The S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2022-23 Regional Final for Africa, Middle East and South Asia (AMESA) has taken place in Cape Town, South Africa, with Mythrayie Iyer of India emerging victorious.
The chefs presented their creations to a jury made up of Bahrain-born Tala Bashmi, winner of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants Best Female Chef Award 2022, Siba Mtongana, star of the award-winning Siba’s Table on the Food Network, and Selassie Atadika, a finalist in the 2019 Basque Culinary World Prize.
Iyer, who is head chef at FarmLore restaurant in Bengaluru, will now go forward to represent the regions at the Grand Finale in Milan. She describes her dish ‘Barter – Evolution of Indian cooking through the age of exploration,’ as a journey through culinary history.
“The history of hunting and gathering food was practiced to enable us to meet needs for survival,” she wrote. “Terroir determined what grew best across various seasons and influenced our dining practices. Ingredients were bartered from all over the country yet some remain native to the Indian subcontinent. With a strong marine position, a strategic approach to introduce new world ingredients was conducted in the 15th century by Vasco Da Gama. These ingredients are now staples in the Indian cuisine we know.”
On accepting the prize, Iver said: “[The Competition] is a great platform to showcase what we have as a country and to put our philosophy forward. The point was not to win. The point was to make connections, to come here and have fun.”
Other awards were given out at the gala ceremony in Cape Town including the Acqua Panna Connection in Gastronomy Award, which was won by Aurelien Durand, representing the United Arab Emirates.
Aurelien Durand, Kareem Atef and Zanté Neethling.
“My roots are not only in France anymore, they’re a bit everywhere,” said Durand. “So, my identity is not only French. My dish represents that. It also represents my vision of sustainability – a big word that is sometimes used in the wrong way. My vision is to use products that are unknown and massively available around the planet, and to showcase them like I did today with the jellyfish.”
The Fine Dining Lovers Food For Thought Award, voted for by Fine Dining Lovers readers, was given to Kareem Atef of Egypt. “Where you come from makes you unique. Stay near here to your roots; your roots will make you different,” he said.
The S.Pellegrino Social Responsibility Award went to home favourite Zanté Neethling from South Africa. “This dish was my chance to showcase an edible ecosystem. My chance to learn my own style of cooking. And going through this journey I realised that we can create unity through food in our country,” she said.