How to Win a Culinary Contest by Ernest Reynoso Gala
Philippine Star | April 30th, 2013
Pasig City, Metro Manila (April 30, 2013) – A few months ago, managing director of Urban Kitchen and Melawares Charmaine Chua asked me to draw up the mechanics of a culinary contest Cusina Idol. Finalists would be chosen by recipes, with the finished products posted on their website. A total of seven were chosen, the venue at Galastars Culinary.
Finalists were allowed to have one hour for preparation, and a second hour for cooking with two main ingredients: Sea King Bangus and Magnolia Chicken for each recipe. Criteria for scoring included 5 percent for cleanliness, 15 percent for originality, 40 percent taste, 40 percent plating and presentation using the Melawares exquisite Japanese plate collection or the hotel line porcelain plates. Contestants varied from housewives to culinary students. Competition was fierce with each participant showcasing amazing skills and creativity. Judges meticulously noted down the scores and we all agreed in the panel that it would be a close match. At the end of the day there was one winner, Justin Tee, who created a unique and witty interpretation of chicken tinola and cucumber tinapa rolls. His keys to success were using his mom’s chicken tinola stock and reconfiguring the chicken by making it into a roulade. The stock was only added just before the judges were to taste to keep the chicken tender and stock warm using the Melawares Japanese teapot. The flavors were so balanced, precise, clean, and the texture was so soft it just melted in your mouth with every bite. His cucumber tinapa was elegantly plated and the fish smoked to perfection, making the bangus shine. He was the most prepared, being the first contestant to arrive three hours before the event, carefully visualizing the cooking sequence to be done and the only participant that brought complete ingredients.
Chance favors the prepared mind. Justin left nothing to chance and was ready to win. His prize was P500,000 worth of kitchen tools from Urban Kitchen and Melawares, a P100,000 gift check from Sea King Seafood, two gas stoves from Unifab Metal Industries, and gift checks from Magnolia Poultry courtesy of marketing manager Jake Lugay.
My advice to culinary students: never give up and continue to improve. Practice makes perfect, and always remember that ultimately, taste is king.