A two day culinary challenge aimed at finding Cambodia’s best chefs, bartenders and baristas kicks off at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra tomorrow, and organisers hope the success of the competition will see it turn into an annual Cambodian hospitality Olympics.
The Cambodian Restaurant Association Competitions 2011 pits 81 teams comprised of a mix of professional chefs, cooking students and hospitality workers from throughout Cambodia against each other in a series of challenges designed to test every aspect of their hospitality skills and culinary flair.
Association spokesman Khun Sarin said, “There are four competitions –bartending, coffee making, fruit carving, and bed making – as well as two special cooking competitions involving Khmer foods and foreign foods.
In one of the challenges secret ingredients will be put in a closed box and candidates will have to make different dishes from them. The more recipes they can make, the better grade they will get. The judges will give high grades to any cook who can make tasty, hygienic, and creative food. But their foods have to be well presented on the plate and also creatively decorated.”
A panel of 16 local and international judges will scrutinise the contests closely, including the “Khmer mystery box” challenge, in which chefs have to think on their feet and quickly adapt to the ingredients inside their box, said competition judge Alan Palmer.
Palmer said, “The competitors have no idea what’s inside except for the main ingredient. The team that comes first will be awarded a prize of US$300 as well as a gold medal and a certificate. Silver and bronze winners will receive $200 and $100.
“But the monetary reward is not the main goal. What matters most to the competitors is their honour and the opportunity to participate in a competition with other professionals.”
Palmer added that the Khmer mystery box portion of the competition is sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia, which assisted the Cambodian Restaurant Association in bringing the challenge to Cambodia for the first time.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Tourism Ly Bunthoeun will open the contest at 9am tomorrow, and chefs had better be on their toes for the gruelling challenges ahead, Palmer added.
Association spokesman Khun Sarin told the Post the competition is based on a similar contest organised on Diamond Island last year by Camfoods and Camhotels.
A lack of sponsors led the Cambodian Restaurant Association to come onboard and organise this year’s contest, driven by a desire to encourage Cambodians working in the food and beverage industry to achieve world class standards, and boost Cambodia’s image as a fine dining destination.
“Our eventual goal is to create an annual food and beverage competition in Cambodia, so that it can help the hospitality industry push for perfect service in the future,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OU MOM