It’s that time of the year again when India hosts the world’s biggest culinary extravaganza for student chefs. The fifth edition of the International Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) will be held across 4 cities – Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Kolkata – from 28th January to 2nd February 2019, with participation from 55 countries. In a 5-day long intense competition, 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 celebrated industry stalwarts. The event will be organized 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.
YCO was launched in the year 2015 with the aim to create an international platform to showcase young professional culinary talent from around the world and to display the creativity and innovation of young chefs from around the world. The event also aims to create camaraderie and goodwill among nations by connecting them through the world’s most preferred language – food.
Feeling proud of the YCO completing five years of success and happy at the excellent response from the culinary world globally, Dr Suborno Bose, the Chairman of the YCO 2019 Committee and the Founder & Chief Mentor of IIHM, said, “Young Chef Olympiad was conceptualized as a platform for young chefs in training from around the world to interact and showcase their talent. We are overwhelmed by the response from the international community who have come together to make this event a grand success.”
The Grand Opening Ceremony of YCO 2019 will take place at The Talkatora Indoor Stadium in Delhi on 28th January, while the competition will commence from 29th January. Over the next three days, 2 rounds of tough culinary challenges will be held in Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru. The top 10 contestants based on the aggregate score from the first two rounds will go through to the Grand Final of YCO 2019, which will be held in Kolkata on 2nd February. The next 10 countries holding positions 11 to 20 will compete for the YCO Plate Trophy on the same day. The YCO 2019 Champion and runners-up and other awardees will be announced at the Closing Ceremony on 2nd February. The contestants will be fighting for a total of 18 awards at the 2019 edition of YCO.
A distinguished panel of judges has been put together for YCO 2019. It comprises some of the most respected names in the culinary industry. Padma Shri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the Mentor & Principal Judge for the event. Prof. David Foskett (OBE), the author of the bestselling book ‘Practical Cookery & Theory of Catering’ and Emeritus Professor at the London School of Hospitality and Tourism, University of West London, will be the Chairperson of the Jury. Renowned international chefs such as Chef John Wood, Chef Andreas Muller, Chef Chris Galvin, Chef Andy Varma, Chef Vincenzo Oliveri, Chef Scott Baechler, Chef Stefan Hogan and Chef Karl Guggenmos will be a part of this year’s jury. These culinary experts will assess the competitors not only on their skill but also on their ability to manage a food production area with respect to health and safety, good hygiene practice, ability to follow a recipe, culinary skills, creativity and initiative, presentation, balance and taste.
As per Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, “Events like the Young Chef Olympiad provide a great platform for budding chefs from across the world to showcase their skills and interact with others in the field – right from fellow students to industry insiders. It can be a stepping stone for a solid career in the F&B Business. IIHM has ensured the standard in terms of talent, attention to detail, organisation and output of the competition gets better each year. At YCO, you don’t just compete in the kitchen, but also take back valuable lessons on culture, attitude and markets. You learn to compete fairly and strive to be your best.”
Madhumitha Krishnasamy, a third year student of IIHM Bangalore, will represent India at this prestigious competition. Madhumitha, who is a fan of Chef Marco Pierre White and cookery show ‘Nigella’s Kitchen’, says, “Young Chef Olympiad is a huge platform that invites culinary aspirants from over 50 countries to come and showcase their artistry. It is overwhelming as well as an honour to be able to represent not only your Institute but also the whole country and competing with the 50 plus countries who would be putting in their best efforts to make a mark.” Regarding her preparations for the upcoming competition, she says, “The practice sessions are incredibly tiring, however they also teachme something new each time. Cooking for me is not just putting ingredients together; it is the art of adding a palette of colours, moods and flavours on a plate. I am focusing on sharpening my skills further to meet the standards set at the competition.”
So far, no Indian has bagged the YCO crown, although Surya Sekhar Roy Choudhury from IIHM Kolkata was the first runner-up at YCO 2018 and the first Indian contestant to get a podium finish at the competition. The previous winners of YCO are Ashwin Nicholas Oon from Malaysia (2015), Daniella Germond from Canada (2016), Tham Jiajun Mathew from Singapore (2017) and Lai Jia Yi from Malaysia (2018).