food fight

Causing a stir: When young chefs from 45 nations battled for the top title at a culinary Olympiad

Even though the contest was not televised, it held plenty of drama and nail-biting moments.

She had trained for this moment for the last six months, but time seemed to be slipping away from Puja Mishra as she hurried around the kitchen, trying to finish plating the chicken fricassee. Mishra was among the chefs chosen from 45 countries to compete in the International Young Chef Olympiad – for her, this contest was a matter of life and bread.

“I overshot the time limit by just one minute,” said Mishra, after the first of four competitions was over. Mishra had had 90 minutes to create four portions of the classic French comfort food, which figured somewhere between a sauté and a stew for the unacquainted. But like most simple recipes, the chicken fricasee required a certain finesse. The sauce had to be creamy, yet light, and the chicken browned to perfection.

A third year student at the International Institute of Hospitality Management and an organiser of the Olympiad, Mishra resolved that she would keep an eye on the clock and manage her time better in the remaining events. Also on the agenda was to create two omelettes flawless enough to feature on the menu of a five-star restaurant. Along with being judged on their ability to follow a recipe, the young chefs would also be tested on their basic technical skills.

Indian contestant Pooja Mishra.
Indian contestant Pooja Mishra.

Spread across IIHM campuses all over India, the Olympiad in late January was nothing like the cooking competitions on television – for one, there was almost no element of surprise, no big revelations. Each competitor knew which dish they would have to prepare, which ingredients they would require and how many portions of each dish would be presented to the judges. “Knowing the ingredients does bring some focus and we’ve been practising a lot, but it’s not easy really,” Mishra said. “These are difficult recipes that require technical know-how.”

With a panel comprising 13 judges, the Olympiad was for students who were training to work in professional kitchens. “We are looking for innovation and technique, but above all we are looking to see if they have basic practical culinary skills,” said David Foskett, a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts and chairman of the jury. The line-up of judges included Indian celebrity chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Ranveer Brar and Karen Anand.

“The focus is not on a particular cuisine or culture,” Foskett added. “The recipes have been carefully chosen to allow each contestant to display their culinary skills.” However, despite Foskett’s assurance, the chosen dishes – fricasse, pavlovas and risotto – had a distinctly Western flavour.

Panel of judges (Image courtesy: Facebook.com/ycolympiad
Panel of judges (Image courtesy: Facebook.com/ycolympiad

For the finalé, each contestant was asked to prepare various tapas dishes and a main dish. “Each lost minute meant a negative mark,” said Mishra. She created a a risotto cake, made with arborio rice, cheese and five-spice powder, fried until it was crisp on the outside, while retaining a creaminess within. Apart from this, she prepared a puy lentil dish, cooked al dente and served with a pea purée and perfectly flaky phyllo pastry cigar rolls, stuffed with spinach and feta cheese.

The dessert round, in which the chefs were asked to make a pavolva with lemon curd, was challenging for the chef from Kolkata. The pavlova is a delicate dessert which requires egg whites to be whisked along with sugar into snowy peaks, vanilla and some cornflour, but the real challenge lies in baking it perfectly – it must be crunchy, yet chewy at the centre. Finally, Mishra made it right and won the award for the best vegetarian dish.

Since the very first day, Tham Jiajun Mathew from Singapore had been the chef to watch for. “He was extremely competent, organised and calm and right from round one,” Mishra had said. When Mathew finally won the Olympiad, it came as no surprise to the contestants. Andrew Ou Kai Peng of Malaysia was the first runner-up and Selah Joy Schmoll from Canada came next.

In the 2016 edition of the Olympiad, Schmoll had been victorious. An excited Schmoll admitted to being a little nervous going into the competition. “We have been practising constantly,” said Schmoll. “We all have mentors who were helping us prepare for the competition. As cooks we want to think out of the box and do something new and different, but here we are also assessed on our ability to follow orders, a recipe, working seamlessly in a kitchen. Knowing the ingredients is only a small part of this.”

Despite the fact that she did not win, Mishra said the competition changed her for the better. “I have always been shy, but I feel after this I have gained the confidence to travel to any part of the world and interact with people,” said the budding professional chef.

Tham Jiajun Mathew of Singapore along with Andrew Ou Kai Peng of Malaysia and Selah Joy Schmoll of Canada.
Tham Jiajun Mathew of Singapore along with Andrew Ou Kai Peng of Malaysia and Selah Joy Schmoll of Canada.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

When building your home, it is important to use strong and durable materials. A value-added premium product with high compressive strength, Birla Gold cement is used to make tough, impermeable concrete that sets quickly, lasts long and minimises cracking. Its durability will ensure that your dream home always looks new and the steel structure inside remains protected. Birla Gold offers variants that are optimised for different needs. The unique hydraulic binding properties of the Birla Gold Premium cement variant prevent seepage, making it resistant to even corrosive water, especially important for houses in coastal cities. The Birla Gold Royal cement variant provides very high strength and is perfect for the foundation. As the video below says, with the different varieties of cement that Birla Gold offers, you can build the home of your dreams.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Birla Gold Premium Cement and not by the Scroll editorial team.