The grand opening ceremony of the ninth edition of IIHM presents International Young Chef Olympiad 2023, in association with The Telegraph, was held at the historic Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi on January 29. Participants from 53 countries along with their mentors, esteemed members of the global jury panel and the organisers visited the capital city of India to be a part of the ceremony. The ceremony started with YCO’s principal advisor, Ronald Scott’s virtual welcome note, addressed to the audience, followed by the introduction of the contestants and their mentors. The mascot of this year’s Young Chef Olympiad, The Tiger Chef, was introduced. This was followed by a spectacular series of cultural performances, the unveiling of the YCO golden trophy and the IIHM-YCO global congress.
Chairman of IIHM, Suborno Bose, unveiled the YCO golden trophy, along with the esteemed jury members. “It is a great honour for me to come back again physically after two years with the ninth edition of YCO. The last two years were virtual events due to the Covid pandemic. It was heart-warming to see the contestants marching with their national dress and flags and going up on the stage once again. Nothing can be as moving as this because the vision of this Olympiad is to bring the young people of the world together. Young people are the future and we should nurture them. It is even more important this year because in the post-pandemic world, this is the first culinary competition happening anywhere in the world. We are proud to be a part of history today. I think the Olympiad is the human face of hospitality. It is the human face of young people. This is an excellent team and this wouldn’t be possible without a team… every person sitting here has to embrace sustainability. It is no longer a luxury but a necessity,” said Suborno Bose in his opening address to the audience.
The IIHM-YCO global congress, a newly introduced segment in the competition, had industry experts discuss, present and raise questions on the topic of ‘sustainability in hospitality and tourism’. With names such as Prof David Foskett, Aradhana Khowala, Anita Mendiratta and chef John Wood as part of the different panels, the discussions were held on the lines of the LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) as announced by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the sustainable development goals as stated by the United Nations Organisation. Highlights of the discussion were waste management in hospitality, gender equality, energy consumption and many more.
Students from various Delhi schools showcased different dance forms of India through a series of performances, including Bihu, Kathak and Bharatanatyam, giving a taste of our country’s cultural heritage to the global audience present in the stadium.
Like every year, a contestant representative, a mentor representative and a jury representative were called on stage for the oath-taking ceremony.
The ‘chefstants’ and their mentors walked along with a student from the IIHM bearing the flag of the country they represent.
“Over 50 countries are participating this year, and they have travelled many hours by air to get here. No matter how many miles you have flown, I welcome you all. Over the next few days, you will make many new friends, and these friendships will last beyond YCO. But YCO is not just about friendships. It is also about learning from the culture and society here in India. A country of vivid colours and fantastic hospitality experience... at the end, there will not be only one winner but over 50 winners,” said Ronald Scott, principal advisor.
“We are here for the future of hospitality and the young people and the next generation that we will pass on to, to make this hospitality industry survive globally. Sustainability reminds us that we should protect the planet. But most importantly, YCO is about friendship, bringing the young people of the world together who have the same interest in hospitality and culinary arts. It is so important that we are all together after the pandemic. To be hospitable is to be human and to be human is to be hospitable. Hospitality is important,” said David Foskett, chairperson of the jury.
“I love to see that all nations have come together here and we are getting to see the culture of India, which is fantastic. She worked very hard. I have told her to just trust herself,” said Jeremy Houghton from the USA, mentoring Chantelle Consalvea. “It is great to see the Indian traditions. This is my first time at a competition outside the states. We did a lot of training and spoke to other professors from different colleges to get an idea. I am looking forward to finishing round one as my first challenge,” said Chantelle.
“Our school has a history of more than 150 years, so participating in such competitions has always been in our veins. It is our first time in YCO and we were very happy to receive the invitation. It is a great opportunity to present our best in India,” said Zak Levi from Greece, mentoring Petros Poulis. “I have prepared for this competition every day with a lot of hours of training, and with the right coaching, we are confident of winning this competition,” said Petros
“When I was in school, every year YCO used to take place and that inspired me. I wanted to take part in it. Because I was a Home Science student, I had practical exams and also cooked for my parents at home. That made my passion even stronger over the years,” said Naureen representing India. “I have been a mentor for this competition many times. I asked her not to look at it as a competition. She has practised a lot now she needs to perform. I have a lot of hope that this year we will do better,” said chef Sudipta, who is mentoring her.
“We need to grab any opportunities that come our way and it feels great to have this opportunity. My chefs and I devised plans to practise the various rounds. Weeks and weeks of practice and dedication were required to prepare for the participation. I want to travel and experience the culinary profile of every culture. I am seeing this competition as an educational opportunity and as a first step towards my dreams,” said Amy from South Africa, mentored by Nicola Eksteen. “My only advice for her is to believe in herself, have confidence and do what she really does well,” said Nicola.