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“Chef of the Century” got amazed at Vietnamese chefs’ creative cooking

Saturday, 12/17/2016 16:37
The Golden Spoon Awards 2016 Grand Final took place among 15 finalists on 06 December 2016. “Chef of the Century” Eckart Witzigmann was excited to explore a new realm of culinary styles in Vietnam by participating in the competition judge panel.

“Chef of the Century” Eckart Witzigmann shared how surprised and impressed he was by the popular use of spices and herbs in Vietnamese cuisine during his very first trip to Vietnam. He gave good remarks on the presentation and food texture of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula’s menu. However, he thought the team should pay attention to balancing the moisture of the chicken dish and avoid overusing herbs which might taste strange to the judges and regular diners.

Having contended in the Golden Spoon Awards four times in a row, Quan Nhi Restaurant (Can Tho) quickly dissected ingredients found in the black box with all their confidence. Judge Minh Thuy gave them her compliments on the menu which they tried to combine as many healthy ingredients as possible. According to the lecturer of Nguyen Tat Thanh University, they should not involve too much high-carbohydrate ingredients or frying method while cooking. However, the team’s strength in using new methods over old ingredients, harmonizing tastes and keeping up with food hygiene was highly valued.

In the first time making it to the Grand Final, Thang Loi I Convention Center & Restaurant (An Giang) introduced a four-course menu including countryside salad – stuffed bell pepper, steamed lobster au vin, palm heart and pork stew, and three-flavoured sweet soup. Though lobster is not the team’s strength, they still turned it into a delectable dish which earned compliments from Hoang My, first runner-up of Miss Vietnam 2010.

Meanwhile, judge David Thai commended La Veranda Phu Quoc team for dividing ingredients adequately. However, according to him, the team’s banquet table display was somewhat lackadaisical. His advice was to mind the heat which might absorb the meat moisture, thoroughly remove fishy smell and incorporate more cooking techniques at once.

Binh Quoi I Resort was also among those who impressed the judge panel. Judge Paul Le, vice president  of Central Group appraised their agility in prepping each dish. The menu comprised of different flavours ranging from spicy hot to tender. It was a marriage between Asian ingredients and Western techniques which surprised the judge panel.

Judge Trieu Thi Choi particularly considered the team from Sea Links Binh Thuan as potential candidate for the chef trophy. However, she advised them not to repeat cooking methods in one menu, instead they should stay creative and balance the overall taste.

The menu of Palace Vung Tau Hotel team had some highlights. However, not all dishes achieved the same goodness. The banquet table was monotonously arranged. For him they should add more colors as well as suitable condiments and seasons to boost flavours.

Rising above other teams for having an authentic style and local ingredient sets, the team coming from Thanh Phat Daklak Hotel was expected to live up to judge Sakal Phoeung’s expectation. In his opinion, their menu for the Grand Final was interesting, where the salad was freshly delicious. Chef Dang Tuyen knew how to combine all given sorts of ingredients to cook using appropriate cooking methods. In general, the menu cleverly featured Western patterns alongside  Vietnamese traditional ones.

79 Gia Bao Restaurant’s team leader Duc Hoang, with tears brimming his eyes, talked about “Family” – the theme of his team’s banquet table display. According to him, each dish represented emotional experiences and connections among family members. Judge Yen Phi was pleased with the lamb dish even though it was their first time to handle it. They also received compliments for making use of fresh seasons such as turmeric and ginger when cooking.

Cam Thanh Hotel was intent to use cooked rice extract to tell a heartwarming childhood story of mom’s food. Judge Ly Sanh gave good remarks for their smooth coordination and tasty combinations. In his opinion, sweet soup with cooked rice extract was a delectable dessert which lightened up the entire menu.

Christmas-themed banquet table prepared by the team of Indochine Palace Hue Hotel had eye-catching effects and colorful impression. Judge Marco expressed his interest in the appetizer for its delicate texture and piquant sauce. Lobsters were made into three different dishes, however, it would have been better if the team had prepared different sauces for each as well.

Culinary expert Bui Thi Suong’s comment on Crowne Plaza Danang’s banquet table was it had been nicely arranged, menu filled with reasonable amounts of broth and carbohydrate components. The appetizer was well done, fish cake crispy, hot and chewy. However, the shrimp soup’s texture was not fully incorporated due to the use of lumpy, salty stock. The rest in the menu was not impressive enough.

Judge Ly Huy Sang gave his compliments to Naman Retreat Resort’s menu whose appetizer, a salad dish, was tasteful, playing a perfect role to bring out the tenderness of watercress soup coming afterwards. The dessert was perfectly cooked with adequate creaminess and thickness, the jam delicious and fruity.

The black box Muong Thanh Lao Cai Hotel received contained a durian, a tropical fruit they had never tasted. Chef Van Lien was quite determined to make sweet soup from this spiky ingredient. However, judge Marco advised this team to change their garnishment style to improve visual deliciousness for their dishes. For him they had played it safe with the menu structure, which prevent it from standing out to win more points from the Thai culinary advisor.

As the only representative from the City of Hanoi, Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel was highly valued for their garnishment by judge Ly Huy Sang. However, ingredient repetition and inappropriate combination got them to lose points. However, their skills with salad, lamb and jelly saved the day.

By Giang Hoang Nhon - Hai An/ Zing

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