August 3, 2022

From The CEO’s Desk I The Role of TVET in Today’s Changing Industry

Sunjeh Raja,  Director and CEO of ICCA Dubai, discusses the importance of understanding what TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) is about.

In the ever-changing industry, a well-designed Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) can play a vital role in developing the right skills-set for the human capital required.  TVET is not only for the youth but also for adults and those already in the workplace who need knowledge & skilling, up-skilling or re-skilling. 

To understand how TVET can help students prepare for their future professional lives, it is important to understand what Technical Vocational Education and Training are about.

Vocational Education is an alternative to conventional learning from the usual colleges or universities since it carves a route that offers specific industry-centred, application-focused, and outcome-driven knowledge & skills needed to work in a given occupation. 

What makes Vocational Education attractive today is that it is thoughtfully synchronised with the requirements of a given industry, along with clear application and outcome, which form an integral part of the education & training here.

Here are some benefits of choosing TVET programs at a glance! 

Where Colleges education often includes courses on generic subjects that may not directly relate to a student’s major or specialisation, vocational training skips such broad academic study; instead, it focuses on application and outcome for a specific field or position. 

Students that go through TVET programs are ‘’work ready’ since they are enabled with significant practical education for a professional environment to which they can quickly adapt, thus empowering them to leap right into the given roles and effectively deliver.  

One of the best things about Technical Vocational Educational and Training is that it includes a variety of settings including industry exposure stints where students can showcase and improve their skills and knowledge acquired through such experiences.

If you thought vocational training was only for young up-starts,  you are in for a real surprise. Today vocational training is so evolved that it helps further one's career. One could get the opportunity to move to the next step by advancing to a higher-level position by gaining additional skills and knowledge. 

Once you know which skill, it is essential to identify the correct TVET program and institution to learn, train from, and work hard to push yourself for a successful career path. 

However, choosing the right place for the TVET is the key. Regarding culinary arts, ICCA Dubai is internationally renowned for delivering accredited courses for those looking to enter the hospitality industry as chefs or food entrepreneurs. 


About Sunjeh Raja: Sunjeh Raja is an award winning educator passionate about Technical Vocational Training (TVET) programs.

For the last 18 years, as Director & CEO of the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai, a world-class culinary training centre, Sunjeh Raja has been persistently working to redefine TVET in Culinary Arts, to make it application focussed & outcome driven, and relevant to the emerging needs of the industry. Of late, with the rapidly growing reach of blockchain, he has also been exploring the future of the ecosystem around food as well as the new chapter of food in Metaverse that would benefit the Chefs and the hospitality industry at large

August 2, 2022

ICCA Dubai Hosts The Ultimate Sandwich Competition 2022

There is something about sandwiches; it is one of the most simple, highly adaptable, and universally loved foods we know, with a myriad variation to satisfy every palate, and hunger pangs any time of day. While it may seem deceptively easy to make one, even the most basic sandwiches have the potential to go easily wrong.   

 So, what makes the ultimate sandwich? That question was finally answered at the Ultimate Sandwich Competition 2022, which was organized by Chef Middle East in association with Stockman's, Bridor and Euro pastry, and hosted by ICCA Dubai at its Dubai Premises on Wednesday, July 27th, 2022.   

 Around eight contestants from Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi battled it out at the contest. They were shortlisted based on their concept, recipe, and photo of the sandwich. For the final competition, the contestants had to prepare one cold sandwich, one hot sandwich and one surprise sandwich from the mystery basket using at least one product from each of the participating brands, namely Stockman’s & Bridor for Qatar Participants, and Stockman’s & Euro pastry for UAE participants. They were also required to use a maximum of six ingredients, including a choice of garnish.    

The judging panel comprised Chef Georges Chihane, Culinary Development Manager at Chef Middle East, Chef Howard Bender, Beef Products Director, Devanco Foods, Chef Sergio Freitas, ICCA Chef Instructor and Chef Dominique Richard, Executive Chef.   

Talking about Chef Middle East's initiative to organize this competition, Chef Georges Chihane said, "Our main impetus behind the Ultimate Sandwich Competition 2022 was to showcase some extraordinary products such as Stockman's delicatessen products, certified Angus Beef brand, Europastry's selection of bread as well as Bridor's range of viennoiserie and bread. We felt organizing a sandwich competition would be the best way to highlight these high-quality ingredients."  

 Meanwhile, Chef Howard Bender shared an insightful thought about the Ultimate Sandwich 2022 contest. He said, "Flatbread wrapped sandwiches are more common in this region. This is not a high-yeast-driven culture, but I believe this competition will be the beginning of the evolution of this sandwich culture. Perhaps what these contestants need to do is to combine high-quality protein and high-quality starch and let the creativity flow."  

As the 24 sandwiches made it to the judges’ table within the allotted time, the panel of judges discussed and made their notes. One of the key highlights of this contest was that all the contestants were experienced chefs.   

 Said Chef Sergio Freitas, " The high quality of the dishes proved that these were trained chefs with good knowledge and great skill set. The products used were excellent, and the sandwiches had a lot of umami.  

The winning sandwich was one of the simplest sandwiches in the contest. The combination of the right bread with the right meat and condiments left an absolute burst of flavours in our mouths."   

 Dubai-based Ali Sayed won the competition and won the coveted prize of a ticket to the U.S. The second prize winner was Chef Subin Joseph, who won a cheque for AED 2000, and the third prize winner who received a cheque of AED 1000 was Chef Oscar Ivan Sanchez Avila. The judges also commended Chef Amit Siwach for one of his outstanding sandwich creations.  

In the end, what the Ultimate Sandwich Competition 2022 proved was that one can never go wrong in making the ultimate sandwich if one remembers to maximize flavour, and manage sogginess while maintaining structural integrity. 

July 28, 2022

Rewarding Culinary Careers Beyond The Kitchen

Enrolling in a culinary arts institute can certainly help whip up rewarding careers in the future.  

Some will become World Best 50, Gault & Millau-recognised or Michelin-starred chefs, and many may be on their way to becoming successful restaurateurs.  The others may pursue a different path, whether for a personal or a professional decision; opting for opportunities other than becoming a chef is also a path some take.  

If you are among those that would like to trade in your Chef’s hat and apron for other rewarding culinary careers, then you are in for a treat. Here are some possible career choices where you can make proper use of the culinary or artisanal course that you have taken.  

Culinary Artist 

For culinary artists, food is a medium to create art. Doing a culinary arts program will offer hands-on experience as well as extensive knowledge of various cooking techniques that can be put to good use while serving authentic and aesthetically pleasing dishes.   

Cake decorator  

Today, customised cakes are in demand for every function and occasion. Finishing an artisanal course in Sugarcraft will equip you with the specialized skills, techniques, and tools required to make elaborate and exquisitely designed cakes and pastries.  

Food Blogger  

Are you a wordsmith with a love for food? Then, try combining both your passion and become a food blogger.  

A food writer with a background in the culinary arts would know how to describe and express a kaleidoscope of flavours. If you took a culinary course, you would see how a dish should look or taste and be equipped with the knowledge of cooking techniques and cuisines from around the world that will help you write authentically and knowledgeably about food. You can start a food blog, write restaurant reviews, and even share your recipes, which could prove quite a lucrative career.  

Artisanal Food Producer  

Not every student Chef is interested in creating dishes to order. There would be many who would be keen to devote their cooking talents to producing artisanal food. Courses dedicated to teaching the traditional art, nuances of the craft, and the science behind high-quality and distinctive handmade food and beverages can be helpful for those looking to venture into this career path. Chocolates, cakes, and bread are popular artisanal foods, and to meet high-quality control standards, these foods are produced and sold in small batches.  


Culinary arts professionals can also try their hand at the catering business. You can always work as a consultant if you prefer not to work in a hotel kitchen.   

One of the things that reputed culinary schools do is to give student chefs an overview of what it is like to handle the catering business by giving them a glimpse into it through menu curation, talking to food suppliers, and actual meal preparation as well as food knowledge. Some culinary schools like ICCA Dubai offer students a fine dining banquet experience, from meticulous planning, practice, and execution.    

Chef Instructor  

Some who have earned their stars may be naturally drawn to teaching and mentoring; professionals keen to share their culinary arts knowledge can pursue a culinary schoolteacher career and apply to be instructors in a cooking school. Their knowledge, coupled with the experience of working in the industry, can significantly inspire and influence aspiring cooks.  

Food Photographer   

A background in culinary arts can be beneficial when you want to pursue a career in food photography or food styling. Understanding aspects of food, knowledge of ingredients, how long a dish should take to prepare and how a word should look when it is freshly baked can help prepare for the photoshoot and photograph in the best way light.  

Savouring Success   

Those student Chefs emerging from culinary learning institutes such as ICCA Dubai can look forward to a rewarding future with their culinary certificates.  The knowledge, skills, and experience these student Chefs learn while in culinary school can equip them to find the culinary career of their choice, coupled with Passion, Persistence, Performance, Perfection, and Patience, culinary specialists can decidedly reap the rewards of their efforts. 

June 20, 2022

ICCA Student Chefs shine at the World Chefs Congress 2022

There is a famous quote that says that great cooking is about being inspired by the simple things around you: fresh markets, and various spices….

At ICCA Dubai, student chefs are given ample opportunities that extend beyond the classroom and curriculum; they receive inspiration in the form of valuable hands-on involvement in industry-centered events throughout the course and training. And the latest event that the ICCA students attended and showcased their true mettle was none other than the recently concluded globally renowned World Chefs Congress.

Around 50 ICCA student chefs got a chance to participate in this prestigious event that focused on the trends and development in sustainability, and the future of education and employment in the hospitality industry. The ICCA student chefs, namely Konen Raza, Hemaang, Laura Amelia Putri, Orville Hayden, Damilola Yinka, Parvatha Vardhini, Rosa Susan, and Shradha Rao supported the promising young chefs that participated in the global young chefs challenge 2022 and also got the opportunity to be involved in the process of preparation for such a hugely competitive event—from understanding the menu to getting an insight into the mindset of the competitor, knowledge, confidence and skills. In short, they got a glimpse into what it takes to succeed in a high-pressure situation. “It was an invaluable experience and opportunity and I learned a lot not only about cooking but also about the attitude one needs to have at such competitions,” said Student chef Laura Amelia.

ICCA student chefs also got a chance to battle it out in various culinary competitions with Faustina Chinonye Aleke,  Kumi King, and Safa participating in Savory Potato Creations by Potatoes USA; Graceson Biju John and Raja Khalil El Haddad taking part in Chicken by USAPEEC and Rouh Abou Zahra participating in Beef section. Of all the participants, Graceson Biju John, Raja Khalil El Haddad, Kumi King and Safa secured the bronze medal in their respective categories while Faustina received a Merit certificate.

ICCA Dubai caught up with Student Chef, Kumi King, one of the bronze winners of the Potatoes USA competition to get a peek into the preparation that takes to participate in a highly competitive culinary competition.

Student Chef Kumi King came up with her dish Okonomiyaki Cake, which was then fine-tuned by the ICCA Chef Instructor Nabil Bakouss. “I chose a classic iconic everyday dish in Japan and gave it a twist, with the help of my instructor. We replaced the flour with potatoes, making it gluten-free and we also replaced one of the sauces used in the original dish for a better presentation while plating the dish. We also added squid in order to showcase a different cooking skill. The dish was a great way to showcase my cooking skills while staying close to my culture.” She said.

Talking about her preparation for the competition, she said, “I started preparing a month in advance and there were revisions along the way. One of the main challenges was to effectively use the three different kinds of potato products in the dish, which I believe we achieved.”

While winning the bronze medal for her dish was a wonderful outcome for Kumi, what she cherished more was the constructive feedback she received and the invaluable experience she garnered by participating in such a high-pressure competition and platform such as this. “The judges praised several aspects of the dish and even pointed out that the dish hit the nail in using the different potato products. This was very encouraging. As for me, I certainly feel this is just ä scratch on the surface of the journey that I am set to embark on and I am eager to use what I have learned, in terms of handling stress, the right attitude and cooking techniques, to do better in the future.

The encouraging experience shared by Student Chef Kumi King once again reiterated and underlined ICCA Dubai’s quality education through application-focused, outcome-driven training that pushes students to their maximum capabilities and helps them unlock their true potential in their culinary journey beyond school...

June 14, 2022

ICCA Chef Instructors and Student Chefs usher in Sustainable Gastronomy Day with a range of Sustainable Dishes!

Today sustainability is more than a buzzword; it is essentially the way forward. One cannot deny its far-reaching impact on the health, well-being, choice, preparation, preservation, and sustaining food. With sustainable living and travel becoming the norm, can sustainable cooking be far behind?

On the occasion of Sustainable Gastronomy Day, the Chef Instructors of ICCA Dubai and one of its Student Chefs have put together dishes that tick all the boxes related to sustainability.

Expérience Gianduja; Chef Sabeen Fareed

This dish comprises chocolate loaf cake with gianduja that can be served with various accompaniments like chocolate sorbet or frozen chocolate air, espresso & chocolate caviar and a beautiful gianduja microwave sponge.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

The chocolate loaf cake with gianduja is a travel cake that can be preserved for a long time due to its high-fat content and invert sugar, which helps to retain moisture and prolong shelf life. For presentation, a number of modern components are used that are made from leftover products such as leftover espresso from ICCA’s Barista classes, leftover chocolate from the ICCA's chocolate-making classes, or even leftover cookies.

Plant-based Cheese Alternative; Chef Nabil Bakouss

The Power of Seed comprises Pumpkin Seed Ricotta, baked with Pomegranate molasses and whole pumpkin hummus while the dish, Almond Lovers consist of Radicchio Carpaccio, with almond soft Cheese and Ras el Hanout roasted Chestnuts.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

Plant-based cooking and dishes form the cornerstone of a sustainable lifestyle since it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, require less energy for food production, and has a smaller ecological footprint. Both dishes are perfect for those looking to incorporate a vegan alternative to one’s diet.

Barley Risotto Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms; Chef Michelle Tredoux

This dish is Portobello Mushrooms stuffed with Barley Risotto and served with Saffron Cream Sauce, Leafy Greens and Grilled Chicken Breast.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

This dish uses sustainable ingredients like mushrooms which are one of the most sustainable vegetables since it uses less water and energy to grow and barley which also requires less water and resources to grow.

Galouti Kebab, Chef Shiv Negi

This dish is a Velvety Galaouti cake that is served on maize tortilla. It is a twist on the classic Galouti Kebabs.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

In keeping with the growing appetite for using locally sourced ingredients  around the region and world at large, this dish was prepared using finely ground keema seasoned with a bouquet of herbs and locally sourced 100 plus spices and laced with the mild smokiness of ghee, and the goodness of nuts.

Duo of Cured Fish; Chef Sergio Freitas

Duo Of Cured  Fish comprises Beetroot Cured Salmon Gravlax and Cape Malay Pickled Fish.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

Both the components of Duo of Cured Fish use sustainable cooking methods; if  Beetroot Cured Salmon Gravlax uses the technique of curing, then the Cape Malay Pickled Fish uses pickling, with both the techniques giving a big nod to zero wastage.

Eggplant Kafta Fatteh; Student Chef Rouh Abou Zahr

Eggplant Kafta Fatteh is a Middle Eastern dish made of crispy pita, roasted eggplant, tahini, kafta balls topped with pomegranate seeds, nuts, and micro herbs.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

One of the main highlights of this dish is the Pita bread used which is leftover, encouraging zero wastage.


Dune, Chef Matilde Monfredini

Dune is a dessert dish that comprises luqiamat which has been infused with Cardamom and Coffee Caramel and covered in Bavarese mixture and served with gold leaf, saffron and Chantilly Cream.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:

What a delectable and unique dessert like this highlights is the use of locally sourced ingredients like Saffron flower, which is available in plentiful in the region.

Sous vide Applied On Vegetables

A selection of vegetables has been cooked using the sous vide cooking technique and plated with egg yolks.

Read the recipe here

The Sustainability Factor:  

Sous vide cooking technique helps preserve the nutrients present in fruits and vegetables by not cooking them above the temperature that the cell walls fully break down. Vegetables especially are prime candidates for the sous vide technique. This technique which can be easily executed is an excellent way for vegetarians and vegans to make sure that their plant-based meals are not only delicious and nutritious but also has tender-crisp textures .

ICCA Dubai has always been taking sustainability seriously and has constantly been taking initiatives and actively participating in events focused on sustainability to educate its student chefs on sustaining and protecting the biodiversity and ecosystem around food and to drive progress against food issues that matter. To read more about this, click here.

June 6, 2022

Eggplant Kafta Fatteh

Eggplant Kafta Fatteh is a Middle Eastern dish made of crispy pita, roasted eggplant, tahini, kafta balls topped with pomegranate seeds, nuts, and micro herbs.  One of the main highlights of this dish is the Pita bread used which is leftover, encouraging zero wastage.

Recipe Card

For Fatteh sauce

Ingredients Quantity
Full cream cow yogurt 500 grams
Tahina paste 3 tablespoons
Red vinegar 1 tablespoon
Minced garlic 1 clove
Salt As required


For Kafta

Ingredients Quantity
Beef mince


250 grams
Chopped parsley Half a bunch
Small onion chopped 1
Salt As required
Pepper As required
Paprika As required


For layering

Ingredients Quantity
Fried Pita Bread As required
Eggplant 1


For garnish

Fried cashews
Fried pine nuts
Pomegranate seeds


  1. To make Fatteh/Yoghurt sauce: Combine all the ingredients together to make the sauce.
  2. To make Kafta: Mix all the ingredients and form into meatballs. Later, cook on low heat.
  3. To make fried eggplants: Cut the egg plant into cubes and fry them.
  4. Layer the fried pita bread in the bottom of your serving dish, add the fried eggplants and cooked meatballs. Cover with the yogurt sauce and garnish with fried cashews, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and micro herbs.


About Chef Rouh Abou Zahr

Chef Rouh Abou Zahr is a student chef at ICCA Dubai who is also a social media influencer and a food entrepreneur.

May 31, 2022

Sous vide applied on vegetables

Sous vide cooking technique helps preserve the nutrients present in fruits and vegetables by not cooking them above the temperature that the cell walls fully break down. Vegetables especially are prime candidates for the sous vide technique. This technique which can be easily executed is an excellent way for vegetarians and vegans to make sure that their plant-based meals are not only delicious and nutritious but also has tender-crisp textures and all the naturally vivid colors and flavors of your favorite vegetables


Recipe Card

Ingredients Quantity
Rainbow carrots 80 grams
Thai red chili 3 grams
Green onion 40 grams
Carrots 50 grams
Zucchini 50 grams
Red onion 100 grams
Butter 50 grams
Egg yolk 2
Olive oil 50 grams
Rice vinegar 50 grams
Microgreens 100 grams
Salt flakes 4 grams
Balsamic reduction 15 grams
Vegetable oil 6 grams
Labneh sauce 100 grams


Mis en place

  1. Set the sous vide at 90 degrees Celsius. Place a gastronorm.
  2. Peel the rainbow carrots, place in a bag with butter and the cumin seeds. Cook in the roner for 15 minutes.
  3. Slice the cucumber, place in a bag with the rice vinegar, 1 gram of salt and the Thai red chilli and let it marinate overnight.
  4. Slice the carrot in thin slices. Place in a bag with 20 grams of olive oil and 1 gram of salt, cook in the roner for 10 minutes.
  5. Cut the onion in 6 wedges, place in a bag with 10 grams of olive oil and the balsamic reduction. Cook in the sous vide for 15 minutes.
  6. Place the egg yolks in the oil and cook for 17 minutes.
  7. Toss the green onion and zucchini with the remaining olive oil. Torch until golden.


  1. Place the sauce on the plate using a ring. Put the egg yolk on top so it resembles a fried egg.
  2. Make rolls with the cucumber and carrot slices, set them around the yolk. Slice the rainbow carrots and place around the yolk alternating colors.
  3. Place the torched zucchini and green onion and garnish with the microgreens.
  4. Season with the salt flakes and serve.

For Labneh spread

Ingredients Quantity
Lemon juice 10 grams
Labneh 10 grams
Yoghurt 20 grams
Zaatar 2 grams
Salt 1 gram
Black Pepper 1 gram


  • Mis en place
  • Mix all the ingredients. Whisk until smooth.


Chef Francesco Araya

Chef Francesco Araya's career accomplishments and contributions are many, especially in the field of  international hospitality and vocational education. Some of his career milestones include a period spent as Director of the Culinary Arts programme at IP Duoc UC Valparaiso and a Leadership Diploma from Universidad Adolfo Ibanez. This Honduras-born award-winning Chef is currently serving as the Centre Director of ICCA Abu dhabi.

May 24, 2022

Transguard Group Announces Partnership with ICCA Dubai to Develop A Smart Trained Workforce

The UAE’s leading business solutions provider Transguard Group has joined hands with the internationally renowned, award-winning culinary school International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA Dubai) to launch Smart Solutions.

The specially curated boot camp-style training programmes designed by ICCA Dubai offer industry-relevant knowledge and skill sets to mould learners into Smart Kitchen Aides and Smart Kitchen Stewards, thus enabling the Smart Trained Workforce to effectively deliver in the hospitality industry, as well as build their careers.

The announcement comes at a fitting time with the UAE seeing increased business and tourism travel and the hospitality industry ramping up its operations. Through the strategic partnership, Transguard Hospitality Solutions, which is one of the largest manpower suppliers for hospitality in the UAE, can leverage ICCA Dubai’s award-winning, outcome-driven training to help aspiring cooks and kitchen stewards effectively deliver industry-standard practices, processes, and quality consistency.

“A Smart Trained Workforce is the need of the hour for the hospitality industry that is quickly bouncing back after the pandemic. We couldn’t ask for a better partner than ICCA Dubai that has been redefining Technical & Vocational Education in Culinary Arts to introduce hospitality aspirants to the technical knowledge and skills required in the industry,” says Dr. Greg Ward, Managing Director of Transguard Group.

Alex MacDonald, Senior Director Manpower and Mobilisation at Transguard Group, added: “This is a win-win scenario on all fronts as it not only develops our talent and promotes retention but also fills a gap in the industry for trained kitchen personnel. By investing in our employees and offering them industry specific training with this programme, we are able to build career paths that otherwise would have been difficult for our employees to realise.”

CEO & Director of ICCA Dubai, Sunjeh Raja concluded: “We are thrilled to announce this collaboration. Transguard and ICCA’s Smart Solutions is in line with ICCA Dubai’s hallmark of application-focused and outcome-driven training, which will equip trainees with all that is required for them to seamlessly integrate, effectively deliver, and excel in the hospitality industry. We hope that our partnership serves as an impetus for those in the other industries to follow suit.”



May 22, 2022

ICCA Dubai hosts Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’s Young Chefs Competition for the eighth time in a row

 For every young, up and coming Chef, competitions are not only a way to showcase their skills but also a platform to learn and improve. That’s exactly what La Chaine des Rotisseurs—International Association of Gastronomy, the  500-year-old institution, aims to do. Concours des Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs was set up to encourage and develop the skills and ‘know-how’ of young chefs and sommeliers worldwide since ‘succession planning’ is an important goal of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs thereby nurturing new talent.

For the last eight years in a row, ICCA Dubai has been the venue for the UAE Bailliage UAE National Competition, of which the winner would represent the UAE in an international arena.

There was passion in the voice of Chef Uwe Micheel, Conseiller Culinaire of the UAE, as he discussed the competition, its rules, and how contests like this were not just a mere competition but a way to pass on the knowledge.

“Young Chefs Rôtisseurs Competition’s main goal is to encourage and promote the expertise of young chefs. The contestants have to be under the age of 27 years. This year, eight chefs qualified for the country final of the Young Chefs Rotisseurs Competition. Each competitor received an identical black box sponsored by Barakat with around 60 ingredients; after examining the black box, they had to write a three-course menu in English in 30 minutes and prepare the same within 3.5 hours using the selected ingredients. The winner will go on to represent the UAE in the international competition that will be held in November 2022.”

Dispelling myths that culinary contests like Young Chefs Rôtisseurs are merely about preparing flawless dishes, he said “It is more than preparing a delicious dish; we look at how they are performing in the kitchen, whether there is wastage, whether the contestants are keeping the kitchen clean and above all whether their time management is on point. This is a real life kitchen scenario that we try to simulate in this competition.”

Judges at the Young Chefs Rotisseurs Contest

At a competition as prestigious as the Young Chefs Rotisseurs, the judges were no less illustrious and experienced. All the judges are senior UAE chefs who are well-experienced in the culinary industry while being proficient contestants in various culinary contests in their younger days.

The judging panel consisted of 4 judges on the tasting table and two judges in the kitchen.

Chef Atim Suyatim, the head judge of the tasting table, broke down their judging process and their expectations. “I have been the head judge for the last few years. What we are looking for while assessing the dishes is if there is a balance of four basic tastes and whether these flavors are working in harmony and not competing with each other. We are not only looking for visually appealing presentations that show creativity and innovation but also that show proficiency of skills using contrasting or complementary colors, shapes, flavors, sizes and with a variety of mediums while maintaining consistent portion sizes.”

But he was quick to add that this contest also came with negative marking with deductions allotted for inconsistent portioning, disproportional sauce and garnishing to the main piece, unappealing presentations and delay in presenting the final dish. “The contestants have to be extremely mindful about how they prepare their dishes, how they are in the kitchen, their organizational skills, the sanitation process, product utilization among others.”.

Meanwhile, Chef Majed Al Sabagh, the Head judge of the Kitchen relayed an interesting aspect of this competition. “While, like any contest, there will be three prize winners, all the participants and winners will go home with more than a certificate. They will get detailed, constructive feedback on each of their dishes, what is working and what is not, which they can use later on to better their dishes. For our participants who are emerging commis chefs looking to up their game, this exercise can be extremely useful.”

Fresh, quality ingredients play a crucial role in competitions of this stature and this is where Barakat, the official ingredients sponsor has been delivering every single time for the last 8 years. Said Chef Neil Ranasinghe, Senior judge & Production Manager/NPD Chef, Barakat Group of Companies, “One of the main impetus for Barakat to support and be part of competitions such as this is to support the new generation of chefs and help them save time and increase productivity. For instance, in today’s competition, all the contestants have access to clean, ready to use ingredients. Also, as a people-driven company, we are not only committed to satisfying our customer base but also in constantly innovating and creating new products.”

 ICCA Dubai’s Association with Young Chefs Rotisseurs Competition

ICCA Dubai’s Association with Young Chefs Rotisseurs Competition goes back eight years. Lauding ICCA Dubai’s excellent facilities and support, Chef Uwe Micheel, said, “ICCA Dubai has always been a fantastic venue which is why we are happy to have the competition here. The world-class facilities, and support of the staff, especially Mr. Sunjeh is commendable.”

Want to compete in prestigious culinary contests?

Participating in the culinary competition is a great way for young and upcoming Chefs to garner more experience and up their game. Chef Uwe Micheel gave a few points to ponder for those looking to participate in culinary competitions, “There is a knack to doing well in culinary competitions. The first cardinal rule is to read and study the rules. Many contestants tend to skip this step or just give the rules a passing glance which can prove to be counterproductive during the competitions. Once you have understood the rules, you must start training for this can certainly help you in terms of speed and precision of execution. If the competition involves mystery boxes, then try practicing mystery boxes to get an edge in the competition. Try to garner as much experience as possible. Also, take the time to talk to people who have participated in culinary competitions, get their advice, tips, and recommendations on how you can compete better.”

Meet the winners of the Young Chefs Rotisseurs Competition

At the Young Chefs Rotisseurs Competition, every participant is a winner in their own right, emphasized Chef Uwe before announcing the winners.

Chef Himanshu Verma, Commis Chef 1 at Five Palm Jumeirah walked away with the top honors. This competition was his first international win. He has bagged prizes in competitions held in India. Besides expressing his delight at winning this prestigious competition, he also said, “It has been such a true learning experience for me and the feedback has been so constructive. Due to my busy schedule, I didn’t find time to train so I went in with an idea and proper plan on what dishes to execute based on the ingredients provided. “ As for representing the UAE at the international competition, he added, “It’s a huge responsibility for me to be the representative for the UAE but I am going to train really hard and give it my best shot.”

The second prize winner was Chef Sanjay Singh Saud, Commis chef at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai. A culinary scholarship student at ICCA Dubai, Chef Sanjay has won several culinary competitions: from being the last year's first runner up at the Young Chef of the year to being the runner up at a Nestle culinary competition and bagging gold medals at Salon Culinaire and a culinary competition in  Sharjah. “ As a culinary scholarship student, the training and guidance I received at ICCA Dubai have immensely helped me in this competition, for which I am thankful.” He said.

Meanwhile, the third prize honors went to Chef Joshua William Jonathan from Jumeirah Creekside.

On a parting note, Chef Uwe added, “Competitions like these keep even experienced chefs like me and those on the judging panel on our toes because you never know what new and innovative techniques you get to see, after all, one never stops learning in the culinary industry!”

May 10, 2022

‘Use food to give voice to your culture and legacy’: Chef Jerome Grant tells the ICCA Dubai student chefs

For the ICCA student chefs, no two days are the same. Each day brings with it a wealth of unique learning experiences and challenges, and never is there any dearth of inspiration at this leading TVET School in culinary.  With every workshop and demonstrations in food, ICCA Dubai keeps proving that the focus of its industry-centered curriculum is more than mastering culinary fundamentals and techniques and learning about ingredients; it also involves imbibing the Five Ps of learnings for life– Passion, Persistence Performance, Perfection, and Patience for success in life.

Recently, as part of the initiative undertaken by the Culinary Diplomacy Project, the student chefs got the opportunity to meet award-winning Chef Jerome Grant at the ICCA Dubai Premises. During the hour long cooking demonstration, wherein he prepared one of his signature dishes, Grilled Quail with Banana Ketchup BBQ, Cheese Grits and Apple & Chayote Relish, he also gave the eager ICCA student chefs a sneak peek into his culinary journey, the struggles and the chances he took, and how passionate he has been about food from an early age.

“I am of Filipino and Jamaican heritage and from an early age, I have been influenced by the women in my family who were all phenomenal cooks. They were so passionate about cooking that our television was in the kitchen!” he quipped.

Besides being encouraged by his mother and grandmother, Jerome stated that he was also encouraged by his High School Home Economics teacher to pursue a career in the culinary space. “Once I decided I was going to be a chef, I went ahead and took every food class that was there in high school.”

However, it was not all smooth sailing for Chef Jerome Grant. He told the student chefs that when it came to joining a culinary college, he faced opposition from his father who came from a military background.  “My father wasn’t keen on me joining a culinary college. He couldn't understand, with so many opportunities out there, why I had to choose a culinary profession. But I was very certain that this was what I wanted to do, and my father finally came around to supporting and accepting my decision.”

Later, after completing his culinary education, he set off traveling and working in various kitchens around the world. “Learning never stops. I took every chance and opportunity that was given to me. And if you want to succeed, then you gotta travel, keep cooking, perfecting yourself until you find your own culinary voice.” He told the aspiring student chefs at ICCA Dubai.

While lauding and supporting the choice of joining a culinary school, he also emphasized that ultimately, success in the culinary industry, all boiled down to one’s drive and determination. “I learned a great deal at my culinary school—from understanding culinary fundamentals to kitchen etiquettes, working under pressure, and more. Ultimately, it was a great confidence booster for me because in the end how far you will go in this industry is down to how hard you work.”

There was an unveiled passion and fervor in his voice when he discussed how for him, food was more than cooking and it was about telling a story. “For me, food is built on legacy and tradition, and cooking is like telling that story. It’s a great way to learn about different cultures and narratives. And no matter where you come from, food has the power to bind and bring together shared experiences and memories.”

And rightly so, his dish ‘Grilled Quail with Banana Ketchup BBQ, Cheese Grits and Apple & Chayote Relish,’ is an amalgamation of all the cultures he has grown up with, from Filipino & Jamaican influences to Southern cooking.

During the hour-long cooking demonstration, many ICCA student chefs also got an opportunity to participate in the preparation of this elaborate dish.

On a parting note, he left the student chefs with a nugget of his own culinary philosophy, “Work as hard as you can and take every opportunity you get and use food to give voice to your culture and legacy as the world needs more and more stories on different cultures and narratives.”



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