Three young chefs from Dubai powered their way to beat out international competitors to win the first ever YouthX held as part of Gulfood 2023. A first-of-its-kind cooking competition, YouthX saw teams from India, Thailand, Mexico and UAE battling it out by cooking three-course meals in just 60 minutes.
“We are so excited,” said chefs Yubak Bista, Sidney Mathews and Sameera Shaw from Sofitel The Obelisk, who were representing the UAE.
“The competition was so hard because there are about 200 people watching you,” said Sameera. “We were excited but also nervous.”
Mentoring them through the competition was senior chef Russel Impiazzi. “They have done an amazing job to get here,” he said.
“The won the Dubai heats last year and here they are this year topping the competition. I am super proud of them.
The chefs were judged on their ability to incorporate the themes of sustainability and zero waste into their dishes. While serving their dishes to the judges, the chefs had to explain how the themes were incorporated.
According to the chefs, what gave them their winning edge was their connection to the dish. “We came up with a dish that really connected emotionally to our backgrounds,” said Yubak Bista.
“It was not something we just whipped up. It comes from our backgrounds and cultures and something we are very passionate about.”
The team brainstormed deeply to come up with their menu for the competition. “We really dug deep and asked what it is that we wanted to showcase,” said Sidney.
“Either we had it in our childhood or it played a role in our culinary journey. So, each of us had a connect to it.”
Having worked with each other for over two years, chefs admitted that coming to Dubai was a huge turning point in their careers. “It broadened our horizons,” said Sameera.
“We started adopting a more global approach to our cooking styles. Dubai is such a cultural hotspot that all the different nationalities and cooking styles we see around us has had a major influence on us.”
Atul Chopra, founder and CEO of Fresh On Table, was one of the judges of the event and he said he was impressed with how chefs from various countries around the world had adopted sustainability into their cooking styles. “Here in the UAE, we are living in a desert so obviously sustainability is very high on our agenda,” he said.
“But countries like Thailand and India have a society based on agriculture. Even so, they are taking sustainability very seriously. For me, that is the biggest highlight of this competition.”
Atul said he made it a point to question each team on where they had got their produce from. “If the teams had said they brought it from their home country, I would have deducted points, but they didn’t,” he said.
“Everyone used produce from here and I was very happy about it.”
According to Atul, the competition gave young chefs a chance to showcase their skills. “Any platform will help these chefs sharpen their skills,” he said.
Russell agreed with him. “Such competitions give young chefs an amazing platform to shine,” he said.
“Sometimes they get lost in the kitchen. There is so much talent out there and by giving such platforms, it really celebrates young talent in the city. Quite rightly, Dubai has taken a seat at the top table of global cuisine, but it is really down to the young guys to continue to make the magic happen. Of course, the seniors are there to drive the movement, but we need the young chefs to carry on the legacy.”