Heat is on as 12 chefs vie to become Rising Chef of the Year
Twelves chefs are competing this month to become the next winner of the Bermuda Rising Chef of the Year Competition. The chefs are Kerwin Saldua, Florian Innerhofer, Ryan Lampano, Kieshé Simmons, Sivakumar Senthamaraikannan, Landis Pedro-Petty, Richard Reno, Michiko Campbell, Trevor Kliaman, Utkarsh Dhama, Rakesh Nurkoo and Pitchacaren Mardaymoothoo. They will go head to head in the culinary battle from October 23-November 1, happening at International Imports (The Chef's Shop).
The Royal Gazette caught up with some of the chefs to find out more about their blazing careers and why they show no signs of cooling off any time soon. Following on from our feature on some of the competitors last Friday, we speak with six more of the chefs:
Pitchacaren Mardaymoothoo: The Reefs
Salt, herbs and water might sound like three run-of-the-mill culinary ingredients, but Chef Pitchacaren Mardaymoothoo believes he can use these to transform any dish into a culinary masterpiece.
He said he was excited to take part in the upcoming competition, but also a bit scared. He hopes to use his nerves to fuel his adrenalin for the big day.
The chef has been cooking since he was 18 years old and said cooking might be in his genes. Both his grandfathers were chefs and he developed a love for the hospitality industry as a youngster.
His signature dish combines watercress broth, fried salted fish and spicy tomato, with cilantro salsa — and is always a crowd pleaser.
Mr Mardaymoothoo said the profession has taught him the importance of staying humble about his cooking skills. And he maintains if you don't act like you know everything, you can take each day as it comes and learn something new from everyone you work with.
He described the competition as “a great opportunity to show my skills in public” and hopes to leave with more confidence and having seen some new techniques.
Kieshé Simmons: Fairmont Southampton
As the only female selected to take part in the upcoming cooking competition, Kieshé Simmons may feel like she has some pretty big shoes to fill.
The 19-year-old said she signed up for the BHI event because she was looking for a new challenge, however she was “shocked and excited” when she learned she actually made it to competition phase.
“I feel very confident going into this competition even though there are so many good chefs competing this year,” she said.
“I know practice makes perfect and I have a lot of support behind me going into this competition and I will not let anybody down.”
Ms Simmons has been cooking “all her life”, but started out as an apprentice at Fairmont Southampton just two years ago.
She said: “Seeing women in power on the Food Network when I was younger really inspired me a lot knowing that one day I could be just like them.”
She said this competition is very important to her and from it she hopes she can become an inspiration for other young Bermudian chefs.
“I also want to make everybody proud who is behind me,” she explained. “I know that whatever the outcome from this competition, what I will gain from this experience will help me later on in my culinary career.”
Florian Innerhofer: Cambridge Beaches
While he was still a student at culinary arts school, Chef Florian Innerhofer was given a challenge: create a meal using ingredients from a mystery basket and have the dish critiqued by a judge.
Now as a professional he is getting ready for a similar challenge — with the upcoming Bermuda Rising Chef of the Year Competition.
He said he was excited to show his talent, but also curious to see how he measures up to the other contestants.
Mr Innerhofer has been cooking for the past seven years and said the skill runs in his family.
“A chef career is somewhat a family tradition for me. My father and my uncles are chefs or have their own restaurants,” he said.
Although he has learned many lessons from his time in the kitchen, one of the most important is to take criticism and use it as fuel to grow and get better.
He said the cooking contest is a great way for him to have fun with his dishes and demonstrate what he can do. “I also want to see where I can improve myself,” he added.
Landis Pedro-Petty: Harry's Restaurant
Chef Landis Pedro-Petty is not only representing himself in the Rising Chef competition — he's also out to make Harry's Restaurant and Bermuda proud.
He said he sees the contest as a “huge opportunity” to further his goals as a chef.
Mr Pedro-Petty has been cooking professionally for four years. After high school he worked in construction and eventually went to college to study to become an architect, but he quickly found office work was not for him.
“I knew I loved to cook but wasn't sure if I wanted to make a career out of it,” he said. “I finally decided to go back to college for Culinary Arts to do something I actually loved doing.”
He admitted he was both excited and nervous about the competition and the thought of stepping into the public spotlight. “I'm a shy person normally, so doing a public competition like this is way out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“I know I have the abilities to win this competition but there are other factors that play into it, which I'm not so confident about.”
But regardless of whether he wins or loses, he believes this will be a huge learning experience for him.
“I get to meet other chefs around Bermuda which is good as well. I hope to learn more about my strengths and weaknesses as a chef and how to improve myself for the future,” he said.
Utkarsh Dhama: Fairmont Southampton
Originally from India, Chef Utkarsh Dhama considers the Rising Chef Competition to be a “great platform for all the budding or young chefs to come forward.”
“I believe it's the best place to showcase skills, meet new chefs on the Island, and learn and observe new things related to culinary world,” he said. “These are the reasons I am here and it's my first time participating.”
Although he has been working as a chef for the past eight years, he understands there will be some tough competitors in the upcoming culinary challenge.
He said: “I know it is not going to be easy, I saw the profiles of all the competitors. They all look good and strong, but it is time for me to be the strongest one and put in my best.
“I am a little nervous, but this nervousness gives me the scope to improve all the time. I am not scared, I am ready for it.”
He was inspired to become a chef after seeing the energy in the kitchen and how others had the extraordinary skills to create magical dishes. Most importantly he has an undying love for food.
He said it would be hard to narrow down his offerings to one signature dish, but hailing from India he admittedly has a huge love for spices and flavours. He also enjoys creating a beautifully made chicken curry with simple and delicate flavours and said: “I believe the hardest things to do are often the simple things.”
Mr Dhama said it meant a lot to him to represent his employer, the kitchen he works in and his country. “It is going to be a fantastic time where I am going to experience great food combinations, new techniques, meet new chefs and most importantly experience Bermuda food culture.”
Rakesh Nurkoo: Grotto Bay Resort
Chef Rakesh Nurkoo discovered the hospitality industry ten years ago when he was introduced to French Chef Michael Scholli, who took him under his wings and ignited his passion for food.
The Mauritian-born chef began as an apprentice in the kitchen and worked his way up to Chef de Partie at one of the top fine dining restaurants, called “The Blue Penny”, at the Belle Mare Plage Hotel.
He said that during his career he has naturally had some ups and downs, but one thing that has stayed the same is his passion for food.
“Every day I live and breathe for food and cooking for people,” he said.
“I've been in two culinary competitions so far in my career; the first one was MLA black box (Australian meat organisation) and Bernard L'oiseaux culinary Competition (in the memory of Three Stars Michelin Chef Bernard L'oiseaux).”
He said he was looking forward to taking part in the upcoming Rising Chef Competition and showing residents more of what he has to offer.
“Being a chef is not just about cooking but it takes a lot of responsibility, courage and passion,” he said. “Working under pressure, long hours, and having no festive season during the holidays is tough, but it's just something that we chefs have to accept before getting into food industry.”