Now in its third year, Zest Quest Asia is always a popular awards ‘do’ with Jellybeans and with Cyrus Todiwala at the helm preparing the menu, it is easy to understand why.
With Chinese and Asian-style food valued at almost a £3bn market in the UK and 70-80%* of people who eat Asian food, eating it out of home, Zest Quest Asia does a great job of encouraging young chefs to create pan-Asian dishes good enough to bag a place in this competition. During the day of the awards, six colleges from across the UK were tasked with preparing and cooking a 4-course pan-Asian menu in just 2½ hours for a team of esteemed judges, including Andrew Bennett MBE, Director of Food & Beverage at The Park Lane Hilton; Steve Munkley, Executive Chef at The Royal Garden Hotel and Cyrus Todiwala OBE, to study, taste and mark. The judges and teams then had just enough time to get dressed for the drinks reception and gala dinner, which is when we arrived!
Guests of long-standing clients Tilda (and one of the main sponsors, who has been behind the event since its inception), we were greeted by espresso martinis and some of the tastiest (and substantial) canapes we’d come across, these were made courtesy of 2015 Zest Quest Winners, Farnborough College and we have one of the delicious recipes (Aromatic Hoi Sin Duck & Jasmine Rice Spring Roll), if you want to try your hand at some pan-Asian cooking.
Dinner was called and we didn’t have to wait very long to find out the 2016 champions, for the second year running, a local college took the crown, this time Milton Keynes College. It’s always great to see the smiling faces of the winners, but it was also nice to see the other colleges who had narrowly missed out, congratulating them on stage. The winning grins broadened further when it was announced the prize was an educational trip to Bangkok, Thailand – the ‘land of smiles’ itself!
Dish after delightful dish was served alongside Tilda’s infamous ‘Grains of Truth’ game and generous helpings of prize draws and raffles. The evening was rounded-up with a stunning dessert, which looked (almost) too good to eat and a standing ovation for the team of chefs at T5’s Hilton.
We’re already looking forward to 2017’s Zest Quest Asia event!
*Source: Wing Yip Oriental Food Report 2016