Excel on Traditions Converging Global Culinary Talents

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Lee Kum Kee

Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge 2018 inspires innovation by young chefs from around the world

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 12:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 12:03am

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As the saying goes “Wherever there are people, Chinese cuisine will be available” – the Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge 2018 aims to celebrate the innovations and connections fostered by this universally loved gastronomic heritage among diverse countries and regions around the world.

Aptly themed “Excel on Traditions   Converging Global Culinary Talents”, this biennial competition, which is in its third edition, reflects Lee Kum Kee’s mission to sustainably promote the Chinese culinary culture spanning over 5,000 years worldwide. “Our goal is to encourage and support young aspiring Chinese culinary chefs from around the world to innovate,” said Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group Chairman Mr. Charlie Lee, adding that the event has been supported by 22 Chinese culinary associations and industry partners from all corners of the globe, making it a truly international championship. Staged on 19 and 20 September this year, this competition was organised by Lee Kum Kee and steered by the World Federation of Chinese Catering Industry.

In addition to the growing list of supporting trade organisations, the competition’s increased significance as an international platform for the exchange of creative ideas is reflected by the avid participation of 42 talented young chefs from 17 countries and regions. “The 2014 inaugural competition welcomed young chefs from seven countries and regions. The number of countries and regions represented went up to 13 in the 2016 edition,” Lee noted. “We’re glad to see this third edition has attracted chefs from all five continents.”

While its essence remains, the Chinese culinary heritage has been evolving progressively. Chefs from different regions often innovate by ingeniously incorporating ingredients unique to their respective areas. The biennial contest thus brings budding young chefs, including celebrity chefs who shine in gourmet variety shows and executive chefs from renowned Michelin-starred restaurants, under one roof and provides the opportunity for their creative sparks to fly. “We have established a platform for young aspiring chefs to exchange ideas and inspire one another for innovation breakthroughs from this millennia-long culinary tradition,” Lee said. “Because the Chinese cuisine has spread throughout the world, the standards and quality vary from place to place. This contest also acts as a platform for mutual learning so that it contributes to the further elevation of the overall quality of Chinese culinary artistry worldwide.”

Echoing the contest’s theme, the percentage of “Creativity” out of the overall judging criteria increased to 25 percent from only 15 percent at previous editions, he adds. “We want to encourage the participating chefs to get their creative juices flowing.”

Also to mark the 130th Anniversary of the iconic global brand of sauces and condiments, the competition introduced the “Lee Kum Kee 130th Anniversary Best Heritage Tasting Award” and highlighted the occasion’s symbolic significance with a cash prize of HK$130,000. Chef Joung Duck Su from Korea won this award with the highest overall score.

Held at the Chinese Culinary Institute in Pok Fu Lam, the two-day competition was kicked off with the fanfare of gong banging. The 42 young international culinary aspirants, shortlisted from rigorous preliminary rounds of the contest and selection processes, exerted their best efforts in creating dishes with excellence in taste, texture, creativity, presentation and hygiene to outdo one another under the eagle eyes of a stellar line-up of distinguished judges. The contestants were required to prepare Chinese dishes with the designated ingredients and enhanced them with Lee Kum Kee sauces and condiments within 90 minutes. Along with the “Lee Kum Kee 130th Anniversary Best Heritage Tasting Award”, the contesting chefs vied for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards and four special awards, namely “Most Creative Award”, “Best Sauce Combination Award”, “Best Presentation Award” and “Best Dish Award”.

Also spotlighted at the competition was another aspect of Lee Kum Kee’s firm commitment to advancing Chinese culinary tradition, while fulfilling its corporate social responsibility. At the Opening Ceremony, students of the Lee Kum Kee “Hope as Chef” CSR programme demonstrated their masterful food cutting and carving skills as well as amazing dough-making craft before the marveling audience from around the world. In only a matter of minutes, the young chefs turned turnip slices into festive motifs symbolising health and prosperity while coloured dough pieces were transformed into Chinese ink-painting-like floral arrangements depicting the four seasons.

Lee Kum Kee’s key CSR programme “Hope as Chef” was launched in 2011. “As part of our social commitment, Lee Kum Kee has developed and introduced many CSR programmes over the years. The “Hope as Chef” programme is closely connected to our sauce business. Its overall objective is to nurture youths between 15 and 19 years old who aspire to become Chinese culinary chefs. Under the initiative, the selected young chefs receive training with all tuitions sponsored by Lee Kum Kee at collaborative vocational training institutes in Beijing and Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. Over 640 young chefs have received training and more than 320 of them now work as chefs all over China,” Lee noted.