Let’s talk food

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 28 January 2019

International Young Chef Olympiad, one of the world’s biggest culinary competitions being held in India, is back with its fifth edition

The fifth edition of International Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) will be held across 4 cities — Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Kolkata with participation from 55 countries. In Pune, it will be held at International Institute of Hotel Management Campus, Viman Nagar.

The Olympiad is a five day long competition where students from some of the world’s best culinary and hospitality institutions will fight for the coveted YCO 2019 winner’s trophy, a cash prize of USD 10,000 and an acknowledgement of their skills from industry stalwarts. The event is being organised by the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) in partnership with the International Hospitality Council (IHC), London and it is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. 

Talking to chef Avijit Ghosh and Gary Hunter who will be judging the competition, we find more about YCO and the trends prevailing this year.

When asked what is that one thing that Hunter looks for in every dish in the competition, he says that there are many aspects that he looks for, when judging a competition dish. “Presentation, flavour, texture and ingredient balance are the major components of judging,” he says, adding  that the one area that can have maximum influence on all these qualities however is the technical skill. “Generally, this is one aspect which will determine how well the other areas have been executed. One may have the best ingredients in the world, but without the technical skills to prepare, cook and present them, they will lose their identity, clarity and flavour very quickly.”

Ghosh says that for him, it is all about simple but good and tasty food. “It’s okay if too many elements are not added to the dish, but what I am keen on is the flavour, creativity and vision that comes out of a dish,” he explains. 

Ghosh is of the opinion that food brings people together. “Be it tasting or discussing food, people seem to be delighted whenever the topic of food pops up.” 

Hunter adds that food has a unique ability to break down social divisions. “The sociology of food relates to its inherent ability to bring people together, to share progress and develop mutual communication and understanding in a way that no other concept can achieve,” he observes. He is of the opinion that food in general is medicinal, spiritual, cultural and environmentally based and it “has a positive impact.”

Both the chefs believe that social media has embraced the food industry and has opened up new avenues that need to be explored. “People are aware of everything that is happening everywhere because of social media and they are not afraid to try out new dishes that are trending in some other corner of the world, which creates new trends,” says Ghosh. 

He says that this changing nature of trends becomes challenging for chefs as they have to quickly learn and unlearn but nevertheless it is fun. Hunter adds that social media gives chefs a new way of exploring  this medium to reach out to potential customers, guests, partners and friends on a global basis. “It is fantastic to have the opportunity of exploring trends and concepts with friends and colleagues in Japan from my base in London, in real time, using images, videos and live feeds via social media platforms,” he says.

Talking about the trends in the food industry, Ghosh says that since he has been in the baking industry for a long time now, he has seen a lot of changes. “One such change is gastronomy getting into the kitchens. Though it is loved by a lot of people, it is not my personal favourite. It is way too complex, especially when clubbed with bakery and includes a lot of artificial flavours whereas I have always loved working with fresh and real ingredients. For me, the simple tasting food is more delicious than that made with complex techniques,” he observes.

Hunter feels that sustainable solution trends will continue to develop and drive future menus. “Customers are now looking for authenticity and chefs have a responsibility to use local ingredients for a variety of reasons — freshness, environmental impact and sustainable growth.” 

Amateur chefs or even home cooks are being boosted and inspired by a lot of television shows and competitions that are being held all over the world. Hunter says it is because the world’s population has become more open and curious about food. Ghosh feels that such shows and competitions have opened up new opportunities for amateur cooks so that they to can try their hands at global cuisine. 

Both Ghosh and Hunter think that a platform like YCO not only gives the participants an opportunity to showcase their food and learn from the experts in the industry but also gives the industry a great insight on how the future generation sees and treats food. 

The Pune rounds of Young Chef Olympiad will be held at IIHM, Vimannagar on January 30 (9 am - 1 pm) and January 31 ( 8 am - 12 noon)

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