World war for best young chef

A world war has just begun but not with any weapon.

By Sibendu Das
  • Published 28.01.16

A world war has just begun but not with any weapon.

The battleground is the kitchen, where more than 50 countries are fighting it out with pots and pans as part of the 2nd International Young Chef Olympiad 2016, presented by the International Institute of Hotel Management.

The contest was flagged off at Talkatora stadium in Delhi on January 27.

The second edition of the Olympiad - the first, held last year, was a roaring success - has drawn culinary aspirants and veterans from across the world. Metro brings you vignettes from the world's largest cooking challenge, spearheaded by India.

The contest

A country sends the most eligible student from among its best culinary institutes for the multi-level contest that culminates in a grand finale of Super 10.

The participants

Last year, there were 15 contestants. This year the count has crossed 50. Yes, such is the craze for the YCO champion's title! So you find a young girl from Bahrain sharing the kitchen with a guy from Switzerland, a young chef from the US sharing notes with another from Korea. From Malyasia and Spain to France and Russia - the Olympiad has become the melting point of global culinary experiences.

The format

The participants are split into three groups. One of the groups will have its first round of heats in Delhi, another in Bangalore and the third in Mumbai. All the participants will then head for Calcutta for the final heats, which will be followed by the grand finale, to be held in the city on February 1.

The judges

The star-studded panel of judges is giving the participants a mixed feeling of tension, excitement and nervousness. David Foskett, the "hospitality hero" who has been the dean and head of the London School of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London, is the chairman of the YCO jury.

India's celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the principal judge and YCO mentor. There are 10 more judges, including Kunal Kapur, Andreas Muller, Udo Leick, Manjit Singh Gill, Karen Anand and Abhijit Saha. Calcutta's very own celebrity chef Shaun Kenworthy is part of the panel, too.

The organisers

India. Calcutta. Supported by Incredible India, under the Union tourism ministry, the Olympiad is organised and hosted by International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), one of India's leading hotel management institutes.

"We see this Olympiad not just as a cooking competition but as a worldwide platform for young culinary aspirants and professionals to come together, resulting in a global connect and extended brotherhood. It must open doors of opportunities and broaden the horizon for aspirants in the hospitality sector," Suborno Bose, the chief mentor and CEO of IIHM and the IndiSmart Group, said.

The Indian participant

Nisha Kumari could hardly suppress her nervousness and excitement when Metro called her the day before the first round of heats in Delhi. The final-year student of IIHM Delhi loves dishing out continental delicacies as much as she loves to watch Messi dribble past opponents to a perfect net. "With the kind of exposure I have got at IIHM, I am confident of taking on any challenge in the kitchen. The Young Chef Olympiad is the ultimate stepping stone towards giving shape to that confidence," said Nisha at Talkatora Stadium.

The grand finale

To be held at the Nicco Park Wet-O-Wild, the final night on February 1 will see one out of the 54 participants being crowned the champion for YCO 2016. "The Young Chef Olympiad is an excellent initiative, which leads the world in recognising the importance of culinary arts and hospitality in the global economy," jury chairman David Foskett said.

The chef fraternity

The 54 contestants are staying together and moulding each other, making friends from as many countries. "It's a platform that not only connects the participants but the countries as well. Today the culinary and hospitality industry is almost similar to the IT industry in terms of the presence of talented professionals from India. India pioneers the global aspect of hospitality through events like the Young Chef Olympiad," chef Sanjay Kak, director, culinary arts, IndiSmart Group, and member of the YCO international council said.