Zest Quest Asia, the cooking competition from chef Cyrus Todiwala and the Master Chefs of Great Britain, has announced teams from six colleges who have reached the first round of judging in the 2016 contest.
They are Doncaster College, Milton Keynes College, University of West London, Westminster Kingsway College, University College Birmingham and defending champions Farnborough College.
Teams from each college will now go on to take part in a final cook-off at the restaurant Mr Todiwala's Kitchen at Heathrow Terminal 5, on 15 February 2016. The overall winners will then be announced at a gala dinner that evening.
The first prize will be a 10-day culinary journey to an Asian gastronomic capital.
Zest Quest Asia, formerly known as the Asian Junior Chefs Challenge, was launched in 2013, and seeks to promote Asian cooking techniques and cuisine in Britain.
To go through to the final round, the teams had to demonstrate how they would produce and cost a four-course meal based on Asian cuisine using British ingredients. This could include influences from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and the sub-continent, the Philippines, Japan, China and Vietnam.
Judges included Todiwala, also chef-patron of Café Spice Namasté; his wife and business partner Pervin; chef Andrew Bennett, chairman of the jury and executive chef and food and beverage director of the Sheraton Park Lane; Steve Munkley, executive head chef at the Royal Garden hotel; Murray Chapman, founder of Passion to Inspire; and Clive Roberts, chairman of the Master Chefs of Great Britain.
Commenting on this year's finalists, Todiwala said: "There was real skill and talent which shone through in the quality of some of the entries, and it was a tough decision. I think there's a genuine desire by colleges to field the best they have as a way of exposing students not just to the rigour of competing, but specifically to competing to be best in Asian cuisine. I look forward to the final cook-off."
Bennett added: "I'm particularly keen to have the sustainability element brought to the fore during their presentations and also the ability to demonstrate an understanding of the true origins of the cuisine. I want to see some soul in their cooking."
Sponsors of the event this year are Hilton, Tilda, Regale Microwaves, Panasonic, Bidvest, Cobra, Glengoyne, Auto Grill, Schwartz, and Jestic. Tickets to the gala dinner are available at £75 per person, or £650 for tables of 10, from email@example.com.
Cyrus Todiwala is set to appear in the 4 December issue of The Caterer magazine in an interview about the contest and its role in promoting Asian cuisine among chefs in the UK.