Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge winners revealed

Students from three colleges were named winners of the first Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge, the first completely online event for Zest Quest Asia.

The culinary competition – founded by Indian restaurateurs Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala – aims to raise the profile of Asian cuisine among young chefs.

First prize went to Ryan Plummer of Colchester Institute for his king prawn tempura starter served with a mango, red onion and chilli salsa, accompanied by a lemon mayonnaise, burnt butter crumb and micro-coriander.

The judges praised Ryan’s decision to recreate an authentic Japanese dish with an original twist.

Plummer wins a lunch or dinner for four people, including tutor Colchester Institute tutor Ian Perkins, at Café Spice Namaste, the Todiwalas’ flagship restaurant in Whitechapel.

Hannah Fisher of University College Birmingham was named runner-up for her Asian-inspired dessert medley comprising yuzu parfait with a sesame peanut crumb; mango sorbet, green tea macaroons, mango sorbet sat on a ginger and almond biscuit; and sour cherries and handmade chocolate chopsticks.

Fisher wins a hamper of Mr Todiwala’s products, including artisanal pickles, chutneys and spice blends.

Highly Commended

Kenya Cameron of University College Birmingham and Luke Watkins of North Hertfordshire College both won Highly Commended prizes.

Cameron’s dish comprised a sticky rice ball filled with pomelo curd, on a bed of white chocolate snow, with a raspberry and mango gel, hazelnut brittle and Chantilly cream.

Watkins’ entry was a honey and soy sauce glazed duck breast served with sautéed pack choi, Chinese broth, crispy noodles and garnished with pickled grapes and chillis.

They both won personally signed copies of a cookbook by Cyrus Todiwala.

This summer’s winning announcements were made via Zest Quest Asia’s Instagram and Facebook accounts on 7 September.

The first Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge was conceived by the Todiwalas with Murray Chapman, director of Passion to Inspire and First Contact Chefs.

Their aim was to encourage students aged 16-21 with permanent residency in the UK to challenge their imaginations during lockdown by creating an Asian-inspired dish in their own home kitchens and posting the results online.

The winners were chosen from 18 finalists drawn from seven different colleges.

Tough competition

“I’m thrilled to be chosen as the first Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge champion, as the competition was tough, and there were many other great entries,” says Plummer.

“I chose to enter the competition following on from my experience at Zest Quest Asia 2019.

“Now I’m looking forward to the meal to be cooked by Cyrus – I’d like to thank Colchester Institute and Milsoms Kesgrave Hall for their support.”

“We were very impressed by the entries to our first Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge,” adds Cyrus Todiwala.

“The talent and ambition was clear to see.

“Our champion Ryan stood out for the originality of his dish and how it reflected the ethos of Zest Quest Asia – in fact, all our winners were deserving for the obvious hard work they’d put in and their excellent entries.

“We’re glad that Zest Quest Asia hasn’t lost its momentum, but we hope that the main competition will be able to run again next year to keep our young budding chefs motivated and challenged.

“We want them to keep aspiring to Asian cuisine as a first-choice career option – ultimately, it’s not just the students but our industry that will reap the benefits.”

“The response to our first Zest Quest Summer Challenge proves that young chefs are keener than ever to expand their knowledge and skills in Asian cookery and cuisine,” comments Pervin Todiwala.

“Its success is also down to the forward-looking tutors and colleges who continued to encourage and motivate them, even during lockdown.”

“Inspiring these fantastic chefs through the Zest Quest Asia Summer Challenge has been a great experience,” concludes Chapman.

“Judging their thoughtfully planned creations and more so when taking into account that none had the facility of their college or professional kitchen.

“The work they all put in was outstanding and I was very proud to have judged all their entries. Congratulations to all those who took part.”