Tuesday, September 26, 2017

S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award 2018 - Our Semi-Finalists Representing Hong Kong & Macau Region

  The [S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award for 2018] competition is now well underway,  with the announcement of the regional Semi-Finalists cooking and advancing onto the Global Stage in the coming months - representing our Hong Kong and Macao region are 3 Young Chefs who have created some Signature dishes and aiming for the Top Honorary spots.   Initially I thought about not posting too much information online,  in case this might give other regional competitors more heads up advantage,  but since most dishes to be presented are fixed by this stage already,  I guess I could write more of my true feelings about them from a 'customer's' perspective in terms of taste and execution,  since from now onwards it will be more about the micro-management and fine tuning of the dish and components which could score the final brownie points.   Hopefully some kind of constructive criticism can help them progress right into the Finals and reach the Top Podium steps to represent our region and Culinary cities!   Hope no harsh feelings below because to be concise and not boring everyone else, I might just cut down straight to some points I wanted to raise : )

S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 - Semi-Finalists Preview
3 Young Chefs from HK & Macau,  have already been selected as 3 of 10 Semi-Finalists in the North East Asian region.  Best of Luck !

The Chefs Preparing in the Kitchen,
and thanks to S.Pellegrino for inviting us to sample their Competing Dishes..

Menu and Wines are Today Paired by Jebsen Fine Wines -

X.O. Bouillabaisse Dish representing Tai O Hong Kong Fishing Village Seafood -
by Chef de Cuisine Noël Berard from The Ocean
This dish was intriguing to me because it tried to amalgamate a France-Marseille Seafood Bouillabaisse concept,  with the Seafood the Chef was able to source from Hong Kong, itself full of famous fishing villages in the past due to the many Islands and proximity to the sea.  The Hong Kong style Seafood X.O. Sauce is house made by the young French Chef,  and although it is quite nice already and with the Onion compote replaces the Rouille spread in a true Bouillabaisse,  I think it could handle a smidgeon more heat or even more powderized Dried Prawns or Ham input.  The Monkfish Liver and the almost-raw Squid are decently pleasing, but the Eel filets I think might benefit with less poaching time and a slightly crispy skin on top just for contrast?   The base Crab broth to me was a slight weakness too,  as it was rather thin watery plus it could definitely handle more concentrated Fish & Crustacean flavors,  especially to counter-balance the Black sesame custard's potency.  Overall my favorite Concept today,  but it just needed slightly more fine tuning to really stand out in the taste department!

Ikan Bakar with Purple Sweet Potato Puree - 
by Chef Zack Fong from Conrad Macao

Chef Fong explained a lot about this Malaysian/Indonesian dish orally, but behind his enthusiasm and sentences, I think a lot of the specific terms behind the recipe and concept could be more manifested clearer,  or written concisely.  For example,  the composition of the Sambal sauce,  the use of Candlenut,  also the oceanic Jellies and Molecular Caviars used (which these two components I found, had some irregular murky colors or shapes, and affected the presentation).  Obviously I am not a Professional Chef,  lest a true Food Critic,  but overall I also found the String Ray part used was too meaty and thick versus the Sauce/Sambal proportion, and too filling too.  Plus it could have more of the Ikan Bakar exotic aroma,  either that or the aroma of burnt Banana leaves or just from better Flame Grilling,  which is one of the spirits and essences of eating Grilled fishes from this region even if it is made more Upscale in recipe.  The pertinent question to ask is - given a choice to pick,  will I want to eat the Original beach versions more or this version?  In order to Win over the eaters' hearts,  it will need a very convincing and compelling quality to definitely choose the latter over the former. 

Glazed Veal Sweetbreads, Langoustine with X.O. Sauce Emulsion,
Lemon Thyme & Crispy Chicken Skin -
By Chef Eric Räty of Cafe Gray Deluxe, The Upper House
This dish was loved by quite a few people,  although some of us preferred the concept of the X.O. Bouillabaisse too.  For me this is simply because a Ris de Veau aux Langoustines is already a trusted French Surf & Turf combo in my eating books,  and as such I could compare it directly to other similar versions I had in my memory bank, and I think so could other Judges in the end.  The X.O. Sauce emulsion over the perfectly cooked Langoustine was excellent, with the Lemon coulis and zest beside it together with similarly herbal citrusy Lemon Thyme components bridging the slightly spicy Crustacean with the Sweetbread's richness.  The sweetbread itself to me could be sous-vide cooked slightly softer in the centre and more resembling normal French style Sweetbreads, which usually have a texture like that of lamb's brain or hard tofu at most. The Chicken Skin was an amazing idea but ultimately it tasted more like a smashed floury croquant than real Chicken skin taste.  Anyway this was a very lovely dish as is,  but I really did thought 1-2 things could be easily fixable and instantly make this even more amazing!

Good Luck with Our S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 Semi-Finalists from Hong Kong & Macau -
I just wanted to write some encouraging words about my preview experience with these amazing Chefs,  not as an expert but just from another angle as a diner!  Especially knowing that they will be up against a group of very fierce and well trained competitors globally,  or even within North East Asia or China, Japan itself already.  And here's hoping that somehow a wee bit of feedback and hopefully if they could be interpreted as some constructive comments,  but obviously through the very hard work of the talented Chefs themselves, can all encourage our Hong Kong and Macau Chef Representatives to take up the Top S.Pellegrino Young Chef Award Honors!  Good luck Guys and see you again soon !

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