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17-year-old chef takes the cake at Cook’N’Battle competition
In 2020 we launched Cook’N’Battle, our unique virtual culinary competition – and it was so sweet, we brought it back for seconds!
Bringing together young aspiring chefs from all over the world, participants had to send in a 5-minute video of themselves cooking a dish inspired by ingredients local to wherever they are. Six finalists rose to the top and battled it out in a livestream on July 24th.
While all the finalists showcased incredible talent, 17-year-old Yihan Ying’s beautifully cooked and plated neriki wagashi stood out, winning her the competition and a scholarship to Culinary Arts Academy worth 20’000 CHF.
Yihan grew up in the UAE, but it is from her Chinese roots that she draws her culinary inspiration.
I’ve been super lucky to grow up in a multicultural country, where I’ve been exposed to lots of different kinds of cooking, but at home, we eat Chinese food, so that’s definitely what I’m most comfortable with.
And it is at home that Yihan’s passion for the culinary world began, watching her mother cooking and baking, then expanding her horizons by researching different culinary techniques, trends, and recipes online. “And from there,” she laughed, “It just happened. I just fell in love with cooking, and I started to get better at it. I began without any equipment and gradually ended up buying more and more professional devices and utensils.”
Professionalism and attention to detail were embedded in her prize-winning dish Winter Blossom, inspired by the Chinese plum flower which flourishes in winter.
One of the beautiful neriki flowers that adorned her plate had sixteen petals - Yihan admitted she had to practice these many, many times to ensure that they were evenly spaced and that the soft pastel colors of the bean paste would show through the white dough. As a final touch, the whole was dusted with dried camel's milk, an ingredient local to her corner of the world.
Her reinvention of the traditional Japanese pastry, made with white bean paste and date paste, required such a high skill level that the judges were amazed to see her bring it all together within the allocated 45 minutes. R. Max Behesht, dean of César Ritz Colleges, Lucerne campus, and host of the event, exclaimed at her punctuality, “She’s Swiss already!”
It seems Yihan’s instruction has begun already. Each of the finalists was connected with a Chef Instructor at Culinary Arts Academy, and the young chef remarked on how much she had learned from her mentor, Chef Yann: “From mise-en-place and plating advice to teaching me about color contrast, he’s been so helpful. He also assisted me with time management and keeping calm. These are tips that helped me today but will also be useful going forward.”
As for the future?
First and foremost, Yihan intends to learn as much as she can during her time at Culinary Arts Academy. While she’s extremely comfortable with Chinese cuisine, she hopes that studying in Switzerland will expose her to the culinary traditions of surrounding countries France, Germany, and Italy.
But for this ambitious entrepreneur, a BA in Culinary Arts is just the gateway:
My dream would be to start my own business, integrating health and delicacy into my cuisine. Health is really trending right now and I want to create dishes that are healthy but tasty.
As she continues to refine her culinary skills, we have very little doubt that Yihan will take the world of food by storm.
Watch the winner’s performance in the Cook’N’Battle final here.
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