This year marks Malaysia's 50th year of independence, and many spectacular events were organized and planned to celebrate the special occasion. The 9th biennial Culinaire Malaysia 2007 is one such event, held at hte new state-of-the-are Kuala Lumpur Convention Center(KLCC), which is nestled next to one of the tallest towers in the world --the Petronas Twin Towers.
This year's event was the largest thus far, with 1,620 entries from Malaysia and Southeast Asia . The entries were separated into categories like hot cooking, ice carving, chocolate sculptures and petit fours. The event was largely sponsored by the Malaysia Association of Hotels , Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Works with the guidance of the Chef's Association of Malaysia(CAM) and World Association of Chef's Societies (WACS)
As a guest chef of the CAM and Ministry of Tourism, I attended the WACS-Asia Pacific region conference as a speaker, and the competition as a judge in the hot cooking division. As a speaker, my paper was on being a Malaysian chef/ restaurateur based in the United States. The attending delegates hailed from all over Asia and the Pacific region and most of them were highly regard chefs in the area. In my paper, I covered topics like emerging food trends in the United States, cost of doing business as opposed to my Asian counterparts and consumer demands/expectations across the ocean.
The cooking competition followed the WACS guidelines(which oversee the ACF guidelines) and there were many very talented and aspiring Aaian chefs.The competition was divided into two main segments: Team Competition and Individual Competition. I was judging alongside an international panel of judges. It was refreshing to observe Asian components used in a different manner from what we are used to here. A few examples include;purple yams were used instead of Peruvian potatoes, beef bacon was used in place of pork bacon, and leaves like pandan, bamboo and coconut were frequently used as garnish. As ateam leader in the hot cooking section, I worked from 7am to 7pm. Many of us exchanged notes on different techniques and components used, not to mention hurdles in our kitchens. In particular, I was amazed that the US sanction with Myanmar does not work , as they could easily obtain all the ingredients that I questioned.
Besides tasting and judging all the excellent entries daily, I found time to partake in a few food-eating "frenzies " at local hawker stalls serving great rustic local offerings. Malaysia is truly a culinary paradise, and besides, it was durian season!