Thanks to Masterchef Australia and the Star Network, a host of culinary based shows have sprung up and amassed a legion of fans. Everybody fancies themselves a master chef. Whether they can actually cook a meal or just potter about the kitchen is immaterial but over the last few years everyone has discovered their ‘ passion’ for food. Cooking shows and their audience has led to various cooking demos, exhibitions and of course competitions. Somehow none of these competitions seem to bother beyond just the one hour test and give out prizes and plug their sponsor name a dozen times in that duration and for those reasons I’ve never really bothered with any of these events nor have I ever taken them seriously.
When I received a call asking me to be a guest at a the Gourmet Wars – an exclusive culinary event held by GITS and Phoenix Market City Pune, I have to admit I was very wary. Of Course after further and might I add detailed conversations where the entire event was explained I had to wonder why food and kitchen ware brands are not doing more events like this.
The competition was announced in advance and in order to participate you had to pay a registration fee of Rs 100 which was donated towards Educate Pune , and NGO and each participant received a GITS gift box.
Elimination rounds were held and the judges shortlisted 20 who were treated to an intense workshop and surprise elimination where industry professionals gave them tips and training and also how to prepare fusion foods and how easy it is to use the GITS products as well as how to decorate a cake since most are avid bakers.
This is the part I find interesting because this is what separates the ones who are really interested and the ones who just do it for fun. The Top 5 scorers from the previous elimination round got immunity. The other 15 had a surprise elimination where they had a written exam and a round of making Payasam Martinis using Gits Payasam.
On the day of the finale, 15 finalists had to prepare a dish of their choice in a time frame of 1 hour to impress the judges, as well as decorate a cake in 15 minutes. There wasn’t any mystery box thankfully because I think every single tv show and competition has done that box to death but yes of course, what’s a competition without a good googli, so in that 1 hour while preparing the dish, they had to also make the GITS ready to eat jalebi ( which btw is super easy and bloody tasty).
It’s amazing how such a small sugary treat can rattle these armatures but out of the lot of them only a few managed to pull off the jalebi as well.
The event was much larger and grander than I expected. The organisers were lovely enough to introduce me and have me interact with the contestants and even taste some of their stuff which noone apart from the judges did ! This was a power packed judging panel as well with Chef Shailendra Kekade, Mrs Roshan Tejani, Chef Navtej Sawhney, Professor Sonali Jhadav, Chef Vijay Deokar and Ms Paloma Gangopadhyay judging the contest right from day one.
After some very careful and detailed deliberations, Hemani Panju won and not only did she win the honour and prestige of beating so many others but she actually won a kitchen worth 2 lakhs from Kook Kitchen Koncepts and a boatload of other prizes! the two runners up didn’t go home empty handed either.
What I thought would be a really small simple competition turned into one extravagant production. The focus was not just on the competition but to impart knowledge and a small amount of training to enthusiasts who have no access to culinary school for various reasons. Some of them are housewives with no time or career aspirations, some young women with jobs and the responsibility to feed their loved ones and each one walked away from this competition with a lot more learning and experience than they could have asked for.
Not only was there a lot of cooking and food there was some very insightful advice given to each contestant by the judges and a very entertaining MC , Ketan Dossa ( he’s extremely popular in Pune and hosts a number of large scale events regularly ) who kept the entire event lively and was the backbone of this competition right from the first round of eliminations. GITS was kind enough to even pass around samplers of their products and I have to admit, if I didn’t know better I’d think the dhoklas came straight out of an aunty’s kitchen.
I might not have been a contestant to really be able to give you their perspective but I thought it was an event I should share in detail so that people know that there are events like this held , on this scale to encourage and boost natural talent in the culinary world. I believe GITS is taking this show on the road and coming to Mumbai very soon, keep your eyes and ears open because if you enjoy cooking, this was definitely the competition for you!