Over 800 people tuned in on 6th June 2020 to watch Cook ‘N’ Battle and watched as seven talented finalists from around the world prepared a dish of their choice, live in front of a professional jury of five world-famous chefs.
As the world was dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland launched its first ever virtual culinary competition. To qualify, participants were invited to submit a five-minute video where they present and prepare a dish featuring a local ingredient. Nearly 150 participants from around the world responded to the invitation to showcase their talent. After careful review from the Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland jury, seven finalists were then selected to move on to the final round. Each of them had the privilege of then being mentored by a Chef Instructor from Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland.
The professional jury consisted of five world-famous chefs: Anton Mosimann (Jury President), highly accoladed Swiss culinary icon; Pooja Dhingra, India’s Pastry Chef, Founder & Head Chef of “Le15” patisserie (Mumbai, India), Vladimir Mukhin, Head Chef & Co-owner of “White Rabbit”, Moscow, Russia, No.13 in “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” 2019 listing; Franck Giovannini, Head Chef of three Michelin-starred “Restaurant De L’Hôtel De Ville” (Crissier, Switzerland); and Matthew Downes, Corporate Chef at Mane (Vouvry, Switzerland), Founder of Vegan Chef Consulting.
Here is a closer look at the seven finalists and the dish they prepared. You can go here to watch the final in its entirety.
1st PRIZE YEN-CHENG LIN – TAIWAN
Key ingredient: red koji (red fermented rice)
Yen-Cheng Lin prepared a typical Taiwanese dish, Red Koji Duck Breast, in a modern way.
“I learned how to make red koji from my grandmother. She taught me many ways to preserve food without using a refrigerator thanks to fermentation methods. Locally sourced food is a part of everyday life here as we seek to live in harmony with Mother Nature who provides us soil, water, and the garden.
I was speechless when I found out I had won the competition. It was such a surreal moment. Cooking is already a part of my day-to-day life, but this achievement will inspire me to do it with more passion and more confidence.”
2nd PRIZE ARIE SANYI – INDONESIA
Key ingredient: Tilapia fish
Arie Sanyi prepared a traditional Indonesian fish dish called Ikan Acar Kuning, which means pickled yellow fish in Bahasa Indonesia.
“This was my first time taking part in a cooking competition. I was attracted by the novelty of it being hosted online, as well as by the theme of sustainability, but the main appeal was the high-calibre jury.
The dish has a deeper spiritual meaning, expressed through the colours of the ingredients, the traditional colours of the Malay people- yellow, red, and green. Yellow can be found in the sauce, red in the pickled shallots and carrots, and green in the cucumbers. Fish (in this case tilapia) symbolises prosperity.”
3rd PRIZE GIFT NDENDA – ZIMBABWE/NETHERLANDS
Key ingredient: Asparagus
Gift Ndenda prepared an asparagus dish, coupled with rhubarb (used raw, pickled or dried) and scallops.
“My goal was to harmonize different individual elements into one well-rounded dish. The sauce Fleurette is a hollandaise derivative with the addition of heavy cream. Besides the flavour pairing, I thought that using a Hollandaise sauce in a Dutch-themed dish would be a subtle pun.
Being able to discuss my dish thoroughly with a mentor was something that I found invaluable. Moreover, as someone who has only been cooking for two years, taking part in this competition was a nice way to benchmark my food against other top-quality cooks."
DAVID WAMBUNYA – KENYA
Key ingredient: Red snapper fish
David Wambunya prepared a dish he calls Hakuna Matata – pan seared red snapper, pomme puree with a tomato & herb reduction and seasonal vegetables.
“It was exciting to be competing with contestants from six other countries. The competition was a safe space to express oneself through cultural dishes using local ingredients. When I began to cook, I wasn’t nervous but felt ‘in the zone’.
My dish, Hakuna Matata, is an authentic Kenyan dish made from locally sourced ingredients therefore sustainable. The idea is that when you eat it, all your worries disappear.
My mum, dad, and cat (Tommy), all indulged in the final dish. Cats tend to be picky eaters, but Tommy gobbled his portion down in seconds, granting me his seal of approval."
ANIQA IRFAN – PAKISTAN/UK
Key ingredient: banana
Aniqa Irfan prepared a dessert she calls Banana Dream – banana ice cream, churned with dry ice, accompanied by strawberry spheres, cinder toffee, and pecan sand.
“When I first heard about Cook ‘N’ Battle, I had recently launched my own cooking YouTube channel. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could go. The challenge was that the judges were mainly going to be eating with their eyes.
I’m a pharmacist by profession but would like to become a professional chef and grow my own produce. One day I would like to earn three Michelin stars for Pakistan!”
ALIONA VASILCHUCK – UKRAINE
Key ingredient: Brynza cheese
Aliona Vasilchuck decided to prepare a personal interpretation of the Ukrainian national dish “Varenyky” (Ukrainian Dumplings).
“This was my first experience in a large-scale competition, and I didn’t regret it! I was so surprised to be chosen as a finalist. I decided to add new tastes and colours to a traditional dish to make it brighter. After the competition, I continued improving my recipe and adding colours.
The highlight of Cook ‘N’ Battle for me was communicating with new people and interacting with inspiring high-level chefs.”
RAISSA RIBEIRO – BRAZIL
Key ingredient: Cassava
Raissa Ribeiro prepared a dessert she calls “The Queen of Brazil”, using cassava (a typical root grown everywhere in Brazil).