Now you’re cooking! | Daily News

Now you’re cooking!

It took Thivara Fernando a while before she figured out that she belonged to a professional kitchen. The Commercial Cookery Certificate III William Angliss Institute student of SLIIT made it to the Top 11 (Finals) at the fourth edition of the Young Chef Olympiad 2018, the world’s largest youth Culinary Competition. Thivara competed with chefs from around 50 countries in a tense competition and clinched seventh place in the world at the event.

The competition which was incepted by Dr Subarno Bose, Chairman – International Institute of Hospitality Management, India with the Government of India, was held across New Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune and Kolkata in India. Budding young chefs armed with forks, knives and ladles battled in this gastronomic venture creating delicacies which will not only tantalize taste buds but will also be a feast for the eyes. Chefs between 18 to 26 years took part in the event. The 2018 Olympiad had three rounds as compared to four rounds in the previous years. The event kicked off with an opening ceremony which was held at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi on January 28. The first round of the competition for each team took place in Delhi, Pune or Bangalore. The second round and the Grand Finale were held in Kolkata at The Hyatt Regency and the IIHM campus.

Before the finals, a special event was organised for all the participants and for their mentors. A symposium held for mentors at the Hyatt Regency on the penultimate day was followed by a special cooking session that was additional to the competition. The special session was titled United World of Young Chefs and each student had to prepare their national dish. At the end of the evening, the finalists’ names were announced.

“You qualify for the finals after you get through the first and second rounds. They gave us a list of the dishes we had to make three months before the competition. I made an Eggs Florentine and a Lemon Soufflé for the first round. Everyone had to cook the same recipe during this round. It was simply about us being able to follow the basics. We had to prepare a vegan and a vegetarian meal for the second round. The starter had to be vegan while the main course and the dessert needed to be vegetarian. I made a tofu based starter which had an Asian touch to it. Ratatouille deep fried in noodles was my main course and for dessert I whipped up a buckwheat nuga and a mint jelly. We had to make a chicken dish and a dessert comprising of shoe pastry for the finals,” Thivara recalled.

Thivara has made a stuffed chicken roulade and a shoe pastry with cream cheese and cinnamon filling with malt whiskey sauce. Eleven competitors made it to the finals at the event.

“A Malaysian competitor won the competition. His menu was similar to mine but the techniques he had used in cutting up the chicken and presenting it was very different to mine. I really admire his output,” she said.

She notes that they were judged while they were preparing the food as well as when they have finished making the dishes.

“I was selected to take part in the Young Chef Olympiad 2018 after I won a silver medal at the Chef’s Guild competition. A team of 10 William Angliss Institute students took part in the event. I was the one who topped the team,” she explained.

Thivara has always had a flair for cooking. Though she had followed the commerce stream at Ladies’ College, Colombo, she soon realized that the culinary art is her forte. She was the winner in the school’s culinary art competition ‘The Pineapple Trophy’ in 2009 and 2011. The competition was judged by chefs from a leading hotel in Colombo.

“The first time we had to make dinner for a delegate. The second time we had to make something for tea. My work was appreciated by the jury and I managed to clinch first place both times,” she enthused.

Apart from these wins the 24 year old has also taken part in Canada Prima Bake Masters in 2015 and the Italian Competition in 2017.

“A group of us competed at the Canada Prima Bake Masters 2015 and we won second place. The competition was all about baking using Canadian ingredients,” she noted.

“Home Science was my favourite subject at school. Even at home I would spend my free time experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen. My siblings, Virantha and Amaya, were the ones who graded my work. They loved it when I cooked,” Thivara added with a smile.

Though her parents Janaka and Bimalka Fernando were both into the garment industry, they stood by her decision to enter the field of culinary arts. Thivara began her route to gastronomic delights by volunteering for the Chefs Guild Sri Lanka in 2015. Her mentor was Chef Kapila Jayanetti, Senior Academic Head Culinary, William Angliss Institute at SLIIT, mentor for YCO 2015 – 2017 and the mentor for Young Chefs Club of Lanka (Youth Arm of Chef’s Guild of Lanka).

Speaking about being a woman in a field which is dominated by males, Thivara said that more women have ventured into the field in recent years.

“There is an increase in female chefs in recent years. I completed a four month internship at the Jetwing Hotels head office, where I worked under the E-commerce team in 2016. I was the only female chef there. I believe that this is due to our culture. People believe that the hospitality industry should be male dominant but the views are changing overtime,” she said.

She says that the field cannot be based on gender. Passion for the subject needs to be considered first.

“There are so many females who have the flair for cooking but hesitate to get into the industry because they are scared of the social outlook. Another chef from Iceland and I were the only female chefs who made it to the finals at the Young Chef Olympiad 2018,” she said.

Though she does not have a signature dish as such she loves specializing in desserts. She is also a fan of the Italian cuisine because she loves the flavours and the techniques they employ. She is currently studying commercial cookery. Her ambition is to work in Australia for a span and to return to her motherland to open her own restaurant.

Her message to other youth who like to venture into culinary art is to follow their dreams.

“Do not be afraid of what others think or say. It took a little convincing to get my parents to give me the green light to go ahead with my passion. However everything paid off after I excelled in the field. So just go for it and follow your heart,” she concluded.


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