The 7th edition of the International Young Chef Olympiad, which is the world’s biggest culinary battle for student chefs, has kick-started with a Grand Opening Ceremony, held virtually today. Organized by the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), in partnership with the International Hospitality Council (IHC) London, YCO 2021 will host student chefs from 50 countries, including Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Thailand, South Korea, Turkey, UAE and Sweden, among others.
Key dignitaries from more than 20 countries attended the opening ceremony virtually. The attendees included Dr Suborno Bose (CEO-IHC and Founder YCO), Professor David Foskett (MBE) (Chairman, IHC and YCO 2021) as well as world renowned chefs who form the panel of judges for YCO 2021, including Brian Turner CBE, Andreas Muller, Chris Galvin, John Wood, Stefan Hogan, Stuart Littlejohn, Henri Brosi, Andy Varma and Enzo Oliveri among others.
The opening ceremony commenced with a video of the YCO journey from 2015 to 2020 and a live session welcoming the participating countries. The evening also witnessed live speeches by Dr Bose, Prof Foskett and Padma Shri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. The oath-taking ceremony of the participants, mentors and judges preceded the unveiling of the YCO 2021 Champion Trophy.
YCO 2021 has adopted the theme of ‘Forward Together’ to encourage the culinary world to work together for a greater cause of environmental protection with a positive action. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Suborno Bose said, “This time the theme is ‘Forward Together’ because the only way we can really go forward now, the only way the world of hospitality can progress now, is forward together. Together as a clan, as a fraternity, as a team, we all come and celebrate the young people. We celebrate the culinary talents but also we celebrate the positivity of the young people of the world, because the vision of the YCO was always to bring the young people of the world together.”
The 5-day long culinary battle began on 1st February on Zoom video conferencing. The top 10 contestants as per the scores of the previous round will compete in the Grand Finale of YCO 2021 on 4th and 5th February split in 2 groups of 5 countries in each group, in different time zones to accommodate all. The Plate Trophy will also be held on the 4th and 5th February wherein the contestants holding positions 11 to 20 in the first round will compete. The Olympiad will conclude on 6th February with a Closing Ceremony, where the YCO 2021 Champion, runners-up and other awardees will be announced. This year, the participants will be competing for awards such as ‘Rising Star’, ‘Best Vegetarian Dish’, ‘Best Hygiene and Kitchen Practice’, ‘Best Chicken Saute Dish’, ‘Ambassador Award’, ‘Mentor Award’, ‘Sustainability Award’, ‘Best Use of Kitchen Cut’ and ‘Best Afternoon Tea Profiteroles’.
Professor David Foskett said, “My vision is to unite the world of hospitality and culinary arts, to build bridges, promote understanding, celebrate diversity and culture as well as to recognise the talent young people have and the power they have to change the world for the better in the future.”
The Principal Judge of the competition, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor said, “I am very proud to be on the cutting edge of the next normal. As the principal judge of YCO 2021, I welcome all participating countries to the world’s biggest virtual culinary olympiad for young chefs.”
Talking about the event, chef/patron of Galvin Restaurants and owner of 10 French restaurants, Chris Galvin said, “It is marvelous that despite a pandemic IIHM takes the initiative to give hope and positivity to young people in hospitality, which has been so badly affected. It gives hope and a reminder of the excellence required to succeed in brighter days, whilst drawing our great community together with our companions.”
21-year-old Swetang Ranjan from IIHM Kolkata, who is representing India at this global event, while sharing his excitement, said, “None of us has seen the God, so what God has given us is the talent to present our food on the plate and that’s how we, all the chefs, present our food on the plate and serve it to our guests and that’s what I think about cooking. I would like to thank my faculty members, my college for giving me such a big platform. I am looking forward to winning the trophy, I will give my 100%. If I don’t win, I will at least learn a lot.”
Showcasing the multicultural culinary diversity of different countries, YCO 2021 will also bring together the student chefs and mentors for the “United World of Young Chefs”. This event will be held on 3rd February and it will provide a great opportunity for the 50 participating countries to present their national cuisine to a global culinary audience.
The winners of the past editions of YCO were Ashwin Nicholas Oon from Malaysia (2015), Daniella Germond from Canada (2016), Tham Jiajun Mathew from Singapore (2017), Lai Jia Yi from Malaysia (2018), Cyrene Randrianasolo from France (2019) and Chen Khai Loong from Malaysia (2020).