Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chef Vellanki Vishwamitra

With Chef Gupta, Corporate Sr. Executive Chef,
The Ashok Group

With Chef M. S. Gill, Director-Food, ITC Hotels
and
President, Indian Federation of Culinary Association


With Chef Ferdinand Metz, President, WACS


With Chef Bill Gallagher, Honarary Life President, WACS
and Chef Ferdinand Metz, President, WACS

WINNING HANSBUESHKENS WORLD’S JUNIOR CHEF CHALLENGE
Every individual wants to win, to get what they think they deserve but a mere handful of them get lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. I am, thankfully, one of them. I have realized a fantasy at a very early stage of my life - representing my subcontinent at a different level before the world, proving more than just a point to the so called ‘intimidating’ nations.
The day my principal Chef Sudhakar announced the competition, I was as excited as all others in my batch were. I felt a wave of anxiety and the pressure to perform before my mentors overpowering me. I was determined to please the judges' palate (Chef Mathew Crop, Exec Chef, Oberoi Hilton Towers, Mumbai and Chef Subrajeet Bardan, Exec. Chef, ISTA, Hyderabad) and make it through the prelims.
Soon enough, the prelims happened, and surprisingly (I must've prayed really hard), I got through! There I was, all set to represent India globally (a mammoth task, indeed). And believe me, it wasn’t just another big moment for me. It was a matter of reputation of my institute, Culinary Academy of India being at stake, I had this huge responsibility of reiterating the fact to all that it is an ace culinary academy at par with any other school of international acclaim.
I was sponsored a trip to Dubai (my first outside India) for the competition. My mentor Chef Sajja Vijay accompanied me to the venue The Dubai International Convention Centre to attend the 33rd Biennial Congress of the World Association of Chef Societies. I was like the new kid there, as excited and amused as a kid could possibly be, amidst all the stalwarts of the culinary world, you know, names most of us have probably just heard of.
A day prior to the competition, the rules were disclosed and all clarifications made by Chef Bill Gallagher (Honorary life president WACS). Each of us competitors was given a basket of ingredients one hour in advance to decide the menu. Trust me, it really is challenging to bring out perfect dishes with what you have been given and ensure that it is well balanced and all the flavors go well together.
On the day of competition, I carried my entire equipment set to the kitchen hoping for the best. I was competing with U.S.A, Singapore, Germany, Korea and the like. All my competitors had already had a good amount of experience in kitchens and hotels. I was the only ‘fresher’ from a culinary school pursuing my graduation. Competition was tough. But I had all the encouragement possible from Chef Manjeet Singh Gill, Chef Sounder Rajan, Chef Madhu Krishnan, and Chef Sudhakar who always stood by me and kept me going till I finally finished with my competition.
It was a live kitchen. Each and every aspect right from cleanliness, maintenance of hygiene and being organized, speed of work, menu compilation, balance of ingredients, time keeping, and working under pressure was noticed. One mistake we make, we lose and our senses play a vital role. In a situation like this being calm and cool is very important especially when you have to plate the food when your 10 minutes come and three live cameras surround you projecting it live to the chefs in the congress watching the young talent.
Award distribution was on the last day of the congress. All the junior chefs were called onto the stage to be acknowledged for good work. Chef Ferdinand Metz, the World president of WACS, showed his appreciation for India’s participation of talent in such a big event. The time for announcement of result came. I heard them saying, “The bronze medal goes to Chef Viswamitra Vellanki from India”.
For a while I was too shocked. I couldn’t believe I had done it. All the chefs in the congress stood up and applauded for me. I felt so proud and overjoyed. I got a medal on a platform like WACS, for which chefs from all over work so hard.
The biggest learning I received from the Culinary Academy team is “Commitment”, undoubtedly. A very strong word indeed, it is difficult to describe. One can only sense it. Passion is the biggest force that motivates one to reach his/her goal but it’s the commitment and dedication towards work which makes it all happen. I believe in this, hence I abide by it. For me,
- IF ONE DOESN’T RESPECT FOOD, HE SHOULDN’T COOK IT, FOR HIMSELF OR FOR ANY ONE -

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