Cooking up a storm
This week, the contestants picked up all the basics they need. From next week on, two of them will face elimination after each round. Follow Young Post's Young Master Chef coverage every Friday, and stay tuned to our Facebook and website for photos and updates.
Chinese and Japanese cuisine expert Master Wan taught the contestants the basics of Chinese cooking. He then challenged the contestants' cooking skills with a Chinese household classic, stir-fried beef with broccoli.
Innovation shown in carrot cutting
Many participants put their own spin on the food presentation: while some sliced their carrots into chrysanthemum shapes, others formed them into eagles. Some pushed the boundaries even more. For example, instead of mimicking the way Master Wan plated up his dish, contestant Lai Tat-ching separated the beef and broccoli, placing the meat on the left and vegetables on the right. He also deconstructed the traditional garnish of carrot, chopping them into tiny cubes and sprinkling them on top of his dish.
Contestant Helen Lo Kit-yi completed the challenge in the fastest time. She says the secret is to follow every step and try to multitask, if possible.
Apart from polishing her cooking skills, Helen entered this competition because she wanted to become closer to her father; he is also a Chinese chef and encouraged her to sign up to broaden her horizons. 'My father told me it'd be a golden opportunity to learn different styles of cookery,' Helen says.
Tutor: Master Wan
Kitchen experience: 50 years, including 30 years spent in Japan
Speciality: Chinese and Japanese cuisine
Lesson for contestants: serving cold dishes with top-quality hygiene; cleaning shelled seafood; meat and vegetable cutting
Comment: Wan (right) was glad to see contestants of their ages were able to control their flames so deftly. He says most of the contestants' dishes tasted better than many of those served in restaurants.
He suggests contestants should work on their cutting skills: in most cases, the beef and broccoli were not chopped evenly. He also says the sauce should be more consistent as well, which is achieved by adding more cornstarch and less water when mixing.
Restaurateur and former Le Cordon Bleu student Wilson Kwok took over for the second round. He introduced the contestants to a home-style grilled chicken dish, Poulet Basquaise, or Basque chicken.
Time is of the essence
Poulet Basquaise, though deemed a simple, everyday dish, involves quite a handful of steps. What's more, the pressure was really on the contestants, because they had to complete all the intricate tasks in no more than one hour. Several contestants and teams hurried to plate up their dishes in the very last seconds; some even removed their chicken from the oven only two or three minutes before the end buzzer went off.
'We had only one hour to cook this dish and ended up going over the time limit,' says Sze Lok-yee, a member of Team Six. She says the rush was probably caused by unfamiliarity with the Western cooking steps; Lok-yee cooks mainly Chinese cuisine at home, and is unfamiliar with Western dishes.
Student's 'edge' returns
Unlike the last Cantonese stir-fried dish challenge, this one required students to make a European dish. Contestants such as Yuen Ka-hei, who are more used to cooking Western cuisine, found this challenge exceptionally easy. 'It wasn't particularly hard for me because I like cooking Western and Italian foods at home,' she says.
Ka-hei struggled when the contestants were asked to make Chinese-style, stir-fried beef. This time, her 'edge' was back.
Tutor: Wilson Kwok
Kitchen experience: has been running his own restaurant for 19 years
Speciality: Western cuisine
Lesson for contestants: basic Western cooking skills; understanding different 'genres' of food; following instructions
Comments: Kwok said he was satisfied with all the dishes in general.
However, what he asked for was 'no more, no less'. For example, he told contestants to plate up only one chicken drumstick, even though they were given two. But many contestants failed to comply. In a normal Western setting, each plate should always hold a one-person portion.
Kwok appreciated contestants who put in extra effort in terms of presentation. But the task also highlighted contestants who failed to realise the style of the dish: Poulet Basquaise is a homemade, relaxed dish, so extravagant decoration is unnecessary.
He said that contestants should always pay attention to the details.
1st: Cooking trip to Le Cordon Bleu, flown to Paris by Air France
2nd: Cooking trip to Bejing
3rd: Cooking lessons at Hong Kong's Michelin-starred restaurant Cuisine Cuisine