Chefs call it the Olympics or the Superbowl for culinary. The Global Chefs Challenge is the battle of chefs from around the world. A gathering of some of the most influential minds in the culinary industry, it is an event to showcase innovation and skills. 70 nations are competing to win the World Best Chefs title. The competition will be held in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia during the World Chefs Congress happening this month. The event promises to be a gastronomic journey like no other. The World’s Chef Congress 2018 is a global event where visitors can also access valuable insights, leading industry solutions and more importantly, develop connections with leading suppliers and elite professionals from around the world.
There will be teams representing their countries who will participate in a two-day cook-off for this particular competition. The teams will consist of the chef vying for the title and assisted by an apprentice or a commis (must be under 25 years of age). The rules are pretty strict; you must impress the judges and serve a four-course menu within the 5-hour timeframe given. Presentation skills are a must when it comes to talking about your dishes. If you go over the time, marks will be deducted. Criteria for judging all the courses includes mise-en-place, professional preparation where the judges watch the cooking techniques and working skills used in the kitchen. The Service criteria are about the punctuality, smoothness of the delivery of the food items, overall presentation and of course, taste. The dishes will also be judged based on whether or not it conforms to today’s nutritional standards and values. Winners will be announced at the President’s dinner which concludes the World Congress event.
It is every young chef’s dream to be a part of such a high level, prestigious competition. Each country participating chooses only the best of the best to compete. Chef Keith Spears coaches chef Rahil Rathod and accompanied by a junior chef, and they will represent Canada. For Rahid, representing Canada on a global stage is an utter pride and honour. To him, it is also an excellent opportunity to showcase Canadian skills to the world. Born and raised in India, Rahid is only 26 years old. He calls Canada his home and cooking was natural as his mom was an excellent cook. His mom’s passion for food helped him develop a love for cooking. He’s worked in Dubai for 5-star hotels and consider himself well versed in European cuisine. Currently, he works as a Sous Chef at the Delta Toronto hotel. Rahil says research is vital when joining competitions like this. Experimentation with the pairing of flavours is critical, and you have to be organized specially when participating in a tournament like this where you can quickly lose points if you miss a step. Lastly, practice makes perfect until you are entirely happy with the dishes and able to execute them smoothly. Rahil won against fellow Canadian chefs from across the country and was selected to compete in this year’s Global Chefs Challenge and represent Canada. Rahil is no stranger to this kind of competition. He’s joined others like the IKA Olympics, Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg, San Pellegrino and others. His commis, Navjeet Singh is only 22 years old but has already competed in the Bocuse d’Or 2017 in Canada. Navjeet is currently a cook at the Ritz Carlton Toronto and will join Rahil in this life-changing event.
Coach Chef Keith Pears could not be any more thrilled to lead this team to victory. As Rahil’s Executive Chef at the Delta Toronto, Keith knows Rahil’s talents very well and says having a significant interest in cooking competitions, it was only natural for him to support his most talented chefs. Before being able to represent Canada, they had to compete in the national selection which consisted of 6 of Canada’s top chefs. Now, he is helping the team prepare for the world competition. “It requires a lot of desire, hard work, commitment, sacrifice and passion. You are away from your friends and family developing creations, working on components day in and day out, essentially pushing yourself to failure so that you can achieve quicker all while maintaining a full-time job” according to Keith.
The training and coaching process started as soon as Chef Rahil won the national selection, which was back in November 2017. “Once we found out the results, we knew we needed to create a game plan that would make Canada hit the podium for the first time in this competition”. Keith says, the team meets once a week to do a dry run practice, then debrief and learn from what happened. Afterwards, daily they are working on components from their meetings and prepping again for another dry run. They also bring in other talented chef advisors to help with taste, presentation and kitchen work. They bring in different chef advisors for each specific task as each one showcases a different skill. On top of all the work involved to prepare, the team must also fundraise to get to the finals to be able to pay for the expenses.
Keith says they have a long way to go to achieve their financial goals to get to the competition but representing Canada and winning will mean the world to them and will put the country at the forefront. Keith says Canada is under-recognized in some way specially when it comes to culinary competitions. Some countries are funded by the government to compete which gives them a tremendous upper hand. To have all the resources available to them allows them to compete in a very different way. Some chefs even get paid to take time off work and practice before the competition to represent their country. It’s just not the case in Canada, but this does not stop this group of passionate and talented chefs to achieve their goals and make their country proud.
Cristina Carpio is a television personality, brand and restaurant strategist as well as a passionate food and beverage expert. Travel and living life to the fullest is in her DNA. In addition to hosting Going Global, Cristina is a country ambassador for a global immersive dining platform and has a column for a noted North American food and beverage industry magazine. She has also been recognized for her work and involvement in charitable and community projects and has hosted several prestigious festivals, fashion and cultural events.