University College Birmingham has been crowned the Zest Quest Asia champion 2020, the second time it has topped the table following a 2017 victory.
The results were announced at an awards dinner at the London Heathrow Airport Terminal (Hilton T5) on 7 February, following a live cook-off at Mr Todiwala's Kitchen earlier in the day.
University College Birmingham students John Almeida, Dorottya Kalo, Goncalo Machado and their mentor, Lewis Walker, won over the judges with a three-course Pan-Asian menu inspired by the cuisines of Thailand, Sri-Lanka and Japan.
The winning menu comprised a starter of Thai langoustine ‘Mi Krop' croquette, langoustine and spinach bisque with a mango and coconut salsa; a main course of Sri Lankan monkfish ‘Malu Mirisata' curry, cashew sauce, spiced-infused ‘Kiribath' rice green bean salad, ‘Wattaka Kalu Pol' pumpkin curry, tomato sambal, followed by a dessert of Japanese cherry blossom garden dark chocolate and yuzu ‘Namelaka', macha Kasutera sponge, spiced cherries, sesame oil, blossom garnish.
The team and their mentor win a culinary and cultural trip of a lifetime to Bangkok as guests of Dusit International, Thailand's premier luxury hotel and resorts group. The team also win a masterclass in Thai cuisine at the Dusit Thani's signature restaurant and at the recently launched Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School. In addition the students will meet five of Thailand's leading chefs in their Michelin-starred restaurants.
Other awards and prizes announced during the evening were:
- Panasonic Cooker Round – The Sheffield College
- Tilda Best Use of Rice – New City College, Hackney
- Castelnau Best Wine Pairing Award – The Sheffield College
- Best Use of Robot Coupe Machine – University of West London
- Glengoyne Best Menu Planning Award
- Chefi Minimum Wastage Award – University College Birmingham,
- Lincolnshire Game Best Use of British Produce - Loughborough College
- KellyBronze Best Local Sourcing – Loughborough College
Now on its seventh series, Zest Quest Asia 2020 is a competition that celebrates talent and ambition in the Asian culinary arts among student chefs in Britain.
The judges included: Andrew Bennett, chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs; Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala; Ching He-Huang; Steve Munkley of the Royal Garden Hotel, Clive Roberts of Master Chefs of Great Britain, Murray Chapman of Passion to Inspire, and top pastry chef Sarah Hartnett.
Cyrus Todiwala said: "The enthusiasm of the students, tutors and colleges this year has been phenomenal. Together with our terrific sponsors and supporters, they have helped us to get the message across that Asian cuisine has standards of excellence that challenge even the most committed of students. That Zest Quest Asia as a competition has standards and rewards worth preparing and striving for. Each year, we aim higher and higher."
Founded by restaurateurs Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala with the involvement of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, it aims to raise the profile of Asian cuisine as a career among budding chefs. It hopes to stem the loss of skills in traditional Asian cookery brought on by restrictive immigration and to one day see Asian cuisine embedded in the curriculum.