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The six finalists have just been announced for the 2024 Zest Quest Asia competition!

Entries were plentiful and standards were high but after paper entries were scrupulously judged, six student teams have been chosen to compete at this year’s esteemed event.  

Going through to the final cook-off, to be held at the University of West London, on 27th February are Cheshire College South & West, Loughborough College, North Hertfordshire College, The Sheffield College, University College Birmingham and New College Durham.

As a long-time sponsor, and taking the Headline spot this year, Tilda Foodservice is proud to be a dedicated advocate of Zest Quest Asia’s mission to inspire and champion young student chefs in the genre of Asian cuisines.  Not only does the company offer product support throughout the competition, it enables connections for the students with industry professionals, helping them expand their network, and providing valuable learning opportunities to assist with their entries.

Annette Coggins, Head of Tilda Foodservice says “We’d like to congratulate all colleges who submitted an entry this year; Zest Quest Asia is known for its high standards of cooking and sadly there can be only six finalists.  Everyone at Tilda wishes all teams a wonderful experience in what has come to be known as one of the most challenging yet rewarding of culinary competitions.  We are passionate about Zest Quest Asia and what it means to the future generation of Asian chef skills.”

In this, Tilda’s Headline year, the students were asked to select any rice from its Basmati range to use as a hero dish – but not biryani, as they wanted to push the young imaginations to their limits.  In order that the teams could practise consistently, Tilda provided a supply of rice, and its team of product experts were on hand to help by offering invaluable hints and tips, along with training sessions to share product knowledge and expertise, ensuring that the students fully understood the “paddy to plate” story and the provenance of their chosen rice.

Each year we are impressed by the students’ culinary creativity and high standards of execution; we are very much looking forward to seeing the inventive use of Tilda basmati rice in their menus this year in particular.”

The cook-off will be held on 27th February, at the University of West London, where the finalists will endeavour to impress a team of judges, all of whom are highly regarded industry professionals.  

Each team of three students are challenged to create a four course menu and are urged to research their chosen cuisine well.  They are required to consider authenticity, taste, presentation, cost, skillset and innovative use of sponsors’ products, as well as minimising waste.

The winning team will be grandly rewarded with an educational trip of a lifetime to be revealed at the Gala Dinner; previous destinations have included Japan, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka!

The passion, expertise and sincerity behind Zest Quest Asia makes it an industry event like no other, with many positive comments from past participants highlight the benefits of competing:

“The educational journey that our students took on whilst doing Zest Quest was invaluable, they grew in confidence, gained the ability to research independently, and worked as a team.” Andy Gabbitas BEM, Chef Lecturer, The Sheffield College.

“The competition was so well constructed and sponsored.  Having informative and educational videos from the industry sponsors was of great help.  ZQA promotes knowledge enhancement, rather than solely practical cooking, with the requirement to make a presentation setting it apart and above any other competition.Simon Rodgers, Professional Cookery & Hospitality Lecturer, North, West and Hebrides.  

“The competition has given the students a platform to express themselves in a cuisine not naturally embedded in the curriculum and has highlighted the diversity of cultures and cuisines.” Anthony Gascoigne, North Herts College

As is customary, the canapes served during the drinks reception will be prepared by current Zest Quest Asia champions, University of West London, who spent over a week in Bangkok as their main prize.  Tickets for the Gala Dinner and Awards Night are now on sale priced at £110pp, or £1,000 per table of 10, and include the drinks reception and 3-course dinner with wines.  Please follow this link to book. https://www.tickettailor.com/events/mcculloughmoore/1016589

For more information on Zest Quest Asia 2024 visit www.zestquestasia.org.

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the editor

Editor of Curry Culture and lover of IPA. I wanted to create something that highlighted the best of the industry to both those who work in it and the public who love it so much. Curry Culture is the result so I hope you enjoy it.

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