A team of students from University College Birmingham has won the 2017 Zest Quest Asia competition.
The results were announced at an awards ceremony last night (13 February) at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 hotel.
The students were tasked with preparing and presenting classical and contemporary Asian cookery skills during a live cook-off at Mr Todiwala's Kitchen, Cyrus Todiwala's restaurant at the hotel. They also had to give a 10-minute presentation testing their knowledge about food culture, provenance and sustainability.
The three students - Peter Price, Alexander McLaren and Hugo Montgomery, mentored by chef lecturer Lewis Walker - saw off competition from Colchester Institute, Hackney Community College, Sheffield College and the University of West London.
Their prize is a 10-day trip to Japan sponsored by Panasonic, which will involve learning about Japanese cuisine, including teppanyaki, sushi making and kaiseki; a stay in the Hilton Tokyo; a tour of the Panasonic factory in Kyoto; and a visit to a Kobe beef farm.
Last year's winners, Milton Keynes College, prepared the canapés for the event, based on their prize trip to Bangkok.
Judges included Andrew Bennett, food and beverage director at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel; Clive Roberts, chairman of Master Chefs of Great Britain; restaurateurs Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala; Steve Munkley, executive head chef of the Royal Garden hotel; Murray Chapman, founder of ‘A Passion to Inspire'; and Sarah Hartnett, head pastry chef at the Sheraton Park Lane hotel.
Cyrus Todiwala, chef-patron of Café Spice Namaste and founder of Zest Quest Asia, said 42 colleges registered their interest in the competition this year, more than ever before, and said he was encouraged by the interest of smaller colleges such as Colchester Institute and Hackney Community College.
He praised the winning team for their precision. "Their presentation, the cooking was perfect, the texture, and the taste," he said. All teams, he added, had really put the effort in, and he hoped that the other teams would "take away motivation and determination to come back better and stronger" next year.
Colchester Institute won the Least Food Wasted Award sponsored by I.O. Shen; University College Birmingham the Best Presented Menu Award sponsored by Koppart Cress; and Hackney Community College won the Best Dish of the Day Award sponsored by Glengoyne.
Zest Quest Asia was launched in 2013 by Todiwala with the Master Chefs of Great Britain. It was founded to address the skills shortage within the £3.5bn Asian food industry in the UK, and to stimulate interest in Asian cookery as a career among British-national student chefs.
Previous winners include students from Westminster Kingsway College, and Farnborough College, who won 10-day gastronomic trips to India and Sri Lanka, respectively.