Food and Leisure

Judging the Conrad FB Masters

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Millie & Karla Reyes - The Philippine Star
Judging the Conrad FB Masters

Timothy Trinidad, winner for the cuisine category, competing for an appetizer and a main course.

Millie: Judging cooking contests is not easy. One should be observant, meticulous, patient, and full of energy. Karla and I were recently invited to judge the Conrad FB Masters and this is one of the rare invites we just could not pass up.

There were 16 participants, all chefs of Conrad Manila, ranging in age from 24 to 34 years old with culinary experience of one to 14 years.

The venue was the Brasserie, which had a well-designed and well-equipped open kitchen ideal for a culinary competition such as this two-day event.

The participants were introduced to the panel of judges, which included Harald Feurstein, the general manager; Leo Holli, the operations director; Eng Yew Khor, the executive sous chef of China Blue; Norma Chikiamco from the Philippine Daily Inquirer; and Karla and myself. Judging criteria were four stages: the initial stage included first impression, planning, workstation setup, overall observation and time management.

The second and third stages included creativity, presentation, cooking techniques and skills, mandatory black box ingredients used, dish taste, identical plates and wow factor.

The fourth and last stage was to rate kitchen safety and hygiene practices, cleanliness of work areas, overall quality of food, balance of the dish and a tricky question: would you buy it?

The contents of the black box were kept secret from the participants and only the ingredients it contained were to be used in preparing their culinary entries, so none of the chefs really knew in advance what the outcome of their creativity would be until they opened the box to see what was inside.

The most difficult part was that they were under time pressure to prepare and present their culinary masterpieces. If I were in their shoes, I would have been so stressed!

It was quite fun to watch the chef participants, who worked in utter silence but whose moves were extremely sprightly and brisk. I noticed that even under time pressure, some were smiling and joking around with their coworkers, who were watching them intently.

I myself managed to ask them a question or two as they went about their preparation. The first thing I did was to write down the dishes each participant was creating on the sheets provided to each of the judges with a profile of the participants. I numbered the participants as their dishes came out so I would remember who did what, as it could get confusing.

Karla: Timothy Trinidad, a 26-year-old commis from Brasserie on 3, has been working in the kitchen for the past three years. I was there when he opened his black box and watched as he carefully went through all the items inside. For his appetizer, he made a crab ceviche with kamias and salted egg on mango jelly. It was also presented with avocado and kamias-apple spheres that went very well with the flavors of the ceviche. Tim garnished his dish with apple and hibiscus fluid as well as micro-greens. It seemed that this dish had so many elements, but it definitely had potential.

Tim called his main course “Symphony of Flavors”: the main ingredient was baked salmon with a sous-vide egg yolk, deep-fried fish skin with salted egg powder and a black garlic aioli.

The winner in the pastry category was Emmanuel Barrios, a 25-year-old demi chef for pastry with kitchen experience of five years. He made a peanut butter piña colada cake, which was inspired by chef Antonio Bachour’s style. I recognized it right away because chef Bachour’s techniques were well used in preparing this dessert. It was decorated with micro-sponge, mango pesto jelly and Chantilly cream. The second dessert was called “Bahay Kubo,” with a mango apple-pine cobbler and deconstructed guinataang halo-halo on the side.

Other memorable dishes included the entrée of Jan Lesava — seared salmon with yuzu cream and garden vegetables on a mushroom risotto. Although it looked like there was so much going on on his plate, the yuzu cream was really good with the salmon.

As for dessert, the mousse creation of Rodelio dela Cruz Jr. was one of my favorites. He named it Davao’s Finest, consisting of chevre white chocolate mousse, Davao pliable ganache, ube gel, sesame sponge and cinnamon tarragon smoke.

Millie: The winning chefs will be sent to compete against other Conrad properties in Asia. As we congratulate the winners, Timothy Trinidad and Emmanuel Jeus Barrios, who both rated high on our score sheets, we also congratulate the other participants: Jan Randolph Lesava, Glendel Bautista, Michael Hic, King Rupert Alvarez, Rodelio dela Cruz Jr. and Harold Nikko Santiago, who all did their utmost best. It was wonderful to watch the chefs at work; they were well-disciplined and inspired by the great challenge. Our special thanks to the management of Conrad Hotel for allowing us this rare opportunity to experience Filipino chefs in action.





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Send email to milliereyes.foodforthought@gmail.com and quichethecook.ph@gmail.com. Find us on Facebook: Food for Thought by Millie and Karla Reyes.

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