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Kudos to Chettinad cuisine

It was a proud moment for Chef K. Damodharan when he won the award for best performance in the `Three Course Ethnic Asian Menu' category at the food expo in Singapore.

THE MOST feted display at the Food Hotel Asia-2002 Expo in Singapore was Oothappam with Milagai podi and Coconut Chutney and the buzzword was Chettinad cuisine!

When Chef K. Damodharan says, "That was the proudest moment in my life," we share his sentiments. The principal of the MGR Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology was talking about receiving the medal for the best performance in the category of `Three Course Ethnic Asian Menu' from Jochenkahan, member of World Association of Cooks Society, recently.

The Expo, held once in two years, is a hospitality industry exhibition that goes beyond displaying latest equipment and holding seminars on food and nutrition. Nearly 5,000 participants from all over the world attended the culinary challenge this year.

In the ethnic Asian category, Damodharan had to beat 750 challengers to bag the medal. The Singapore Chefs' Association and the World Association of Cooks Society are the main force behind the competitions.

The winning menu had Yerra varuval, Kozhi vellai kurma and Beans usili as the stipulated main courses of seafood, meat and vegetables. The accompaniments were vasantha neer or tender coconut water with honey and fruits, Urulai roast, Samba souru (rice tempered with South Indian spices), Milagai podi, Oothappam, Coconut chutney, Poosinikai halwa, Appalam/Vadagam and Mor milagai.

Besides the food presented in copper coated containers placed on sigris or food warmers, there were also a map of South India with the Karaikudi region highlighted, history of Chettinad on palm leaves, a spice tray displaying cinnamon, cloves, dried red chillies, cardamom and pepper and lighted brass lamps. A model of a temple gopuram enhanced the traditional ambience. What made the victory special for the chef-tutor was that he was the only Indian participant and the only one from a catering institute. The dishes were selected after trying out different combinations keeping in mind colour, ingredients, garnishing and appearance, he said.

During his 25 years in the field, Damodharan has donned the cap of a chef, nurtured a catering institute to its present position, hosted culinary shows on TV and has even written a recipe book, "Damu's Home Free Style Cookery".

James Mussak of Pro-Chef International, Asia, felicitated Damodharan while the Singapore Chefs' Association presented the Appreciation Medal at an award ceremony. The other individual contests at the FHA-2002 were `dress the cake' live competition, patisserie-desserts, pastry showpieces, plate displays, live hot cooking and live ice, fruit and vegetable carving. The contests were open to chefs, deans and heads of catering institutions.

The success at Singapore highlighted the immense wealth of our traditional cuisine at an international forum of culinary professionals as well as the public.

MARIEN MATHEW

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