Hong Kong Wins YCO 2021 Gold, UAE wins Silver and New Zealand, Bronze

The 7th International IIHM Young Chef Olympiad drew to a close at a glittering Closing Ceremony organised at IIHM Kolkata’s Global Campus. Lee Maan Ki of Hong Kong won the coveted gold trophy and cheque for USD 10,000 to be crowned Best Young Chef of 2021. The silver went to Srijaenthi Natraj of UAE while Jessica Louise Hoskins of New Zealand bagged bronze.

Through seven days across six continents and 24 times zones, a unique and remarkable edition of the world’s Biggest Virtual Culinary Battle for Hope connected 50 countries of the world through state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure. The Closing Ceremony, also held on the online platform, saw the same grandeur and glitter as in other years with live streaming of the event happening on the giant screen at the IIHM Global Campus in Kolkata. The Kolkata campus transformed into the YCO Global Studio, that became the nerve centre of all activity through the seven days of this mega culinary event. The winners, connected over video conferencing at different ends of the world and sitting in different time zones, rejoiced and celebrated their win on video, as their names were announced by Prof David Foskett, the Chairman of the Jury, YCO and Padma Shri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, the Principal Judge of YCO.

Organised by the International Hospitality Council (IHC) in association with the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), YCO 2021 was a technological marvel that broke the barriers formed by the pandemic and consequent lockdown across the world. YCO 2021 proved to the world that it is way beyond any pandemic and has stood as inspiration and showed the guiding light to the entire global hospitality industry that this is the year to Bounce Back from the setback of the last year.

Apart from the three winners, YCO 2021 had a long list of special category winners. The Plate Trophy round held between the participants ranked 11 to 20 in the competition, went to Andzhela Boeva of Bulgaria. The Best Chicken Dish went to UAE, while the Best Vegetarian Dish went to Tunisia. The Best Afternoon Tea Eclairs Award went to Hong Kong.

Six Mentor Awards were given away based on each of the mentor’s recommendations about their respective participants. The awards went to Colombia, Spain, Canada, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea and Italy. The six Best Young Chef Ambassador Awards went to Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Indis, Barbados, Gambia and Iceland. The Participants were also marked on Best Hygiene and Kitchen Practice maintained during competition and this award went to Canada. The Kitchen Cut Award for best recipe nutritional analysis and costing presentation. The entries were judged by Chef John Wood, the founder of Kitchen Cut and the award went to Nepal.

Continuing from YCO 2020, the Sustainability Award, embracing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, was presented to six countries this year. They were Iceland, New Zealand, Equatorial Guinea, Bulgaria, Jordan and Sri Lanka. A special award of The Spirit of YCO 2021 was given away this year to Barbados.

YCO 2021 had a brilliant panel of 20 esteemed judges from around the world. Led by Prof David Foskett, Chairman of the Jury and Chief Judge, Chef Brian Turner, celebrity TV chef and President of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. Chef Andreas Muller, Programme Director (International Cuisine) at VTC, Hong Kong, was Deputy Chief Judge, Michelin-starred chefs Chris Galvin and John Wood, the Founder and Director of Kitchen Cut, Sicilian Chef Enzo Oliveri, were senior judges of the competition among several other iconic culinary professionals from around the world. Other renowned chef judges of the competition included Chef Stuart Littlejohn, Executive Chef of Oxford and Cambridge Club, UK, Chef Stephen Hogan, Executive Chef, The Corinthian Palace Hotel, Malta and others.

YCO 2021 was indeed a technological wonder that left everyone awestruck by the scale and organisation by IIHM. From the Opening Ceremony, the cook-offs, the United World of Young Chefs and Closing Ceremony saw seamlessly connection of participants, mentors and judges from different geographies and time zones together at the same time on the same platform. However, for this to happen, the technical team at the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) put in a huge amount of effort and ideas. IIHM Global Campus in Salt Lake, Kolkata, was transformed into the YCO Global Studio where Young Chefs from 50 countries from across the world were seamlessly connected on the same online platform. “YCO 2021 has brought a lot of hope to many people around the world and that is the most important thing today. Hope, unity and positivity is the spirit of YCO that unites the world. Bounce Back is the mantra of 2021 and YCO 21. We can confidently say that hospitality industry is bouncing back and YCO 21 is showing the path and giving hope to everyone. The young chefs of the world have overcome all barriers to make this competition happen. The commitment, passion and hard work of judges is what makes this culinary competition possible,” said Dr Suborno Bose, Chairman, YCO.