Hyatt’s Good Taste Series is an annual competition aimed at finding and fostering culinary talent within the Hyatt group. The competition began in the US-based Hyatt properties and this year is being held globally. Regional contests will be held through the rest of this year and today’s winner would be going to Hong Kong in October for the chance of possibly competing in the finals next year in the US.
The expansive kitchen of the Cafe is the impressive backdrop of the five chefs nominated to compete in today’s competition. The night before, they were given a mystery basket of ingredients, the basis of the cold and hot dishes that they would be cooking today.
It’s a grab bag combination of mangoes, ampalaya (bitter gourd), ube (purple yam), shrimp, duck. With these, the competitors would make one cold and one hot dish to present.
We five judges are encouraged to interact with the competitors and so I step into the thick of the action at the “stadium”.
The “chef-testants” hustling in what co-judge Chef JP Anglo calls “an awesome kitchen,” his eyes aglow with admiration.
Chef Dusadee Tindoy framed in smoke wafting over two perfectly fabricated duck breasts.
Chef Mark Valencia breaking down duck meat. Mesmerizing, couldn’t get my eyes off it.
And nearby, another chef cooking duck over lava rocks. Fascinating!
A cornucopia of components cooking away.
While all the cooking action is going on, the competitors’ fellow chefs cheer them on while hotel executives record the event. The anticipation is palpable…
Taking time for a photo with knife-wielding co-judge Chef JP Anglo.
No matter how glamorous it might look, judging is difficult work! 20 points max each for Flavor and Presentation.
The chef-testants and the judges!
Back row, L-R: Daniel Ganser, Director of Food & Beverage, Grand Hyatt Manila; Peter Sullivan, General Manager of Hyatt City of Dreams Manila; Chef Mark Hagan, Executive Chef of Grand Hyatt Manila.
Front row, L-R: Chef JP Anglo of Sarsa Kitchen+Bar; Chef David Germaine Diona; Chef Elbert Maranan; me! Chef Dusadee Tindoy; Chef Mark Valencia; Chef Carlo Albano; Chef Bryan Salarzon, Executive Sous Chef, Hyatt City of Dreams Manila.
Competitors could be given a maximum of 10 points for how well they present their dishes to the judges. I marvel at how the chefs are able to articulate their creations; I’d be a blubbering mess!
Some of the other dishes we tried.
My favorite dishes include this adobo and sisig duck by Chef Carlo Albano…
… a post-modernesque dish of Chef Mark Valencia consisting of cold-poached prawns in a vegetable consommé with a startlingly good lemongrass ice cream.
I also like Chef Mark’s hot dish of duck cooked sous vide with purple yam puree and mango sauce.
Chef-testants waiting for the final result.
Given how taken the judges are with Chef Mark’s dishes, it’s no surprise that he is crowned the winner. His victory is greeted with jubilant hoots and hollers from the chef-crowd.
Of all the cooking competitions I’ve judged, I enjoyed this one the most. It was intimate and composed with none of the fracas usually associated with similar events. The high quality of the dishes made tasting very enjoyable. Above all, I can’t praise the employees of the Hyatt hotel enough: it was my first time in their hotel and they were beyond pleasant. I can’t wait to go back.
Congratulations again to Chef Mark Valencia for winning the first round of the Good Taste Series local competition!
For more information:
Hyatt City of Dreams Manila
On Instagram: @HyattCityofDreamsManila
Suggested hashtags: #GoodTasteSeries #InaHyattWorld #TheCafe #MysteryBox #cooking