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Zest Quest Asia 


February 2017

 An elegant and ambitious menu celebrating migration and modern British Asian Society has propelled Hugo Montgomery, Peter Price and Alexander McLaren of University College Birmingham to the top of Zest Quest Asia 2017 and towards a 10-day trip of a lifetime to Japan, courtesy of headline sponsor Panasonic. 

Their triumph was announced at a Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony attended by 280 guests at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 on Monday, 13th February 2017.


This was UCB’s fourth consecutive year to enter the competition. Founded by Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala in collaboration with the Master Chefs of Great Britain, Zest Quest Asia aims to help preserve the future of the Asian food and hospitality industry by nurturing the skills and knowledge of its cuisine among young British chefs. 

Mentored by their chef lecturer, Lewis Walker, UCB’s Montgomery, Price and McLaren successfully executed their 3-course South Asian melange during a cook-off held earlier in the day at Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen, the hotel’s signature restaurant. They also impressed the judges with their understanding of the theory behind Asian cuisine, as demonstrated during their 10-minute presentation.

The winning menu, printed to represent an oversized British passport, comprised a first course of Sri Lankan Marinated North Atlantic Mackerel, Ceylonese Fish Croquette Wrapped in Idiyappam Noodles, Tomato and Tamarind Fondue, Garlic Fried Spinach, Kiri Hodi Coconut Sauce, Pol Sambol. 

The main course offered a Royal Thali with Roast Loin of Scottish Speyside Venison, Chana Dahl, Bhartha, Peanut Sauce, Spiced Pea Puree with Fried Paneer, Mint Sauce, Aloo Gobi, Glazed Pearl Pearl Onion and Roti Bread. To finish, the team prepared a Gloucestershire Williams Pear and Saffron Zarda, Chai Tea, Soaked Date and Pear Samosa, Cinnamon Poached Pear, with Date Purée and Dugga Spice.

The team also won Koppert Cress’ Best Presented Menu Award, while Glengoyne’s Best Dish of the Day award went to Hackney Community College and the Least Food Wasted Award, sponsored by I.O. Shen, was presented to Colchester Institute.  

Before announcing the grand prize of a trip to Japan, Iain Philips, Panasonic Sales & Marketing Manager, revealed how Zest Quest Asia’s aims mirrored those of Panasonic, particularly in terms of creating value, contributing to society and supporting young people. Also representing Panasonic at the event was Mariko Kanda of Panasonic Consumer Marketing Europe, who flew in especially from Frankfurt to be at the event. Panasonic has been a gold sponsor of Zest Quest Asia since its launch in 2014 and aside from the electronics giant, other Zest Quest Asia gold sponsors were Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5, Tilda, and Kerrymaid.

Phillips outlined the winners’ Japanese itinerary; they will fly to Tokyo, where they are booked to stay at the Tokyo Hilton for four days and among the activities planned for them are lessons in the art of preparing Teppanyaki, Sushi and Kaiseki with expert chefs in these fields, as well as an early morning visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. They will then take the Shinkansen, or Japanese Bullet Train, to Osaka, and likewise visit Kobe and Kyoto where they will experience an excursion to a Kobe Beef farm and enjoy a private VIP tour of Panasonic’s technology centre and factory.

Cyrus Todiwala said, “The size of Zest Quest Asia’s prize this year - a trip of at least four key cities in Japan - only reflects the magnitude of the Asian food sector’s need for high quality, home-grown skills in the UK. We have always said that this is a serious competition where the standards are high. Asian cuisine is artful and sophisticated in terms of taste and flavour, ingredients and presentation. The judges and I were impressed by what all the colleges had produced, but there can only be one winner and UCB was consistently excellent at every stage of the competition. Their menu was sensational.

“Bear in mind that since Zest Quest Asia’s inception the contest has been won by colleges both large and small. This goes to show that size does not matter; it is motivation, preparation and commitment to excellence in Asian cuisine that makes a Zest Quest Asia champion.”

Lewis Walker, chef tutor at UCB said, “Winning this year means a lot, and it shows that perseverance and hard work can really pay off. The students practised out of hours, and in their own time, continuously and were determined to succeed. This is also UCB’s fourth attempt to win Zest Quest Asia and the lesson is you must never give up. We came back each year determined to do better and this year we succeeded. Clearly, I am very excited about our trip to Japan an what we will learn whilst there.”

The gala dinner was preceded by a reception with Thai-inspired canapés prepared by students from Milton Keynes College, last year’s champions, inspired by their gastronomic trip to Bangkok.

Before the end of the evening, gold sponsor Regale announced a £500 donation to Springboard’s FutureChef, now a supporting organisation of Zest Quest Asia and of which Cyrus Todiwala is an ambassador.

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