A test of umami knowledge
MARKING its 30th anniversary this year, the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts (SHTCA) at KDU University College collaborated with culinary giant Ajinomoto (Malaysia) Bhd (Ajinomoto), for the 2017 edition of its annual junior culinary competition, Umami Power Chef 2017, held recently at KDU’s Utropolis Glenmarie campus in Selangor.
As a culinary institute, SHTCA puts serious effort in moulding culinary talents, not only within the school but beyond.
Throughout the years, KDU’s Power Chef competition series has steadfastly stood as a solid platform for young talents seeking to explore culinary arts as a possible future career path. Taking centrestage yet again is umami, which refers to the Japanese sensation of deliciousness resulting from the sense of taste.
The competition this year garnered participation from more than 150 students over 20 secondary schools around Klang Valley, competing for the Power Chef title with prizes amounting to over RM160,000.
Young as they are, participants enthusiastically sought to showcase their talents in this avenue.
Participants of two in a team were tasked with completing five challenges along the way within the given time frame.
The competition was designed to test both their knowledge and culinary skills as the challenges in the preliminary round included a quiz on umami knowledge, as well as culinary challenges for various courses of a meal including soup; main course; mocktail; and crepe.
While the challenges in the preliminary round were made known to the participants, they were given the ingredients to work during each specific challenge.
As such, there were no pre-planned menus of what they’d like to cook. The teams had to be quick-thinking, spontaneous and creative.
The teams battled their way through to win one of the top 10 spots in the finals for the Blackbox Challenge, where they had no inkling of what the challenge nor ingredients were, until the clock began for that particular round.
“This is indeed a full scale competition which will impress the participants, as usually, secondary students in competitions will not be able to utilise industry-standard state-of-the-art kitchens to have similar experience,” said Bonnie Lopez, head of SHTCA.
Leading the panel of judges this year was Chef Moh Johari Edrus, or more famously known as Chef Papa Joe (culinary consultant and former chief jury of Malaysian top cooking reality series, MasterChef Malaysia).
Members of the panel of judges also included three active and dedicated chefs — Chef Norhilme Kamarudin, who is executive chef of Mas Awana Services Bhd; Chef Ahmad Razman Hazizy, the gastronomy manager of SYMPHONY by Chef Jo; Chef Aidiyusman Mohd Yushoff, executive chef, product development and R&D for QSR Brands, Johor Corporation; Datuk Mahadzir Lokman, a well-known Malaysian personality and master of ceremonies; and Ajinomoto corporate communications section head Cindy Chan.
After an intense battle against time, Anis Qistina Muhd Raznudeen and Fairul Izzati Mohd Fuad from SMK Shah Alam emerged as champions of the Umami Power Chef 2017, with their winning dish — Roast Chicken with Mushrooms.
The duo walked away with cash prize of RM3,000, the challenge trophy and full scholarships from KDU.
First Runner Up went to Lim Siew Jing and Lee Jun Hong from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (2) with cash prize of RM2,000 and 50 per cent scholarship while Lee Kah Chun and Tan Yong Lin from SMK Taman SEA won 2nd Runner up with cash prize of RM1,000 and 30 per cent scholarship.
“We actually didn’t expect to make it for the finals, let alone win the competition. We’re still trying to absorb the news,” said the newly crowned winners.
“KDU is has always been part of my choice in selecting a tertiary institution to pursue culinary, as I have been dreaming of opening a restaurant with my brother, and I like KDU because of its facilities and location,” added Anis Qistina.
Chef Papa Joe said: “Even though the participants are young (from secondary schools), I believe they have gone through a good learning experience and have shown good performance.”
He also praised KDU for their effort in awakening and cultivating budding culinary talents in each and every participant. The event was fully sponsored by Ajinomoto.
Present at the event were Petaling Utama District Education Office assistant district officer (student counselling and career guidance) Azmi Murad Abu Yamin, PPD Petaling Perdana district education office curriculum supervisor Hashim Wahdi Ahmad Shauki, KDU deputy vice-chancellor (academics) Associate Professor Dr Hon Wei Min and Ajinomoto corporate communications head Lau Chin Mun.