If the saying "you're only as good as your last dish" is anything to go by, then six Dubai-based chefs might well be feeling rather pleased with themselves this week, after filleting, frying and flambéing their way through to the final stage of this year's Anchor MasterChef Challenge.
Last week, 13 UAE-based teams (each comprising two chefs) battled it out at the Fonterra Culinarium on Sheikh Zayed Road, in a bid to reach the final and test their skills against teams from all of the GCC. The winning representatives from The Ivy, The Address Downtown Dubai and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray will no doubt be sharpening their knives in preparation for the final round of the competition, which begins this morning and will see them cooking-off against teams from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.
Peter Hallmanns, the advisory chef for Fonterra in the Middle East, is a key member of the judging panel for the event. He said that he was thoroughly impressed by the calibre of cooking in the early stages and described one of the starters - slow-cooked organic egg on truffle and potato espuma (foam) with dehydrated bresaola - as "mind blowing, with a great combination of flavours and textures - a real taste explosion".
The chefs Demas Tri Saputra Latief and Nilmini Gunasena from The Ivy can pat themselves on the back for creating that little number, as it helped them wing their way through to the final. Joining them will be Daniel Edward and Dedy Supriady from The Address and Bengt Karlsson and Mohammed Ayoob Ibrahim of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel. Hallmanns said all three teams "showcased some fabulous flavour combinations, used a multitude of cooking techniques and portioned their food correctly".
Edward and Supriady were crowned the winners of last year's Anchor MasterChef Challenge and are keen to repeat their success. "We really enjoy taking part in the competition, it's great to talk to the other chefs and see what's going on in the industry, but keeping our title is important, too," said Edward.
In the initial stages, the chefs were invited to present a menu they thought best showcased their repertoire. This time around, the ante has been upped a notch and they will be asked to produce a three-course meal from a mystery box of ingredients.
While Edward is drawing on his experiences from last year and predicts that local fish will make an appearance somewhere along the way, chef de cuisine Karlsson is "thrilled and a little nervous" to have got so far in his first competition. He said that when faced with those mystery ingredients he would be "keeping it simple and using my colleague's knowledge", which sounds like a rather good plan, given that when I spoke to him earlier in the week, Hallmanns's advice to the three teams was: "Don't over-complicate things or put too many flavours or components on the plate. Stick to good old-fashioned cooking, with a tweak of modern."
The winners of the Anchor MasterChef Challenge 2012 will be announced at the Pullman Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai at 6pm tomorrow
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