Cooking Competition Made Easy

If you want to enter a cooking competition, Rudy Takarianta suggests some tips to make everything much easier and simpler.

SIAL Interfood 2017 marked the first ever La Cuisine in Indonesia, held by ACP (Association of Culinary Professionals). Rudy Takarianta, Executive Chef of JS Luwansa Hotel, also a judge who’s also in ACP, regrets that some competitors had made some unnecessary mistakes if they’re more careful. As a judge, Rudy explained many things he wished to see, also what he didn’t on a plate that was served in front of the judges.

From various competition categories in La Cuisine, which one was the favorite?

In whatever cooking competition, usually the most favorite one is Live Cooking. The competitors are almost full, because they find that they are more comfortable in doing live competition. It’s different case with other categories, such as showpiece, cake, or petit four which usually have some days to prepare in advance. Actually, in this category, the competitors have the chance to be more creative because they have more time.

As a judge, what kind of mistakes you often see in competitions?
Usually, the competitors focused only on preparing the food within the appointed time and spectacular presentation, but sometimes they forget that they are literally serving actual food to someone. We have to know that the food is categorized in 4 components: protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, and sauce. If chicken (protein) is the main dish, how much percent left are there for the carbohydrate, vegetable, and sauce?

What often happens is the unproportional distribution of the components, such as too much protein so they neglected the carbohydrate, or the otherwise, too little protein that the vegetable filled the dish, and not providing any sauces. And when everything looks proportional, that’s not the end of the story.

The last one would be about taste, this is the weakness for most of competitors, especially the rookie. They often forget the ideal texture of the meat they bring. Please note that every kind of meat, from chicken, fish, beef, has its own ideal doneness evel. For fish, not every fish can be served rare, with the exception of salmon. Most of the times, for the judges, we look back at the title of the menu. We even often get fooled, when the presentation was beautiful and the proportion was balanced, we thought, “this will be awarded with gold medal” When we slice it, we found that the meat is still rare. When that happens, for the taste section, the score would be straight 0, because it is not edible. It’s a pity because taste has the most score, I found many fatal mistakes like these.

I have a background as a butcher, I know exactly the doneness level of each meat, along with the ideal cooking method. Perhaps people underestimate butchers’ role and assume they’re just handling raw meat. But if you don’t understand the texture of the met since the beginning, you can’t cook it correctly.

Just look at us judges as your guests. Please note that things which are not edible, should not be served in competitions. Let alone raw meat, if we see raw vegetable, we don’t hesitate to fail you. It’s a pity, because we have many competitors who are already working in professional kitchen.

What are the criterias for the judging?
It started from the ingredients preparation, how to cook, are they already doing the professional process? And then we have the service. In front of the judges, we’ll judge the taste and presentation. Presentation has much lower rate of failing than taste.

In every competition, we always give the rulebook. We write down clearly what you should bring according to the competition categories. At the end of the book, we always give the useful hints & tips. We gave them because we often see competitors from previous competition who bring the unnecessary ingredients and tools. Some of the tips examples are: you should use white plate, the color combination the judges expected. If you are careful, actually whatever cooking competition you enter would be far much easier and simpler, however Indonesians are notorious for our reluctance to reading.

Another example would be on Tumpeng Live Cooking competition. If you read the rulebook, you’d know that peel and clean is allowed, it means you may peel and clean the ginger from home, meanwhile for the basic ingredients you may not bring the prepared ones. The main ingredients should be prepared in competition, you can’t even blend it beforehand.

The last tips would be, you have to use the main sponsor’s products. Whether the main sponor is Kikkoman or San Remo, use them. There’s significant score reduction if you don’t play by the rule. Once again, please, read the rulebook, if you do, everything will be much simpler.

What are the judges expectations actually?
We have assumptions. We know some competitors who tried complicated things but have difficulties in the execution. On the other hand, the one who tried simple things managed to amaze us. The example is in La Cuisine, there’s a competitor who prepare the Kikkoman soy sauce as mousse for the vegetable. It’s a new sensation, a breakthrough idea. All of the judges agree that the competitor deserved a gold medal because of his simple idea, cleanliness, but managed to deliver amazing result.

Another thing to note is the use of micro leaf or micro flower, which is now trending. Of course, color combination affects the presentation, but please remember, these kinds of decoration are not edible, so use them wisely, no need to be excessive.