Dec 5, 2011

Let the Culinary Battle Begin!

The Hilton Culinary Challenge 2011 took place last week at the Hilton Jumeirah Beach.  The contenders battled it out for the prestige and honor of being the best of the best out of all the Hilton properties through the Middle East and Africa.  It came down to three finalists, Conrad Cairo, Hiilton Seychelles, and Hilton Jeddah. 
 Things begin heating up in the kitchen as the 3 finalists cook up there winning dishes that got them into the challenge. 
 There were too many dishes to discuss with three different contenders preparing 4 dishes each.   However, below are some of the highlights from the battle.  This is Conrad Cairo's winning dish: Sautéed sea scallops, artichoke carpaccio, red pepper jelly, mint aioli. Gorgeous presentation with a variety of textures.  
Hilton Jeddah's winning dish: Grilled veal loin rubbed with Moroccan spices and Veal shank “Tagine” style with spicy tomato relish and puree of carrot and sweet potato.  The authentic spices and beautiful colors really worked for me. The flavors were rich and hearty, deliciously satisfying!
Seared Seychelles Bourgeois with Creole sauce was the winning dish from the Hilton Seychelles.  It was a little sweet for my liking but the presentation was playful and colorful.  The flavors of this dish resonate with the warmth and sunshine of the tropical island. 
The next part of the challenge was to prepare ingredients from the "Black Box" and incorporate them into a starter and a main.  The box was filled with items such as: Pigeon, Lamb, Quail Eggs, Red Mullet, Clams, Star Anise, Beetroot, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes, and much much more!
There were too many delicious items to feature, so here are just a couple of highlights.  The Hilton Seychelles made a Pan-fried Red Mullet with Clams, Sweet Potato Puree and Beetroot Foam. (this dish was my favorite)
Hilton Jeddah made a Red Mullet on Pomegranate Ragout, garnished with clams and a touch of summer salad.  The presentation was lovely, tasty, but i couldn't see how the pomegranate ragout tied into the dish. 
Conrad Cairo's dish was a duo of pan-fried pigeon served with star anise flavoured freekeh with pomegranate, redwine sauce and pan-fried lamb, grilled eggplant served with mushroom sauce.
Giovanni Bavajee from Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa won the top prize for his RAK Passion cocktail which featured a sprinkling of local ingredients including camel milk chocolate and Ras Al Khaimah grown dates.
 Grant Parry from Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa was voted best dessert with his Perl Dan Sesel (meaning Pearl of the Seychelles) featuring mango parfait and jelly, coconut mousse, vanilla sable, star fruit flowers and soursop pearl
It was a difficult decision to announce the winner, because they were all equal in my eyes.  However the panel of judges were required to rate these competitors on a scale of creativity, taste, presentation, and relevance to the property which they represented.  The winners were announced in the order they were ranked with the Hilton Seychelles receiving first place, Hilton Jeddah in second, and Conrad Cairo in third.  There was a very small margin between the winner and the third place contestant, but alas, these were the results. A big congratulations to all the chefs involved in this competition, it was a once in a lifetime experience for me, and I am glad I could be a part of it all!

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