Meet Varun Tej - the 20-year-old representing India in Young Chef Olympiad

SHUBHANGI MISHRA chats with the Indian contestant in the Young Chef Olympiad, which sees participants from 60 countries across the world

Shubhangi MishraUpdated: Saturday, February 01, 2020, 08:08 PM IST
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Varun Tej Reddy |

I have always been interested in French food and going forward, I wish to go to France and work with the chefs over there to learn about their culture and food.” So says 20-year-old Varun Tej representing India, in the Young Chef Olympiad. A bright and talented young student chef from the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) Hyderabad campus, Varun recently also represented IIHM as a finalist at the Star Chef 2019 event held at Bangkok, Thailand. Cooking for his friends and family since his high school days, Varun always had a key interest in culinary arts and hotel management. That is what pushed him to enroll in IIHM, Hyderabad and pursue his career in this field.

If there’s anything that can get people together from across continents, from varied cultures and from different social backgrounds, it’s food. The shared love for food and the art of cooking, transcends all boundaries and brings people together under one roof. This is exactly what the 6th edition of the Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) celebrates. The biggest culinary competition of the hospitality world, YCO 2020, had young aspiring chefs battling it out in a 5-day long competition for the prestigious winner’s Trophy and a Gold Toque.

With over 60 countries participating in the competition this year, YCO 2020 aims to provide a platform for students and young chefs, studying culinary arts and hotel management to showcase their talent to the world. For this edition, five cities of India - Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Goa played host to the participants from 28 January to 2 February.

This year, the competition embraced the special cause of ‘Sustainability’ as its theme and an underlying message of unity and peace among nations through its all-embracing global character.

“Sustainability is the theme for YCO 2020. At a global level, we are all looking towards this single most important thing that can really make us all suffer a lot in future if it is not taken care of from now itself. There will be a great educational factor in YCO from this year onwards. It is not just about cooking, culinary presentations but also about sustainability and how you can introduce it in your institution in your country,” shares Dr Suborno Bose, the CEO of IHC and Founder YCO.

A distinguished panel of national and international chefs and culinary professionals were judging this event. Padma Shri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor was the Principal Judge and Chief Mentor of YCO 2020. Professor David Foskett (MBE), the Chairman of the International Hospitality Council, was also Chairman of the Jury. The Chief Judge of YCO2020 was Chef Brian Turner (CBE), President of the Royal Academy of Culinary. The Deputy Chief Judge was Chef Andreas Muller, the Programme Director

(International Cuisine) at VTC, Hong Kong.

The Olympiad commenced with a Grand Opening Ceremony on 30 January at the IIHM Campus in Pune. The first round of the competition had a time limit of only one hour and the dishes were judged blindly - without any indication of the country or the contestant name. The second round was held on January 31 with the same rules. The ones who qualified in both these rounds headed to Kolkata on February 1 and participated in the final round. The winners of the competition were announced at the closing ceremony on February 2. Apart from the main trophy the participants also competed for 25 other prizes in the competition like the ‘Rising Star Award’, ‘Best Vegetarian Dish’ ‘Best Dessert’, ‘Best Hygienic Practice’ and other prizes.

Apart from being such a huge opportunity for their careers, YCO is a great platform for these young minds to interact with people from different cultures, understand their style of cooking and how much impact does your culture have on your cooking. At a very early stage of their life, these young chefs got to interact with people from various countries like Malaysia, Portugal, Uganda, Hong Kong, Maldives, etc. which exposed them to varied food cultures and allowed them to embrace and learn from it wholeheartedly.

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