A test of umami knowl­edge

New Straits Times - - Higher ED - ZULITA MUSTAFA zulita@nst.com.my

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.

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