thivara Keshia Fernando was a picture of calm and confidence. “I was quite nervous in the beginning but I didn’t let that bother me too much. I have been trained to stay composed in this kind of a situation and that’s exactly what I tried to do,” said the contestant from Colombo.

Mexico’s Efrain Soberanis Ayvar was excited to be a part of YCO but seemed a little tense too. “It’s a little nerve-wracking since I am not familiar with the kitchen set-up here. But when it comes to food and flavour, I think there’s a lot of similarity between my country and India. Indians love to play with flavours and so do we,” said the young chef who wants to visit the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta. 

Russia’s Daria Shorina is one of those few contestants who have flown down to India all by herself, without a mentor. “It’s my first time out of Russia and I am all alone. I am feeling a little sad looking at the other contestants who are with their mentors. But I am here to take part in a competition, so I am trying to focus on that,” said the 20-year-old.

Jake McKenna of Northern Ireland is one of the youngest contestants at YCO 2018. “I am privileged to be a part of this competition, I am just 17 and halfway across the world. I did face some challenges in the first round but I am looking forward to the second round where we will have to cook a three-course vegetarian meal with a vegan starter,” said Jake.

Text and pictures: Nandini Ganguly