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Amritsar’s Guneev Sachdeva wins 8th Young Chef India Schools competition
Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
Amritsar-born Guneev Sachdeva, from Welham Girls’ School, Dehradun, has won the eighth season of the Young Chef India (YCI) Schools competition, a tough culinary battle that lasted several months and comprised five rigorous rounds.

The hunt for the best school student chef of India witnessed the participation of 30,000 higher secondary students from over 2,800 schools across the country.

In the mega final of the competition, held in Delhi recently, Sachdeva successfully managed to outclass her seven opponents, all of whom were the top contestants from the north, east, south and west zones.

YCI Schools is a platform that gives a unique opportunity to higher-secondary students to get a glimpse of the workings of the culinary industry and gain global recognition.

Conceptualised and executed by the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) since 2011, thousands of students have so far participated in this competition and realised their dream of displaying their culinary skills.

This year, the competition was aired as a five-episode special series on popular food lifestyle channel Food Food, giving the contestants recognition and appreciation across the country.

Sachdeva’s performance in the mega final impressed the judges and opponents alike. Expressing her elation, she said, “I can’t believe that I’ve actually won YCI Schools 2018.”

“I’ve seen my seniors do exceptionally well in the earlier editions of the competition and I wanted to perform as well as them and make my school proud. Winning it is a different feeling altogether,” she added.

Sachdeva said, “The immense support from my friends, family and school kept me motivated till the end. I’m especially thankful to all those who voted for me.”

Prior to the mega final, the competition was held in four zones – north, east, west and south – wherein the first three cook-off sessions were held in the home cities of the participants or at the nearest IIHM campus.

The fourth round was held in Delhi, where 10 finalists from each zone competed for a place in the mega final. The top two contestants from each zone represented their zone in the mega final.

Apart from Sachdeva, the student chefs who made it to the mega final included Gurugram’s Tanya Yadav from the north zone, Mrunal Khedekar and Siddhi M Rashivadekar from Pune representing the west zone, Pratiksha and Zahan Gafoor from Bengaluru representing the south zone, and Suvankhi Roy and Sarthak Soni from Kolkata representing the east zone.

The mega final consisted of a basket and dessert test, wherein a pre-decided basket of ingredients was provided. Its contents were disclosed to the contestants 48 hours before the competition. The student chefs were given 120 minutes to prepare two identical plated main course dishes with accompaniments, as well as two portions of a pre-decided identical dessert for which the recipe was provided in advance.

At the mega final cook-off, Sachdeva made a tomato fish dish, accompanied by fried arbi, honey chilli lotus stem and jeera rice.

Describing her dish, she said, “I tried to keep my fish as Indian as possible and prepared it in thin tomato gravy. I accompanied it with fried arbi, because arbi was a part of the basket of ingredients, and you get extra points if you aptly utilise the basket ingredients.”

“With an idea to add some fusion element on my plate, I used lotus stem for an oriental honey chilli preparation. I think I was able to execute all my dishes well. Overall, it was a good day, and everything went in my favour,” Sachdeva added.

The dishes were presented for tasting to the panel of judges, that included chefs Sanjay Kak, culinary director, IIHM, and Shaun Kenworthy, culinary director, Indismart Group, and Surya Sekhar Roy Choudhury, first runner-up, International Young Chef Olympiad 2018.

The contestants were judged on metrics such as accomplishment of given tasks in time, culinary skills and techniques, adherence to good health and safety and hygiene practice, minimal waste and best use of ingredients, professional appearance, attitude, dish presentation, taste and flavour.

In the mega final, the judges’ scores accounted for 80 per cent of the total scores, while votes of the Food Food channel audience had 20 per cent weightage in the overall judgment.

Sachdeva was declared the winner on the basis of the highest number of votes, as well as excellent reviews from the judges.  

She is determined to make it big in the culinary world. She added, “My ultimate aim is to become a pastry chef. However, initially, I want to explore and excel at all kinds of cuisines, be it main course, desserts or starters.”

“In this regard, YCI Schools has helped me have clarity on my career path. Earlier, I used to get influenced by people telling me that I should first get a conventional degree and then venture into culinary arts,” Sachdeva said.

“Now, I know what I want to achieve in life and how I’m going to do that. Also, competing in so many rounds at YCI has taught me to cook in a competitive, time-bound and demanding atmosphere,” she added.  

Apart from the winner’s trophy, a few subsidiary awards were also declared. Sachdeva bagged the Best Main Course Dish award, Yadav won the Best Dessert Award and Gafoor won the Best Organised Chef award.

Suborno Bose, founder and chief mentor, IndiSmart Group and IIHM, said, “We started seven years ago with an aim to unearth the future chefs of the nation and bring these budding chefs on a single platform.”

“Today, with over 30,000 participants from all across the country, we see ourselves inching closer towards that goal,” he added.

“I would like to congratulate the winners, as well as all those who made it to the mega final of YCI Schools 2018. Looking at the proficiency of these next-gen chefs, I’m fully convinced that the future of India’s culinary industry is in safe and capable hands,” Bose said.
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