Kochi: Bringing together history, heritage and culinary traditions in one platter, around 36 chefs from 15 countries matched to win taste buds on Sunday at the International Chef Competition as part of the Spice Route Culinary Festival being held at Kochi.
The mega International event jointly organized by Kerala Tourism, Government of Kerala and UNESCO was inaugurated at Bolgatty Palace, Kochi on Friday. The event hopes to revive the ambitious Spice Route Project which was left in limbo for long.
The competition saw chefs from 31 Spice Route nations whipping up dishes representing the cuisine of their home countries with a dash of spices from Kerala added in.
The international competition was kick started by S Sharma MLA, Vypeen, with the lighting of a traditional lamp at Bolgatty Palace and Island resort in the morning.
The organizers claim that it is a first-of-its-kind celebration that will honor and rekindle the shared legacy of cosmopolitanism, commerce, connectivity and cultural exchange between the countries on the ancient and enduring sea link.
Teams of chefs from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Thailand, Oman, Turkey, Qatar, the Netherlands, France, Malaysia, Italy and Japan will participate in the event and share their intrinsic cuisines.
The inauguration was attended by Alphonsus Stoelinga, Ambassador of Netherlands to India, Shigeru Aoyagi, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives,Nepal and Sri Lanka, Moe Chiba, Culture Head at UNESCO India and U V Jose, Kerala Tourism Director.
"Food is a part of culture and helps to connect people. The Dutch government welcomes this wonderful initiative and will support efforts to promote the heritage shared by the countries of the Spice Route," the Dutch Ambassador said.
Noting that chefs are transmitters of culture, Aoyagi said "The Spice Route initiative celebrates not only our common legacy, but also our differences."
Jose thanked the chefs and dignitaries for being part of this unique event and said the culinary festival is a great beginning to the Spice Route initiative.
"It is the first step to realising the true potential of Spice Route as a viable tourism offering for the state. Let us now take this forward through similar projects," he said.
The participants were directed to prepare dishes intrinsic to their culture with an added Kerala flavor. They were sent to procure vegetables, meat and spices from the local markets around Kochi on the second day of the event.
With all-star judges-noted chefs Vijay Nagpal, Debraj Bhaumik and Montu Saini,executive chef to the President-doing the rounds, teams had to pull out all the stops to stand out.
The first place team gets a 15-night holiday voucher, second prize is a 10-night holiday voucher and third, a seven night holiday voucher. Winning teams will all receive two airline return tickets, a memento and certificate for each member.
The Turkish team first tabled their appetiser- an Ottoman Almond Soup-setting off a chain reaction of raised hands and shouts from contestants to draw the judges' attention.
The winners will be announced at an award ceremony to be held ahead of valedictory function on Monday.
(With agency inputs)