Eng with his trophy.

BEING a top chef is not just about being skillful and talented, it is also about creativity. These are the qualities that the long-running Nestlé Professional Culinary Arts Award (CAA) want to develop.

CAA is an initiative to develop talent in the culinary industry, as well as celebrate the skills and creativity of the most talented students from Malaysia’s culinary institutions.

The recently concluded 10th CAA 2018 saw 10 culinary arts students compete for the grand prize of RM3,000 and a 6-month internship under the tutelage of Antoine Rodriguez, executive chef at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur.

The panel of judges (from left) Chef Sabri Hassan, Antoine Rodriguez, Chef Rajesh Khanna and Chef Mohd Nazrin.

The champion would represent Malaysia in the Asean Skills and WorldSkills Competitions, a global movement to raise the profile and recognition of skilled individuals.

Nestlé Professional business executive officer for Malaysia & Singapore Yit Woon Lai said: “At Nestlé Professional, we believe in the importance of developing young talent. We are proud to collaborate with the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) to organise the 10th CAA. With the bar being continually raised in each competition, we are confident that CAA will help young talent represent the country with pride and competence in the field of culinary arts.”

Asked about the entry process, a Nestlé spokesman said culinary institutions would apply for entry and nominated their students. To represent their institutions, the nominees must be final year diploma in culinary arts students.

The 10th CAA saw participants competing in a three-day intensive cooking competition, with the winners announced on the last day at the award presentation and closing ceremony.

The finalists represented 10 universities and colleges — HELP College of Arts and Technology, INTI International College, Nilai University, Taylor’s University, Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University College, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Permatang Pauh, Perak College of Technology, Cybernetics International Technology College, KDU University College and UCSI University.

Chef Antoine Rodriguez observing Edward Eng Sheng Pei in the kitchen during the 10th Nestlé Professional Culinary Arts Award.

On day one, participants had four and a half hours to make finger food, a beef main course and desserts. The second day saw them cooking a main course of pasta and lamb. Day three focused on the “Mystery Box”, which included ingredients that had to be turned into a creative starter, main course and dessert.

Edward Eng Sheng Pei, a third year Diploma in Culinary Arts student at Taylor’s University, emerged the winner thanks to his creation, “Garden”, a decadent dessert made of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and pistachio, which showcased his understanding and mastery of preparation, plating and the basics of cooking.

Eng said he was excited to be one step closer to achieving his dream.

“I have always found joy in preparing food and I am grateful to all my lecturers, especially my mentor, Farouk Othman, who has tremendous faith in me. I hope I have made them proud. I look forward to the privilege of interning under Chef Rodriguez.”

Eng, 21, from Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, got involved in cooking after his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination.

Eng named his winning dessert, ‘Garden’ — a decadent dessert made of chocolate mousse, salted caramel and pistachio.

“I was inspired by my grandmother and mother, as well as Chef Marco Pierre White. While doing the culinary arts course at Taylor’s University, my motivation came from my senior, Lai Jia Yee, who gave me the courage to take part in CAA and made me realise that I could improve my culinary skills through competitions.

“I showed my confidence to the judges, my edge through time management and creativity during the competition. I am glad that the dessert was my winning dish. It received positive feedback from the judges.”

He said he planned to work in a hotel for a few years to gain experience after his studies.

“Moving forward, I hope to work in a good restaurant. I might also take part in competitions and travel around the world to experience food from different cultures.”

First runner-up Idris Muaz Mazlan of UiTM Permatang Pauh received RM2,000 while second runner-up Shaun Wong Wen Jin of UCSI University received RM1,000. Both received a medal and certificate endorsed by MAH and Skills Malaysia.

“It is always a pleasure to see skill, passion and creativity in the kitchen. It is important to nurture these young talent so that more people can experience and appreciate their creations,” said Rodriguez.

“I hope the participants will inspire more young people pursuing a career in the culinary arts to bring their unique interpretation to the table and the rest of the world.”

The panel of judges comprised Rodriguez; Chef Sabri Hassan, consultant at Culinary Art and Kitchen; Chef Rajesh Khanna, director of Culinary Restaurant and Bar at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur; and Chef Mohd Nazrin@Ludwig Gaisbauer, owner of specialty food manufacturer German Delicatessen Sdn Bhd. They evaluated every aspect of each participant, ranging from kitchen skills and organisation to appearance, taste and texture.

Launched in 2006, Nestlé Professional’s CAA was organised to raise the standards of culinary arts in Malaysia. Supported by Skills Malaysia, a programme developed by Skills Development Department and endorsed by MAH, the award is opened only to selected students from colleges that offer Culinary Art Studies Diploma.

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