From fine dining to family cooking, three days of culinary competition put more than 70 professional and 15 amateur chefs to the test. Ailish Fleming meets the winners
The stage at the Food and Hospitality Oman show was set and first to the hot plate was the Professional Chefs Competition, which would see contestants demonstrate their skills in categories ranging from wedding cakes to five-course gourmet menus. BreadTalk claimed first place in the Three-Tier Wedding Cake category and Oman Air were the high fliers of the Petits Fours, taking both first and second place. The final event of the competition, the Five-course Gourmet Dinner Menu was a mouth-watering medley of the chefs’ most beautiful creations. Of course, there could only be one winner and with his precise and creative presentation, Prasad Francis of the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa took the top prize.
Prasad Francis grew up and learned to cook on the Keralan coast, with its bountiful seafood, which, appropriately, is his favourite cooking ingredient. Just as his gourmet presentation was clean and elegant, so is his ideal Keralan style fish curry. “I like to keep it natural and fresh. Simply add some spices like coriander, chili, turmeric and coconut milk to the fish,” says Prasad.
Organised by the Oman Chefs Guild and the National Hospitality Institute (NHI), the professional competition was aimed at getting chefs to strive for excellence. “Competing encourages chefs to raise their standards, the quality of food and also public interest,” says Rob MacLean, principal of the NHI.
Similarly, the amateur Best Chef Oman competition was geared towards raising the profile of cooking in Oman. “It’s a great way to present Omani cuisine, whether through dishes or just ingredients,” Zuwaina Ali al Fazari, of Oman College of Tourism, says. “It also encourages people to learn about food and hygiene while improving their passion.”
Over the three days, home cooks prepared either international or Omani dishes, with the competition narrowed down to three from each category for the final round. The winners were Rahma al Namani and Maisa al Makhary and both ladies were more than willing to share a simple dish with Y readers.
“I like international cooking because I find it to be lighter and use less oil. It’s also simple and allows me to add my own special touches, sweets and starters are my favourites.”
Rahma’s simple chicken skewers are ideal for a BBQ, served with rice or fresh salad.
“I love cooking because you’re always learning. There’s no end to cooking and it allows you to be creative”
Try Maisa’s traditional Omani Khabeesa to satisfy your sweet tooth: