After being ushered into a quietly energetic ballroom, it was clear to see that the UAE is home to some serious culinary talent. In its third year, the East Coast Culinary Competition has grown from a platform for Fujairah hotels to showcase their unsung heroes to a high-profile competition with challengers from Sri Lanka, Croatia, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
The ballroom was full with rows of intricate chocolate displays, fruit carvings and breadbaskets along with display plates of 3 course menus and wedding cakes: all of which is open to the public for viewing. Center stage of was live cooking where hotels put forward their talent to compete against each other in nerve-wracking open stations, where not only were they under the watchful eye of established veteran judges, but open to the public as well as their rivals.
The competition is backed and judged by the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG), and held every year at the Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah. Chef K A S Prasad, Executive Chef at the Miramar, is a key organizer of the event and Vice President of ECG East Coast.
It was initially expected that there would be 500 participants, with a total of 14 different categories such as static displays, live cooking, bartending and pastry showpieces. The judges considered not only the aesthetic value of the pieces, but the creativity shown in flavor pairings. The bread displays housed uncommon flavor combinations such as purple potato and sweet corn loaf, in flamboyant dough baskets.
The competition is always largely made up of chefs working at hotels across the UAE, but is finding more hospitality providers such as Emirates Flight Catering and Sharjah Ladies Club are taking part.
Future of the competition
Ashraf Helmy, Area General Manager at Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort expressed pride in his property for hosting it successfully for the 3rd consecutive year and added that it has been exciting to see how it has evolved in that short time. He added, “We are planning to stretch next year event to a two-day culinary symposium so we can gather more innovative chefs to present the latest techniques and culinary concepts to their peers.”
Further to the position of the event as being centered on the chefs of the region, they continue to encourage the exhibiting of commercial foodstuffs and other industry suppliers. It is hoped that as the competition expands, so does the reach of industry suppliers.
When speaking to participants, organizers and judges, it becomes clear that collectively their motivation is the chance to gather together as a community and showcase creative skills that they might not have the chance to utilize in a busy kitchen. Winning is great, but learning is better and professional competitions are a good platform for collaboration amongst people in the industry.
The most trophies and points went to Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, with a total of 3,076 points and a staggering 31 trophies, including the coveted Championship Trophy.
Mr. Ashraf Helmy also expressed desire to “…include more initiatives in the hospitality industry including environmental undertakings and accomplishments as well as other lighter competitions”, hinting that the event may expand