UMAMI POWER CHEF 2017 Unearthed Cooking Talents Within Young Students

Dato’ Mahadzir Lokman evaluating concoctions from the Mocktail challenge. Chef Papa Joe passing on some tips during the Finals.
SMK Shah Alam is the champion of the Umami Power Chef 2017 competition!
(Left to Right – Puan Zetta Akhtar Amran (Counsellor, SMK Shah Alam), Mr. Bonnie Lopez (Head – SHTCA, KDU), Anis Qistina bt Muhd Raznudeen (Student, SMK Shah Alam), Chef Moh Johari Bin Edrus (Chef Papa Joe), Ms Cindy Chan (Section Head – Corporate Communications, Ajinomoto), Assoc. Prof. Dr Hon Wei Min (Deputy Vice Chancellor – Academics, KDU) and Fairul Izzati bt Mohd Fuad (Student, SMK Shah Alam).
 The top 3 teams together with the panel of judges.
A competitive arena is always an ideal platform for unveiling talents within young ones. Marking its 30th Anniversary this year, the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts (SHTCA) at KDU University College proudly collaborated with culinary giant Ajinomoto (Malaysia) Berhad (Ajinomoto), for the 2017 edition of its annual junior culinary competition - UMAMI POWER CHEF 2017, held today at KDU’s Utropolis Glenmarie campus.

As one of the top culinary institutes in Malaysia, SHTCA puts serious effort in molding culinary talents, not only within the School but beyond! Throughout the years, KDU’s Power Chef competition series has steadfastly stood as a solid platform for young talents seeking to explore culinary arts as a possible future career path. Young as they are, participants enthusiastically seek the opportunity to showcase their talents in this avenue.

The competition garnered participation from more than 150 students over 20 secondary schools around Klang Valley, competing among themselves for the ‘Power Chef’ title with prizes amounting to over RM160,000 in total value!

The UMAMI POWER CHEF 2017 was fully sponsored by Ajinomoto, a manufacturer of umami seasoning founded in Japan. This collaboration aimed to create awareness on Umami, the fifth basic taste and its applications in culinary for delicious yet more nutritious food preparation. This is in line with Ajinomoto Shared Value (ASV) which promotes healthy living as one of the key initiatives - Make a simple diet more delicious and improve the nutrition of the Japanese people with umami.
Also gracing the event with their presence were Encik Azmi Murad Bin Abu Yamin, Assistant District Officer for Counselling and Career Guidance (Students) from the Petaling Utama District Education Office (PPD Petaling Utama), En. Hashim Wahdi Bin Ahmad Shauki, Curriculum Supervisor from Petaling Perdana District Education Office (PPD Petaling Perdana), as well as key representatives from KDU, Associate Professor Dr. Hon Wei Min (Deputy Vice Chancellor – Academics) and Mr Bonnie Lopez (Head, School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts), and from Ajinomoto, Ms Lau Chin Mun (Head of Corporate Communications, Ajinomoto).

Participants of two in a team were tasked with completing 5 challenges along the way within the given time frame. The competition was designed to test both their knowledge and culinary skills as the challenges in the preliminary round included a quiz on  Umami knowledge, as well as culinary challenges for various courses of a meal including - Soup; Main Course; Mocktail; and Crepe. Whilst the challenges in the preliminary round were made known to the participants, they were given the ingredients to work during each specific challenge. As such, there were no pre-planned menus of what they’d like to cook. The teams had to be quick-thinking, spontaneous and creative in order to showcase the best of their culinary talent. 

The teams battled their way through to win one of the top 10 spots in the finals for the Blackbox Challenge, where the teams had no inkling of what the challenge nor ingredients were, until the clock began for that particular round.

Fully utilising KDU’s state-of-the-art kitchens and culinary facilities, which spans over 65,000 square feet and is South East Asia’s biggest for a culinary institute, the teams had the opportunity to go through a real kitchen experience while completing the challenges before them.

According to Mr Bonnie Lopez, Head of SHTCA, “This is indeed a full scale competition which will impress the participants, as usually, secondary students in competitions will not be able to utilise industry-standard state-of-the-art kitchens to have similar experience.”
Leading the panel of judges this year was Chef Moh Johari Bin Edrus, or more famously known as Chef Papa Joe (culinary consultant and former chief jury of Malaysian top cooking reality series, MasterChef Malaysia). Members of the panel of judges also included three active and dedicated chefs - Chef Norhilme Bin Kamarudin (Executive Chef, Mas Awana Services Sdn. Bhd), Chef Ahmad Razman Bin Hazizy (Gastronomy Manager, SYMPHONY by Chef Jo) and Chef Aidiyusman Bin Mohd Yushoff (Executive Chef - Product Development and R&D for QSR Brands, Johor Corporation), Dato’ Mahadzir Lokman (well-known Malaysian personality and sought-after Master of Ceremonies), as well Ms Cindy Chan (Section Head of Corporate Communications, Ajinomoto).

Teams were judged and given marks on criteria such as completion of challenge within time frame, hygiene and sanitation in the kitchen, team work, culinary skills, presentation skills, creativity of using the ingredients provided, as well as taste of the dish.

After an intense battle against time, Anis Qistina bt Muhd Raznudeen and Fairul Izzati bt Mohd Fuad from SMK Shah Alam emerged as champions of the Umami Power Chef 2017, with their winning dish – Roast Chicken with Mushrooms. The duo walked away with cash prize of RM3,000, the challenge trophy and full scholarships from KDU; 1st Runner Up went to Lim Siew Jing and Lee Jun Hong from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (2) with cash prize of RM2,000 and 50% scholarship; while Lee Kah Chun and Tan Yong Lin from SMK Taman SEA won 2nd Runner up with cash prize of RM1,000 and 30% scholarship.

“We actually didn’t expect to make it for the finals, let alone win the competition! It’s quite shocking to us and we’re still trying to absorb the news!” commented the newly crowned Power Chefs.

“KDU is has always been part of my choice in selecting a tertiary institution to pursue culinary, as I have been dreaming of opening a restaurant with my brother, and I like KDU because of its facilities and location,” added Anis Qistina.

Chef Moh Johari (Chef Papa Joe), also added on his thoughts, saying, “Even though the participants are young (from secondary schools), I believe they have gone through a good learning experience and have shown good performance.” He also praised KDU for their effort in awakening and cultivating budding culinary talents in each and every participant.