The Address triumphs at MLA chef comp

Double win for Address Hotels in heated Black Box culinary battle

MLA's Alan Palmer.
MLA's Alan Palmer.
The MLA Black Box judging panel faced some tough decisions.
The MLA Black Box judging panel faced some tough decisions.

The Address proved its young chefs are full of culinary talent after teams from two of the brand’s Dubai hotels took home medals from the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Black Box Culinary Challenge.

Teams of junior chefs from 15 five-star Dubai hotels went head-to-head in the competition, which was held yesterday at Madinat Jumeirah.

The judges had announced the ‘black box’ of mystery ingredients — including Australian beef and lamb, as well as other items from international and local foodservice companies sponsoring the event — on the previous day (May 31), following which the three-man teams were given one hour to devise a four-course menu and submit their recipe sheets to the judges.

Then on June 1, the teams returned for the real test: cooking their mystery box menu.

After an intense afternoon judging session, each of the 15 teams had to cook their four-course menu again — this time to serve to 30 people at yesterday evening’s competition finale banquet.

Each team served three tables of hungry guests in the Madinat’s Joharah Ballroom, after which the judges announced the winners.

The Address Downtown Dubai team emerged victorious, thanks to efforts from Daniel Edward, Manoj Chamara, Rikki Zulfikri and Farid on the culinary team, and Vincent Mafaity, Karin Moller, Dinesh Pitigalage and Intiajuddin Mondal on the service side.

Team captain Daniel Edward commented: “We’re extremely happy to have won the 2010 edition of the Black Box Culinary Challenge.

“I’d like to thank my team for their creativity and for putting their passion and dedication to achieve this amazing result. I also would like to thank Meat and Livestock Australia for providing us with this unique opportunity and for encouraging gastronomy innovation.”

The silver medal went to Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, and another Address team in third place — from the brand’s Dubai Marina hotel.

Emirates Academy head chef and senior lecturer Michael Kitts said he was delighted with the student team’s placing.

“To come in second place was totally mind blowing, considering the calibre of the competition,” he observed.

Executive pastry chef Martin Chiffers, from The Address Dubai Marina, added: “The MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge offers young chefs the opportunity to learn and develop their skills, and also encourages talented chefs to match their skills with the industry-best and gain a head start in their career.

“What was achieved by The Address Dubai Marina is a clear testament of the talents and creativity of our team of talented professionals.”

Commenting on the event, Alan Palmer, MLA’s global competition coordinator, explained: “This is the 83rd MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge, worldwide.

“It started in 1996 in Bali, and was a very small event. Now we have 15 top Dubai teams competing, so the challenge is really there for the competitors and the judges.

“Each team may get the same main ingredients, but you see 15 completely different menus turned out, and that’s the fun of this event,” he added.

Lachlan Bowtell, MLA’s regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa and a judge at yesterday’s event, noted that this was the 13th MLA contest held in the Middle East, and said he felt the regional F&B industry had gone from strength to strength over the five years MLA had been hosting events in the area.

“The aim of these events is really to develop young chefs,” he continued. “It’s not about the big hotels and the executive chefs, it’s about the young talent coming through — because if we don’t look after the future of the industry, we’re going to have problems.

“Part of the reason we’re here this year is to show that, contrary to what some people were saying last year, Dubai is still alive and kicking. The culinary scene here is really one of the best in the world.

“This is a great training ground, so we need to promote culinary excellent and really support the younger ones coming through in the industry,” he asserted.

“Let’s get them on to the next level, because the high flyers are great and we love working with them, but it’s the next level down who are the decision-makers of the future.”

Jean Luc Amann, also a judge, and executive chef at the Al Bustan Palace InterContinental Muscat, agreed the event was not only a success, but a valuable learning tool for young F&B talent.

“I think it’s very important for chefs to come up with creative ideas, to be challenged to see what they can make with food,” he explained.

According to judge and Chef Middle East product development manager Bruce Woolner, the MLA event also brought benefits for sponsors.

“This is a direct competition, so from a sponsor’s point of view you’re putting your product in front of a chef, who has to use it; you’re hitting end users, not just sponsoring with a name, a logo and a cash contribution,” he explained.

“And it shows we’re not just about selling stuff, we’re putting something back in — we’re offering support. And this is a good one to be involved with, because it’s different from the normal; it goes around the world and it does get world recognition. It’s respected.”

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