- 08 Jun 2015
- Maria John
The Grand Finale of the 'Coastal Cook-Off’ saw sumptuous dishes created by talented chefs with the freshest fish from Kochi’s favorite seafood store, Wild Fish.
It was a perfect day for creating some masterpieces, and as soon as I entered the competition hall at Abad Chullikal, I knew it would be a fierce battle. As the contestants started at their stations, chopping up vegetables and preparing fish, the air was humming with the concentration and dedication of these chefs. Cooking was an art to them, and it showed in their beautiful and delicious creations.
The six finalists came from varied backgrounds, but all shared a love of cooking. Similar to the global favorite Master Chef program, The Wild Fish contest invited entries from all and sundry from which six finalists were chosen by experts for the Coastal Cook Off. They had only a few hours to create the best dish possible, but they did have one big advantage. Wild Fish, Kochi’s favorite seafood store, was providing fresh seafood for all the contestants, and they got the pick of some of the best fish in town. As the competitors got their signature dishes underway, I walked around admiring the skill with which they whipped up these masterpieces. Speed, accuracy and a talent for knowing what makes a dish delicious were all traits evident in these chefs.
Shihabudeen V worked with a calm confidence; no doubt picked up from his years of working in various restaurants. Some, like Jesna Siraj, were participating in a cooking competition for the first time. Jesna worked quietly away at her dish and spoke to me in the same quiet voice as she explained what her dish was. “It’s very simple and fast to make, but very tasty.” Others, such as Lisa Joji and Meher Ahmed were seasoned competitors. “I love cooking; it is my passion,” said Meher Ahmed, a housewife who had also taken cooking classes. Anjani George was a fish enthusiast, saying, “Fish is one of my favourite things to cook.” Armed with her unique recipe, she was ready to enter the world of cooking competitions. When I spoke with Priyadarshini Menon, her enthusiasm for creating healthy and delicious dishes was evident. She was a nutritionist by profession, and her “keep it simple” attitude showed in her delicious and artistic dish.
The competition was tough, and expert judges were needed to do the difficult job of picking a winner. Head Judge J.P. Singh, Executive Chef from Le Meridien, offered expert advice to the contestants. He commented, “I really enjoyed everything. There was innovation, home ingredients, and a global style merged into local.” Radhika Menon, a self-proclaimed foodie and part of the advisory board for Masala Box, and Amrith Bonney, Managing Partner from Amaaran Hospitality, joined the team of judges to rate the incredible dishes.
Contestants put the final touches on their creations and stood behind their masterpieces. The tension was palpable as the judges tasted each dish. After some deliberation, the winner was announced. Shihabudeen V took first place with an incredible grilled tuna with mint and mango chutney sauce. He won two nights and three days stay at any Abad property, as well as a Wild Fish voucher. His dish will also feature in the Masala Box menu. Chef Singh said about Shihabudeen's dish, “the fish was cooked to perfection. Even after being on display for some time it was still perfect.” Meher Ahmed impressed the judges with her creation, Seafood Medley and won 2nd place. Chef Singh said, “It was very innovative. We had never seen this dish before.”
It was an incredible event, and everyone agreed that each dish was delectable. With some of Kochi’s finest chefs coming together and using fresh ingredients from Wild Fish, the resulting food was marvelous. As Brand Manager of Wild Fish George Alex said, “It was amazing. There are some professionals here, and you can tell.” Mr. Alex plans on having this competition again, and Faraz, Wild Fish Director, agreed, saying “We need to encourage more of this in the future.”