An evening of great food, entertainment and inspiration beckoned as I arrived at the Heathrow Hilton Hotel on Monday evening for the 4th Zest Quest Asia Gala Dinner and Awards.
With canapés provided courtesy of last year’s award winners, Milton Keynes College and washed down with a delicious champagne cocktail made with Hope and Glory’s Red Velvet tea, a zingy complexity of juicy orange and ripe berry fruit flavours, I wandered through the reception area before taking my place at the table for dinner. With over 280 people in the room there was quite a buzz of excitement and anticipation about who was going to win this year’s award.
For those who don’t know, Zest Quest Asia was conceived and launched in 2013 by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala. Working in association with the Master Chefs of Great Britain, its creation was a direct response to the strict immigration laws threatening to squeeze an already diminishing pool of talent and set out to promote pan-Asian cuisine to the UK resident catering students as a viable career prospect and an outlet for their culinary skills…..in a nutshell!
The six 2017 finalists were selected from the forty two entries from catering colleges across the UK. They had spent the day preparing and cooking a three course Pan Asian menu in just two hours. It wasn’t all down to taste, the renowned panel of judges including Andrew Bennett MBE, Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL, Pervin Todiwala, Clive Roberts, Steve Munkley, Executive Chef at The Royal Garden Hotel, Murray Chapman and Sarah Hartnett, pastry chef, also judged them on presentation, workmanship and time and waste management skills.
I spent the evening on a table hosted by The Master Chefs of Great Britain, who were truly wonderful company. Clive Roberts, who is actively involved with The Master Chefs and has been involved with Zest Quest Asia since its humble beginnings, gave me a great insight into how the event has gone from strength to strength attracting some big hitting backers including Panasonic who donated the winning prize of an all-expenses paid 10 day trip to Japan to the 2017 winners, Birmingham College. The students and their tutor, who also gets to enjoy the trip, were suitably overwhelmed and Clive divulged that they were a stand out winner on the day.
Tilda Rice provided some entertainment with a fun game of head and tails, which was followed by a raffle with some great prizes on offer that had all been donated in support of the evening.
Of course I can’t go without mentioning the fantastic selection of dishes, inspired by Cyrus Todiwala, that were served to all of the guests on the evening including Dorset farmed snails slow cooked in a classic Goan style, Mutton Breast Masala and Murgh Mussalum Badami, followed by a Berry Passion dessert by Town and Country Foods, prepared by chef Jerome Dreux. The dinner was accompanied by a great selection of wines and finished off with a cup of Masala Chai from Hope and Glory.
Our congratulations to Birmingham College and to each of the smaller prize winners. It was a truly inspirational evening spent with an abundance of talented people who are passionate about food and its heritage and nurturing young culinary talent.
Thank you for a wonderful evening and insight to what Asian Cuisine offers young people in our amazing industry
Susan Wood, H&C News Business Manager