Taiwan’s rising chef Chen Zih-yang has won the Northeast Asia’s round of competitions to advance to the global finals of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018, which will be held in Milan, Italy next year.
With his “The taste of Taiwan,” Chen finished ahead of eight other contenders from South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau, earning him a place to take part in the Grand Finale slated for May 11-13 in Milan in conjunction with Milan Food City Week, according to organizer S.Pellegrino, which is known as the icon of Italian taste.
In a press statement, S.Pellegrino said the local semi-finalists were hand-selected by ALMA, the world’s leading international educational and training centre for Italian cuisine.
The Northeast Asia Regional competition took place on Monday (Nov 6, 2017) at Hsing Wu University in Taiwan. A distinguished jury of chefs, consisting of BOMBANA Umberto of Italian fine dining restaurant 8½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA in Hong Kong, Andre Chiang of Restaurant ANDRE and Jason Tan of Corner House in Singapore, Margarita Forés which runs a successful food empire in Manila and Philippines, Ray Adriansyah of Locavore in Bali and Indonesia, tasted and evaluated each of the semi-finalists prepared signature dishes based on their adherence to the competition’s five “Golden Rules”: ingredients, skill, genius, beauty and message, S.Pellegrino said.
For his signature dish for the competition, “The Taste of Taiwan,” Chen chose duck breast as the main ingredient, and cleverly integrated sweet potato, adlay, scallions, and other Taiwanese local ingredients. His ability to combine the unique flavors or traditional ingredients and execute it with simplicity and discipline, ultimately won him the unanimous stamp of approval from all the judges, according to S.Pellegrino.
Chen studied at the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism with a focus in Chinese cuisine and has switched to cooking western cuisine in recent years. His cooking style and his choice of ingredients are heavily influenced by his diverse cooking experience, S.Pellegrino noted.
“Through this competition, I realized what I still need to work on and will take this opportunity to improve myself. And to be the winner of the semi-finals, I am not only very happy, but I also wish to bring Taiwanese cuisine to the world. I want to let the whole world see Taiwan’s unique and wonderful culture,” Chen said after the semi-final contest.
Celebrated chef Bombana Umberto, who has earned the winner of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Diner’s Club® Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 – will be leading Chen to the Grand Final as the assigned mentor, S.Pellegrino said.
For the comepition result, Bombana said the decision was unanimous. “We didn’t choose the most technical or the most difficult dish, but the dish that could represent the region the most and was well executed,” he said. “It was somehow a simple dish but it was well thought out, well prepared, well executed, and very meaningful for the region,” he noted. “As the mentor of the winner, I will help him refine the dish and quality of the protein, aiming to win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018,” he added.
On the whole event, Bombana said it is fantastic for investing in the future of gastronomy. “I think it’s very fulfilling and I am very happy to be a part of it. Overall it is a great support for the future of the industry and of the restaurant in Taiwan. It is always very fulfilling to help them move forward,” he said.
By end of December 2017, 21 Young Chefs will be announced as official finalists, who will each be assigned a “Mentor Chef” from their regional jury. The Mentor Chefs will support the young chefs leading up to the Grand Finale, providing them guidance on how to improve their signature dishes.