"It was hard work and we did it all on a shoestring budget, but it was definitely worthwhile. We had one team putting up the heat to prepare sugar moulds, while another worked in freezing conditions."
Team manager Moslek Uddin, from Chutneys takeaway
A TEAM of cash-strapped chefs resorted to preparing food in their hotel rooms during the World Cup of the cooking world – but still came away with a gold medal.
Campaign group UK Curry Connect (UKCC) partnered with Central Bedfordshire College to join more than 100 teams from across the globe at the Culinary World Cup, in Luxembourg.
The chefs could not afford to hire a kitchen and would sweat or shiver as they adjusted room temperatures or stood outside - according to the needs of the dish that they were preparing.
But they worked through the night and their dedication and skill paid off when they were awarded one gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
Team manager Moslek Uddin, from Chutney’s takeaway in Weston, said: “It was hard work and we did it all on a shoestring budget, but it was definitely worthwhile.
“We had one team putting up the heat to prepare sugar moulds, while another worked in freezing conditions to make fat-carving and a chocolate sculpture.”
UKCC, which was set up to raise awareness of staff and skill shortage in the Asian catering industry, wants to develop more home grown talent.
They partnered with Central Bedfordshire College to train students who want to learn about international cuisine.
Raj Mandal, team director and mentor from Central Bedfordshire College, said: “We’re absolutely ecstatic. It’s not easy to come away with one medal, let alone seven. The event and the results far exceeded our expectations.”
Some teams spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to compete at the event held every four years.
But UKCC sent fifteen chefs and a support team on a mere £22,000 for the five day stay. They were helped out by Motel Drive-In and bakery Le Pain and La Toque in Capellen, who let the team use their kitchen.
The team won medals in various artistic culinary and pastry categories. Their piece called Plastic or Planet, which highlights the current threat to environment and wildlife, took gold.
Naseem Talukdar is a project manager for charity Plastic Pollution Awareness and Action Projects in Bristol, as well as a team manager for Team UKCC.
He said: “I’m very proud of the team for raising awareness of the need to tackle plastic pollution and their overall commitment.”
The team received a standing ovation from other competing chefs in recognition of their hard work.
They hope to encourage more young people to take up cooking and have set up an International Cooking Academy.
The group are set to compete in the Culinary Olympics in 2020 and are looking for sponsorship.
Cooking on a budget
Most competitors transported their own kitchen or hired one on site, but Team UKCC did not have such equipment or refrigeration to store their products.
The first couple of days were spent working in their rooms and then hospitable people in Luxembourg allowed them use of their facilities.
The team has thanked Patrick Marchot at Le Pain and La Toque for free rein of his kitchen and offering to drive them across the border to France to source certain ingredients.
The chefs even went on to learn some of the artisan pastry that the bakery makes – at 4am in the morning.They have also thanked the team at Motel Drive-In, for use of their kitchen.
Moslek said: “We are very grateful for the support from the local bakery and the hotel, which helped make Team UKCC’s achievements possible.”
Four Gurkha soliders, who were among the chefs, were picked up from Shorncliffe army camp in Folkestone, along the way.
They included regimental catering Warrant Officer Pawan Sherchan, 40, assigned with the 1st Royal Gurkha Rifles at Shorncliffe Barracks; Lance Corporal Krishna Pun, 27, assigned with 30th Signal Regiment in Nuneaton as a production supervisor; Sergeant Amrit Limbu, 38, instructor at Food Services Training Wing, Winchester; and Corporal Sangam Rai, 27, currently based in Abingdon with the 4th Regiment.
WO Sherchan, who is responsible for career development of chefs, has 20 years of catering experience and has won many gold medals.
L/Cpl Pun enlisted with the British Army in 2012 and has taken part in numerous culinary competitions, such as Tri-Service, Army Sustainer, and Hotelympia.
Sgt Limbu has taken part in Hotelympia, Sodexo Salon Culinaire, Royal Ascot Culinary Challenge, Combined Services Culinary Challenge and the Big Curry Cook-Off in Birmingham.
Cpl Rai, who has been in the army for eight years, has taken part in Combined Services and Army Sustainer.
Team manager Shah Athar, from Tonbridge, praised their resilience and work-ethic. He said: “They adapted quickly to the changing environments and needs of the competition.
“They were also very respectful of others and ready to help out wherever they could. For example, on one occasion, while travelling, they helped an elderly person in a wheelchair, who had been struggling, to get onto a bus.
“They reacted quickly to any given situation and went above and beyond the call of duty.”
The team hope to encourage young people to take up cooking and have set up an International Cooking Academy.
The team plan to compete in the Culinary Olympics in 2020 and are looking for sponsorship.
Raj, who has 20 years’ experience in hospitality and has run businesses with a turnover of £2 million, said: “This is a great opportunity to promote cookery and chefs from all over the world at an event which attracts thousands of visitors each day.
“If we could take home seven medals and several honorary certificates preparing on a shoestring budget, imagine what we could do with some investment? It’s an exciting time.”
UKCC, set up to raise awareness of staff and skill shortage in the Asian catering industry, wants to develop more home grown talent.
They have partnered with Central Bedfordshire College to train students who want to learn about international cuisine.