Zest Quest Asia announces dates for 2023 competition
The provisional dates for the Zest Quest Asia 2023 competition were announced at a launch event held yesterday (24 August) at Café Spice Namaste in the London Docklands.
Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala, owners of the restaurant and co-founders of the culinary competition, welcomed over 40 guests to a three-course lunch, which featured dishes such as Keralan lamb biryani, potato bhajee, and duck samosa.
During the opening drinks reception, Cyrus revealed that the next iteration of the competition will be held on 17 February.
The gathering also provided an opportunity to celebrate Zest Quest Asia's achievements since its inception in 2013, made possible with the involvement of the Master Chefs of Great Britain.
The competition encourages young chefs from UK-based catering colleges to explore and understand Asian cuisine, with an ultimate aim of raising the profile of Asian cooking so that it becomes integrated in the school and college curriculum.
Speaking to The Caterer after the event, Pervin said: "It's fantastic. We've got a brilliant set of prospective sponsors, friends, people who have helped us to bring this thing together. We could never have done it on our own."
Cyrus added: "We've been thinking about [this event] for a long time. We've never in all the twelve years of Zest Quest done a launch event like this.
"We thought we should thank our sponsors, thank the people who help us, and have a small get-together and that way build new contacts to make sure this competition keeps going in success."
For the first time this year, Zest Quest Asia had a surplus of £2,500 as a result of sponsor funding, which was then distributed to four colleges. The money enabled students to train for the competition, as well as buy uniforms and equipment, which the team said would ensure another "twenty young people will not run away from the industry".
Murray Chapman, one of the main judges of Zest Quest Asia and last year's winner of the Catey award for Education and Training, said: "Looking at what we achieved this year, I was just blown away. The attitude in the kitchen and the communication between the teams was fantastic. I think leading onto next year we're going to go to another level with the communication."
Last year's winners from Sheffield College have earned an educational trip to Manila in the Philippines, while Loughborough College received the Andrew Bennett MBE Award for Best Teamwork.
The competition has also seen a change in leadership following the death of of Andrew Bennett, former chair of the Craft Guild of Chefs and chairman of judges at Zest Quest Asia, in 2021.
Bennett's successor, Steve Munkley, said: "I think the really lovely thing about Zest Quest Asia is that it's not just a cookery competition. It gives young chefs the opportunity to delve into other cultures that they wouldn't necessarily be involved in and that's the important thing about it.
"Andrew Bennett was such a fabulous man and such a wonderful profile that to step along behind him was a real privilege for me. One of the things that I want to promote is a little bit more about learning, to give [the students] a chance to tell us what they've learnt."
Zest Quest Asia may introduce a semi-final if it continues to see an upward trend in the standard and number of entries.