Cambodia’s Young Chefs Emerging Talents

Adapted from an article in Cambodge Mag

The Young Talents Escoffier Competition is part of a global network and has become one of the most prestigious and important competitions for young culinary and front-of-house talents

On 19 June, the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia hosted its third Disciples Escoffier Cambodia Young Talents Competition with four chefs vying for top place and the chance to represent Cambodia on an international stage.

Nhem Samon from Palace Gate Hotel, Mao Vanna from Pepe Bistro, Nuon Rithysak from Il Forno and Sek Ratana from Topaz are all under 25 years of age and have less than five years of professional experience in hotel or restaurant kitchens. They were tasked with proving their skills by preparing and cooking classic dishes created by the legendary French chef, Auguste Escoffier: a rack of lamb with boulangère potatoes and a pea tart, and to present their creations to Bruno Cardonne, the ACAC’s Dean, and President of the Disciples Escoffier Cambodia delegation. They had three hours to complete their mission.

The Young Talents Escoffier Competition is part of a global network and has become one of the most prestigious and important competitions for young culinary and front-of-house talents. According to the Academy, “this competition was the perfect opportunity for talented young chefs to showcase their culinary creativity and versatility.

But the competition also serves as a vehicle for promoting and developing traditional methods for preparing and cooking culinary masterpieces that may also integrate contemporary techniques that shape the future of culinary arts.

Mr Cardone explained that training and practice are essential to “survive” this competition.

Training with the mentor helps competitors stay focused during the competition and pay attention to time management, taste and presentation of the dish. Young chefs are required to adapt tips provided by their mentors and use them to accomplish the given tasks. With enough practice and knowledge of the dish, the stress level of the contestant will automatically be more manageable and the focus will be on the flavours and originality of the dish” he said.

The main criteria for evaluating the winners were the set-up, preparation and creativity, the methods of service and presentation, as well as the taste and textures of each dish.

Awards:

1st place Mao Vanna – Pepe Bistro
Disciples Escoffier certificate and medal, Disciples Escoffier recipe book, participation in the Disciples Escoffier competition in Hong Kong.

2nd place Nhem Samon- Palace Gate Hotel
Awards: Certificate and medal from the Disciples Escoffier Association, Disciples Escoffier recipe book.

3rd place Sek Ratana – Topaz
Awards: Certificate and medal from Disciples Escoffier International, Disciples Escoffier recipe book.

All three winners took home a certificate and medal recognising their performance, but Mao Vanna will now go on to represent Cambodia at the Disciples Escoffier Young Talents Competition in Hong Kong in September this year.

Mr Mao impressed the jury with his organisational skills, cleanliness and the finesse of his final dish. Exhausted but full of excitement, he said, “It’s still a bit surreal right now. I’ve been training hard and of course the main goal of any competition is to win, but I personally came here for the experience.

Now that I have this unique opportunity to compete in the Hong Kong International Competition and represent my country, my culture and my cuisine, I have to challenge myself every day and make the most of it!

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