Junior chefs of top UAE hotels prove they can rustle up a gourmet meal with a basket of mystery ingredients.
On Tuesday I stopped by Fonterra’s Culinarium in Al Quoz to watch four teams of chefs from leading hotels in Dubai battling for the title of Anchor MasterChef Champions 2011.
This was the final ‘mystery basket’ round and promised to be exciting to watch.
A total of 11 teams (two chefs in each) took part in the challenge and the four teams who reached the finals were from Grosvenor House Dubai, The Address Downtown Dubai, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina, and the Grand Millennium Abu Dhabi.
Ultimately Daniel Edward, speciality sous chef and Dedy Supriady, executive pastry chef from The Address Downtown prevailed over the others to be crowned as champions.
They must have nerves of steel. Imagine arriving at the venue not knowing what ingredients the ‘mystery basket’ would contain and having just three hours to rustle up a gourmet dinner for four under the watchful eyes of their peers, never mind the few members of the media as well.
Chef Peter Hallmanns, Fonterra’s advisory chef, who designed the challenge, said the teams were very nervous when they gathered at the Culinarium at 8.30 am. “They didn’t know what to expect. I told them go have a look inside the mini-fridge in each kitchen where you will find the compulsory ingredients – you have to use them somewhere in the menu.”
The mandatory ingredients were lamb kidney, whole rib eye cut, local sole fillet, Saudi prawns and fish scallops. In addition the teams could pick from a communal table of proteins, freshest selection of vegetables available in UAE, high quality chocolates (from 65% to 35%), fruit concentrates, a good selection of liqueurs and cooking wines.
They had an hour to look at the ingredients and plan their menu. I asked Chef Peter why he chose those mandatory items. “Because of their complexity – it is not easy to work with them, what do you do with three lamb kidneys, one sole fillet, two scallops and come up with four portions? How do you put that into four plates?” he said.
“Initially they walked around – they said they did not expect it. They were surprised at the quality variety and choice and then they were at ease. I have competed in many challenges in my young days and for me the disappointing thing was when organisers were disorganised. So I selected a basket in such a way that I set up the chefs to succeed and not to fail,” said Chef Peter.
At 9.30 am the teams took positions in their respective kitchens and started. At 12.30 pm they had to serve the starters to the panel of three certified judges. At 1 pm they had to serve the main course and at 1.30 pm they had to serve dessert. The time gap between courses was to give the chefs time to do the plating. They were judged on taste, texture, preparation skills, innovation and hygiene by a panel of independent and accredited chefs, adhering to WACS (World Association of Chefs Societies), recommended standards.
I got there at about 11.30 am by which time the chefs were all concentration focused on the job at hand. At 12 noon they were reminded that they had 30 minutes to go. Things started getting hectic as the deadline approached.
At 12.30 pm, giving their last minute touches, they placed their starters on the table.
I left as the judges sat down to evaluate the work as anxious teams stood by.
Over the past weeks Chef Peter said he saw some amazing talent. In the first round the chef’s had produced a three course meal of their signature dishes and the judges got to taste some outstanding food. The Anchor MasterChef Challenge is just one of a number of culinary events being hosted by Fonterra between January and July 2011.
This is the second year that Fonterra has hosted the Challenge and Chef Peter said this added to the competitors’ motivation. “We all saw what the teams last year were able to produce and this set a very high standard for this year’s competitors. Across the board, the imagination and thought that went into the menus really was remarkable.”
“This competition is designed for young chefs with an ambition to succeed and their commitment and drive is so encouraging to see. Competitions like this really do bring out the best in the chefs, and it is important they see for themselves what their peers are producing to make sure the region’s culinary industry stays one step ahead.”
- Kokila -
PS: The Address Downtown, Dubai received AED 15,000 per team; runners-up, Grosvenor House, Dubai, received AED 10,000 and Grand Millennium Abu Dhabi in third place received AED 5,000. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina were awarded fourth position