Earlier this month, chefs from top F&B outlets battled in culinary challenge headlining US potatoes with the hope to reign as champion to earn an interactive tour at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and joined by other chefs from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Central America for that exclusive opportunity of interactive learning and an exchange of knowledge and culinary skills amongst the best chef in the region. Five finalists battled with their creation of potato dish(s) and judges comprised of renowned food bloggers, and representatives from the Chef Association of Malaysia (CAM) and United States Potato Board (USPB) took part in this exciting campaign of a spectacular showcase of clever use of assorted varieties of US potatoes.
Malaysian culinary reflects the multiethnic diversity and our gastronomic heritage not only attracts local and neighbouring constituent cultures but conspicuously integrating many cooking methods and various ingredients. This competition’s first judging session took place in the first stop; Sheraton Imperial Hotel where Chef Eugene Keith De Silva presents a lovely platter with the use of various potatoes are incorporated into the Yam puff, open lasagna, and croquette with a blend of Indian spice.
The dish is prepared using assorted potatoes with the scene stealer; potato version of Chinese Deep Fried Yam Puff (woo kok), beautifully plated next to an open face lasagna and potato croquette. Potato puff coated to yield a layer of crispy sensation on the outside with the right amount of ammonium powder to achieve the loose and crisply texture. Inside is moist and gorgeous purple and flavoured with salted egg yolk and crispy duck skin filling, on some Hoisin sauce. Open Face Spinach Lasagna with potato and mushroom filling did fall short with the hard edges but when wrapped with buffalo mozzarella, made impressive flavour. Idaho Potato Croquette filled with Braised Beef Cheek did made an impression with the heavily infused Indian spices yet having the hint of gravy pleasingly offsetting the overall richness of spices was a clever combination.
SUKA Restaurant‘s entry by Chef Khoo Keit Seng for US Potato Board’s culinary competition exhibits the clever use of various cooking technique ensuing the creative main dish showcasing the use of US potato to wrapping Grilled steak and topped with cheddar and parmesan cheese and matching it with Seared cod fish and tangy sweet sauce and grapes topped with deep fried gingercab. Complex cooking methods incorporated to yield this busy plate of main; Grilled Steak Wrapped in potato with Seared Cod with the brilliant addition of fruits was irresistible if not impressive.
Firm texture and delicate yet delicious flavour of the plump slice of cod was absolutely divine and with the incredible sauce with a hint of tanginess made dish an absolute winner if competing with deep sea treasure as main ingredient. Moist and juicy flakes of cod bestowed unexpected burst of subtle sweetness on the plate from the inclusion of cherry tomato and grapes.
The third entry for US Potato Culinary Challenge by Chef Kiong of Banker’s Room exhibited nothing less than plenty of creativity, enthusiasm, passion and energy with the only restriction of apprehension from not being able to cook from in house kitchen.
A divine presentation showcasing a landscape of presentation with flavours from around the world on a single plate. There were tiny pieces of potatoes in Tamago resulting in a total surprises and was nicely seated on a blob of blue cheese; who would have guessed the compatibility of these two in flavour and texture. Follow by a Sculpted Potato Bone Marrow where the use of potato was once again exploited into a hollow filled with juicy minced chicken filling resembling the bone marrow; and a Cabbage Wrap of Mango and Mashed Potato with Salted Egg Yolk, inspired by the Chinese mooncake. The use of US potatoes were eloquent and at the same time meticulous when it comes to the presentation.
The judging gets more intense with the fourth entry by Chef Nor Hakim of Dorsett Regency Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s Checker’s Café where a slow cooked Strip Loin with Parmesan Crust took center stage on the neat and nicely plated main dish. Making use of US potato mainly as sides to enhance this as a potato dish, the Potato Puree and Sous Vide Vegetable and Shallot Balsamic Glaze gave a contrast appearance that was slightly least attractive compared to the Foie Gras Turkey Ham Roll on the plate.
Final entry marked the end on the competition at Muzeum Café in Setiawalk, Puchong. The obvious diverse from most of the other entries when it comes to ambiance makes judging somewhat a little stressful for me but the presentation astonished us judges and that earned a couple extra points from me. This piece of art presented by Chef Amirul Asyraf features Pan Seared New Zealand Tenderloin with Potato Foam, Shallot Jus, Confit Potatoes, and Potato Pave with Mushrooms.
The many use of potatoes glamorized this US potato dish although potato is once again not the star on this plate. The impressive use of natural diversity in colour for various ingredients deserved applauds if not admiration. Featuring Idaho, Purple and Sweet Potatoes to enhance the colour on this plate showed good effort as well as the artistic side of Chef. Sophisticated yet elegant platting highlights the clever use of ingredients to match the colours.
Potatoes are almost close to essential and are found in most of the household let alone the F&B industry. US fresh potatoes contain high “solids” and low sugar content which produces finished products with desirable appearance, taste and texture. Not to mention how the US potato growers are known for their dedication in producing top-notch potatoes for the frozen potato processors. The F & B businesses in Malaysia are responding positively towards US fresh potatoes mainly due to the fantastic use as flavour and texture enhancer in every culinary creation.
Apart from the amazing texture and taste of potatoes, they are also packed with tons of nutritious goodness. According to the US Potato Board, one 148 gram potato packs only 110 calories, but 18% of the RDV (recommended daily value) of potassium and 45% of the RDV of vitamin C. And if scrubbed clean and eaten with the skin provides 2 grams of fiber which improves constipation and gut health and more potassium than a banana.
This competition creates a platform filled with inspiration and inventiveness for all participants and as a judge; I am absolutely impressed with the effort and creativity. Judging is also based on an all round up factors with a lot of other precision into consideration; all the way from ambiance of restaurant/café to services and knowledge of Chef on top of the taste of the dish(s).
May the best F&B outlet win and would you excuse me, I think I’m up for some baked potato for dinner.