Chefs turn up the heat

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YP cadets Emily Ting and Audrey Lee meet the first batch of contestants in the city's hottest cooking contest

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The contest begins with an egg cooking competition.
They're off and cooking! The Towngas Young Master Chef cooking contest is officially under way. The final interviews took place on Wednesday, when 30 cheflings and cheflet pairs were called in for the last presentation session and a cooking test.

Contestants were tested on two areas: cooking technique and their passion for food. In the presentation round, the contestants had three minutes to convince judges as to why they deserved a spot in the competition; while in the cooking test, the young chefs had three minutes to create a dish using two eggs.

Thirty individuals and teams took part, but only 24 survived. This chosen squad will take part in six cooking modules over the coming five weeks. There, they will learn new techniques and polish their cooking skills. But, at the end of each module, they also face elimination.

The champion chef or pair will win a trip to France, and attend cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, one of the most prestigious cooking schools in France. The second-place winner will win cooking lessons at a Beijing school, while the third will learn at a Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant.

Let's take a look at how the interviews went, and meet some of our contestants...

For the love of cooking

While some may think the prizes are the main motivation for the chefs, many contestants said they were here for friendship and bonding. During their presentations, they all spoke of their passion for cooking, and the lasting impact it has had on their lives.

"Food changed me as a person," Nicole De Witt said. "Cooking made me calm and less hot-headed."

Nicole, 17, dreams of attending Le Cordon Bleu Australia. Her family is unable to pay for this so the ambitious youngster is working during her gap year to save up the money.

Others, like Katrina Leung, took up cooking just because they wanted to be "useful" around the house. Katrina's mother is often busy working. Because eating out can be unhealthy, she decided to pick up cooking, for her own sake and that of her younger brother.

Many famous chefs have proved that cooking is not just a girly hobby. But not every member of the society has moved on from this stereotype.

Tat Lai, 19, has long been bugged by this gender bias. As a basketball team captain, his passion for cooking contrasts with his sporty image, but he even once considered cooking as a career option. But now he has decided it is more satisfying to cook for fun, and so he entered this competition.

The Great Egg Cook-off

The three-minute egg cooking challenge might seem brief, but Pauline Wong - Towngas Cooking Centre manager and cooking challenge judge - said it was a good enough indicator of the contestants' commitment.

Many entrants played it safe, and went for conventional egg dishes. Scrambled eggs, sunny-side-up, omelettes and poached eggs were all found on the table.

However, some contestants decided to let creativity take over in those three whizzing minutes.

Tat and fellow contestant Kelvin Wan both added a sprinkling of rice wine when scrambling their eggs. Tat confidently explained the method was often used in Japanese cuisine such as tamagoyaki omelette and nigiri sushi. Kelvin said adding rice wine helps to get rid of the eggy smell, especially when making scrambled and fried eggs.

Taking a different approach, Enoch Chan separated the egg whites and yolks, scrambling the white into a fluffy white mixture and frying it. He then beat the remaining yolk, and drizzled it on top of the cooked egg white, forming a delightful contrast of semi-runny yolk and the solid white. "I only came up with this recipe last night," he said. "I hoped the finished dish would stand out because it was unusual."

Every Friday from next week until the end of the competition, Young Post will give you detailed coverage of each weekly challenge. You can also check out our Facebook for the latest photos and updates.