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It's talent that's cooking!

After a successful cookery contest for different categories, the South Indian Culinary Association is all set for another major event on October 24.

Hot. There is no other word to describe the live cooking contest held by the South Indian Culinary Association (SICA) together with Nestle and the Vel's Institute of Hotel Management. When one reached the venue, Vel's College, Pallavaram, at around 11.00 a.m., the heat was merciless, outside as well as inside. Tension was palpable. The contestants were sweating it out by the burner, with one eye on the clock as each tick brought the deadline closer.

There were 16 teams slugging it out for the Nestle Young Star Chef Of The Year gold medal and 14 teams (a few even from outside Chennai) competing in the Western cuisine category for students. Each team had two members. The first group comprised professionals below 25 years.

According to Vijay Nagpal, executive chef, Park Sheraton, and a SICA Executive Committee member, the Association was giving an opportunity for these rookies who usually don't get to do anything but chop onions and tomatoes, to showcase their cooking talent. And for the students, it put them in the picture of what lies ahead of them. The chef who is also a jury member for the contest explained the purpose of the contest.

The Heads of the catering colleges — Bennet from the host college,

K.Damodharan, MGR Catering College and Ranjan Mukherji, Canon Catering College, judged the professional category. The executive chefs, N. Babu (Radha Park Inn) and Chandrasekhar (Taj Coromandel), besides a corporate chef, M. Manohar of The Residency rated the students' work.

To watch and listen to the big names in Chennai's culinary scene and see the promise of the next generation itself would have been a rewarding experience for any epicure. Having been around to watch the birth of SICA (back in 1998 at the Chola Sheraton conference hall) it felt good to note the growth of the Association and share the excitement of its future plans.

One of the achievements listed was the coordination between the teaching institutes and the hotels. "Because of interaction, we know what the hotels are looking for and we design the courses to meet the need," affirmed chef Damodharan, who is the Association's vice president. Chef Manohar, an Executive Committee member, was optimistic that the culinary contests held by SICA would in future be on a par with similar events held in Singapore and Sri Lanka.

On display at the end of the three-hour contest was a fascinating array, from kevuru appam (points were awarded for nutritional value too besides taste, authenticity, presentation etc.) and seethapazham payasam to prawn cocktail. The smells and flavours were captivating, but even better were the eager, sweaty faces beneath the toques. The winners of the contests would be announced later along with the results of the other competitions.

SICA has more goodies in its bag. As part of the Nestle South India Culinary Olympics 2002, on October 24 at the GRT Grand Days, T. Nagar, is an exhibition-contest for cold cuts, vegetable and ice carving, butter carving, bread and salt dough, plated desserts, cake decoration and petit four and chocolate display.

The contests open to all professionals will be judged by mega names like M. S. Gill, corporate chef, ITC Hotels, Zacharia, corporate chef DLF Qutab Golf club, Gurgaon and Vernon Coehlo, senior instructor, Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai. The judges are selected by the sister organisations in Delhi and Mumbai. The display will be open to the public.

MARIEN MATHEW

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