The joys of winning and losing at the Philippine Culinary Cup 2011

Congratulations are in order to Chef J. Gamboa of Les Toques Blanches Philippines, Chef Buddy Trinidad,  Chef James Antolin and Pastry Alliance for the successful Philippine Culinary Cup 2011. The caliber and credibility of the  judges mostly from WACS have now set very high competition standards.  This well organized international event is indeed the most prestigious culinary competition in the country.

Top photo: Alumnus Dekker Gokioco Diamond Hotel Gold Filipino Cuisine Challenge with Chef Mel Taylo coach

We brought home five bronze medals  for: Lamb, Local Fish, Young Chefs and two for Pasta categories. I am proud of our team because win or lose I know they all did their best. After all they were students competing against industry and international professionals. As coach during the actual competition I felt like an “expectant father” waiting outside the delivery room. It was a nerve-wracking emotional roller coaster ride. Listening to the judges’ brutal comments as they pointed out mistakes and gave recommendations was a very humbling experience.

WACS judge Chef Alan Oreal said it best in his last debriefing “It is not just about winning the medal but learning something new and what you take with you from the competition.”

As a novice coach in a competition like this I learned a lot in four days by just paying attention every chance the judges had a debriefing.    Let me share some valuable lessons learned:

1.What would normally win us a gold in a student category is only a bronze in an international competition.
Lesson: Wake up call to raise the bar

2. Our fondant cake was destroyed in the morning of competition because of the humidity during the strong rains and storm. All the hard work and sleepless nights of the students melted away and didn’t even make it to display.  Lesson: invest in a dehumidifier

3.Chocolates lose their shine during travel and again the problem of humidity during the raining season. Hats off to Pamela Acha a 19 year old student who did the Praline entry by herself with professional workmanship.
Lesson: Invest in cool spray (buy from Sweet Link) or use silica gel packs

4.In hot food there should be a correct ratio between the portions sizes of meat, starch and vegetables. Judges carefully scrutinize and dissect all three components. You could lose points if you don’t execute either one properly.

Lesson: Unacceptable are over-sized portions of meat, too little or no vegetables, choice of starch should complement and not overpower the main item. Side salads do not count as vegetables.

5.Taste is 40%. All flavors and components of the dish combined should complement each other and should be properly seasoned.

Lesson: Pre-measure your seasoning. Have plenty of tasting spoons. Most contestants forget to season their vegetables. Judges like it if you send in an extra sauce boat so they can taste your sauce properly.

6.Stick to perfectly executed classics. Judges are looking for mastery of at least four skill sets or culinary techniques executed properly but at the same time practical for large banquet service.

Lesson: No need to over think new dishes or ideas to “wow” the judges.Wild and new flavor combination is not what they are looking for and could backfire during competition. In our case a properly cooked duck didn’t make it because of the chocolate and raspberry sauce. Again stick to the classics!

Alumni Mico Aspiras Silver Fantasy Dessert Live for Resorts World ( right) and Makati Shangri-la’s Pot Pot Manas  sweeps Gold in Pastry

7.Execute proper doneness. Raw means FAIL!!! Just like in a restaurant it means sending your food back to the kitchen. Huwag na kayo umasa kahit anong galing niyo pag hilaw.
Lesson: Main item should be properly rested (no blood dripping), not overcooked or undercooked. Meat should remain tender, juicy and not dry. Also many contestants failed with large pieces of prawns that were still raw inside.

9. You can’t blame the oven, the stove nor competition equipment.
Lesson: Do what you have to do to. Trouble shoot even if it means using a different cooking method. Like searing or using the salamander if the oven is taking too long.

Left: Bronze Local Seafood- Reina Villacillo

10. Plating and choice of garnishes should be practical. The dish assembly shouldn’t be falling down during service. In a restaurant scenario the waiter will have to come back to the kitchen to have the plate fixed again..
Lesson: Judges prefer one focal point (like an island) in round plates.  Use of pastry as garnish is a thing of the past. Avoid crisscrossing meat. Avoid dead sauces or messy drizzled (dots) sauces. All items should be edible. Pay attention to detail.

Micro-greens don’t belong on top of meats but on salads or sandwiches.  Garnishes should be practical and not time consuming to make.
Left:  Bronze Pasta Wendy Uy

11.Optimize use of ingredients. The philosophy is wastage affects your food cost.
Lesson: Bring exact ingredients. The judges also check your trash bins so hide your excess right away. Put all ingredients in a tray per recipe so you’re organized.

12. HACCP is 15 points. Keep your station clean. Don’t cross contaminate.
Lesson: Have a methodical work plan. Don’t leave raw meat or seafood out too long. Place in chiller with cling wrap until use. Use correct color coded chopping boards.

13. Watch the clock. Finish on time. There are no points for finishing or plating too early. Surprisingly a lot of things can still be done  in the last two minutes.

Lesson: Even if there are minus points for going overtime don’t turn in sloppy work. Continue to finish and execute the dish properly. You still have a chance to win if you have a great dish.

Right: Alumnus JR Potpot Manas of Makati Shangri-la  qualifies for Asian Pastry Cup in Singapore

14. Every ingredient you use should be written in the recipe. Including salt and pepper. Use proper culinary terminology in recipe writing.

Lesson: Keep your recipe names simple with the proper cooking method or you could get into trouble. Write  down everything you need.

a)      Pray before you start
b)      Xanthan is a life saver. It prevented our sauces from breaking without altering flavor
c)      Sauté vegetables last so they are nice and crisp

d)      Balsamic vinegar should not be reduced on its own but with a little stock
e)      Soak dried fruits for stuffing. Dried fruit used as stuffing absorbs the juices in meat making it dry.
f)        Cut potatoes up into smaller pieces so they boil faster
g)       Truffle oil can be overpowering. Use it as minimal as possible.
h) Serve hot food hot. Hot plate!
i)        Have equipment checklist and make sure you have everything you need. Including your plates.

14. You are competing with no one else but yourself and the clock. Everyone starts off with 100%.

Good job also to the CSB marshals!  Animo Benilde!


About Pam

Teacher, cook, foodie, wanderlust
This entry was posted in alumni, blog, Philippine Cuisine, school events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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