For the second year running, students at the University of West London have been crowned Zest Quest Asia champions. Their outstanding achievement was announced at the Zest Quest Asia Gala Dinner and Awards Night held on Friday, 8th February 2019 at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 (Hilton T5). Attending the event were some 300 representatives of the UK culinary education, food and drink, and equipment sectors.
University of West London once again triumphed at the cook-off finals held earlier in the day at Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, the signature restaurant of Hilton T5, seeing off challengers from Colchester Institute, North Hertfordshire College, New City College, Farnborough College of Technology and Westminster Kingsway College.
Marian Tandy, Mika Narciso, Bhumika Rai and their tutor, Tarik Ramjaun, win a trip of a lifetime: a seven-day educational journey to Manila, the vibrant capital of the Philippines and an emerging food city. They will be booked at the 5-star Fairmont Makati, conveniently located in the heart of the city’s modern business district, where they will enjoy a stage in the hotel’s kitchens. Other planned activities include a visit to Pampanga, one of the Philippines’ culinary epicentres; cooking at a Zest Quest Asia fundraiser to be held at Romulo Café Makati, and a definite highlight – taking part in a ‘fun cooking session’ at the residence of His Excellency Daniel Pruce, British Ambassador to the Philippines.
Judges were unanimously impressed by the team’s South Indian/Goan menu: a starter of South Indian Ulundu Vadai with Jerusalem Artichoke; a main course consisting of British Partridge Goan Cafreal made with fresh mint and coriander; and a dessert of Bibinca and parsnip Serradura. Marian, Mika and Bhumika also came away with two other prizes, for Display of Sustainability and Best Wine Pairing, sponsored by Loch Duart and Castelnau/Patriarch Pere et Fils, respectively. In addition, as the new Zest Quest Asia 2019 champions, University of West London was presented with a state of the art Robot Coupe machine for its training kitchens.
Other awards on the night were:
- Master Chefs of Great Britain Best Team Spirit Award – Colchester Institute
- Glengoyne’s Best Menu Planning Award – North Hertfordshire College
- Chefi’s Minimum Wastage Award – Westminster Kingsway College
- Tilda’s Award for Best use of Rice – New City College
- KellyBronze Best Use of Local Sourcing Award – Colchester Institute
- The Koppert Cress Award for Best Use of Living Ingredient– Farnborough College
The evening began with a canape and reception prepared by last year’s winners, also from the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of West London, led by UWL tutor Nathan Vasanthan. The outgoing champions created a Southeast Asian medley inspired by their prize trip to Vietnam last April. Dinner was a 5-course ‘Menu with an Extra Dose of Rice’ designed by Cyrus Todiwala OBE, DL featuring a dessert by Town and Country Fine Foods. Andy Kemp, Group Sales & Marketing Director of Bidfood, led grace.
The evening’s special guest speakers were American chef, author and TV presenter, Ken Hom OBE and Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE, DL, chairman of Cobra Beer. In his speech, the legendary chef noted the rising importance of Asian food in Britain and around the world, while Lord Bilimoria, picking up on Zest Quest Asia’s ethos to ‘aim high’, shared his own life’s lesson: ‘Work as hard as you can, then go that extra bit further.’ Likewise attending the evening was Vice-Consul Stacy Danika Alcantara-Garcia of the Philippine Embassy, who introduced a short film on Manila by stressing the power of food to forge connections and relationships. She was joined on stage by Peps Villanueva, representative of Crystal Travel.
Now in its sixth year, Zest Quest Asia was founded in 2013 by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala, with the support of The Master Chefs of Great Britain, to help address Britain’s skills and knowledge gaps in Asian cuisine. The competition also aims to be a catalyst for the inclusion of traditional Asian cookery in the curriculum.
Leading the judging panel was chairman Andrew Bennett MBE. Fellow judges were Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala of Café Spice Namaste and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, Steve Munkley of the Royal Garden Hotel, Clive Roberts of Master Chefs of Great Britain, and Murray Chapman of Passion to Inspire. The evening was emceed by Nigel Barden, the BBC broadcaster, food and drink journalist, and chef.
Cyrus Todiwala OBE, DL, who for the first time will be joining the winning team on their prize trip, said, “Zest Quest Asia was always going to be a strong student competition because of its rigour and ambition. Every year we’ve enjoyed the great support of friends and colleagues from industry and beyond. But this year, our sixth, we are extremely grateful for how we’ve been able to move to an entirely new level. You could see it in the effort and determination of students to win, and the passion of everyone involved in creating a positive buzz around Zest Quest Asia. You could see it in the quality of entries and finished menus and in the incredible support that the finalists generally received from their colleges. Unfortunately, there could only be one overall winner, and this year University of West London did it again. Congratulations to them and to the other teams who all proved their mettle in a tough competition.’