Young Chefs Cook Up A Stir in Singapore

By Rosemarie John – With Singapore being a synonym for food-adventures these days, the island is booming in up and coming new and trendy restaurants. As more eating spaces appear, the demand for enthusiastic chefs increase each day. It isn’t a strange occurrence to find new eateries opening up every week on the island. Culinary schools have also found an increase in enrolments as more students find cooking their calling as Singapore competes and aspires to be the best destination to dine in Asia!

Providing a platform for new generation chefs to shine in the culinary competition arena, Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College West played host to the Young Chefs Game 2011 this October. Organised by the Norwegian Seafood Export Council  (NSEC) and Unilever Food Solutions , the best Christmas-themed menu featuring salmon as its core ingredient was the ultimate goal of the competition.

Battling out with the best skills in tow, budding chefs from six of Singapore’s leading culinary schools had to create a cold appetiser and a hot entrée to highlight the best attributes of the Norwegian salmon. Salmon reared in the cold, pristine artic waters paired with a wide range of at least two Knorr (Unilever) products, created a flurry of activity at the training kitchen of ITE College West.

With slabs of lean salmon on every preparation table of each team, spectators could only smell and wonder about each dish that was about to be prepared. Options of Knorr products and vegetables that would further enhance the salmon dish was not the only factor in securing a win in the competition. Participants were also judged on the mise-en-place, taste and  presentation.

Brilliant cooks from the At-Sunrise GlobalChef Academy, ITE College West, Republic Polytechnic, SHATEC Institutes, Temasek Culinary Academy and Temasek School of Applied Science showed off their calm, concentrated and skilled demeanour as judges walked around watching and scoring each team.

With three hours on the clock, teams of two were to prepare six portions of each course. Fish & Co  and Jacks Place , two famous restaurant chains on the island were invited to act as mentors to the competing culinary schools. Their further contribution to the Young Chefs Game 2011 will have each restaurant featuring a team’s menu (not necessarily the winning set) during their Christmas promotion month.

As time drew near and plating in process, nervousness grew stronger with just the thought of who would grab first place with the chance to attend a 10 day combined study trip to Norway and the United Kingdom.  Out of the six judges that will decide on the worthy winning team, four of them are prominent chefs in their own right – Chef Eric Teo of ET Culinary Arts, Chef Jakob Esko of Capella Singapore, Chef Robin Ho of The Marmalade Group and Chef Yen Koh of Unilever Food Solutions.

Chef Robin Ho

Chef Yen Koh

Chef Eric Teo

Chef Jakob Esko

The gruelling hours combined with moments of tasting and point tabulation passed with Team Anchor from the Temasek Group emerging victorious. Third year students in Temasek Polytechnic, Chefs Muhd Ihzyan bin Muhd Iskandar and Sen Lin Hui, winners of the Young Chefs Game 2011 produced a creative mouth-watering menu.

“Three months of intensive training prepared us for the Young Chef Games”, said Team Anchor. “We both knew that salmon is not an easy fish to cook and likewise balancing the flavours with it, hence simplicity and elegance was key in creating our dishes”, they added.

Muhd Ihzyan bin Muhd Iskandar of Team Anchor

Sen Lin Hui of Team Anchor

What stood them apart from the rest were their creativity of combining ingredients. Their menu comprised of (1) Norwegian salmon “log” with cranberry relish, light char-cured Norwegian salmon belly with mango salsa & white Christmas foam along with green salad accompanied with Knorr Provence  Herb Vinaigrette & pickled melon (2) Slow cooked Norwegian salmon with chestnut crust & Knorr Hollandaise Lemon Espuma accompanied with mustard potato cheese ball, pronto mixed vegetable & spinach purée.

Appetiser – Team Anchor

Entree – Team Anchor

Apart from the study trip, these grand prize winners earned a champion’s trophy for their school, medals, certificate of excellence and S$800 allowance for their upcoming adventure in Europe. Gracing the event was Her Excellency Ms Janne Julsrud, the Norwegian Ambassador to Singapore who presented the medals and certificates to the winning participants.

Singaporeans and travellers alike can expect more of such events to take place as the country claims its fame to the ideal holiday destination for both food and entertainment adventures in Asia.

Rosemarie John

Travel and Beyond by Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis portrays a kaleidoscope of all things travel related mixed with just the right dosage of history and culture.

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