Published: 30th January 2019
Meet Madhumitha K P, the young chef who's putting India's best cooking out there
Bengaluru's Madhumitha K P represented India in this year's Young Chef Olympiad. We talk to her to find out what went behind the scenes in preparing for this prestigious competition
Meet Madhumitha K P, a 19-year-old chef from Bengaluru who represented India at the 5th edition of the Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) that happened recently in Kolkata. Though none of her family members are into this profession, she was inspired by her mother and dreamt of becoming a famous chef. She says, "When I was in school, I dreamt of getting into the profession of hotel management. But, I did not know that people who cook food in restaurants are called chefs. So after completing class XII, I did a bit of research to find out if there was any course that trains students in culinary arts. Later, I decided that I ought to know everything about running a hotel, from front office management to cooking. That's why I decided to get into IIHM."
Like every year, YCO was a tough competition with candidates from 55 different countries. There were certain criteria that Madhumitha had to fulfill in order to represent the country. She says, "The basic criteria is one should be skillful and creative in cooking. This year, IIHM Bengaluru called for an open contest in order to qualify for YOC. We were asked to make a three-course meal in a few hours. Out of 100 students, fifteen were selected in the initial round and I was one among the three candidates who qualified to compete in the final round, which included students from other IIHM campuses. There were seven students and I won the round to represent our country."
Culinary delights: Around 55 countries participated in the fifth edition of Young Chef Olympiad (Pic:Surabhi Kamat)
Throughout the contest, participants have judged on various aspects apart from the food they prepare. "The judges observe us for our knife skills, cleanliness, how well we can handle pressure, our temper, whether we are team players and willing to help others. All these aspects are taken into consideration," says Madhumitha. Meanwhile, the time they allocate to cook food depends on the menu they provide. According to Madhumitha, they were given three hours to cook a three-course meal. The menu and ingredients are given on the spot and participants are required to make something with it. "It is all upon us to cook it and present it well within the stipulated time," she adds.
When asked about what she does to handle pressure in the kitchen, she says, "Handling pressure is a learning curve and I am still learning. But, our college helps us get hands-on experience by working in luxury hotels. I attended vocational training during my first-year at the Oberoi Hotel. In the second year, we have industrial training for six months and all these are provided in different five star luxury hotels. Besides this, I have a lot of experience in cooking at home and the skills that I have learnt from my mother helped me handle pressure. It is all a game of adding ingredients. The more we cook, the more we understand what goes well with a particular dish."
Madhumitha is a fan of the famous chef Marco Pierre and cooking show 'Nigella Kitchen'. Stalwart judges for YCO included famous chefs like John Wood, Scott Baechler, Enrico Bricarello and Gary Hunter
The first round of Young Chef Olympiad had a set menu including a chicken dish called Poulet Sauté Chasseur, a French cuisine and a dessert called Baba Au Rhum. Since Madhumitha had specialised in French cuisine and she had been following French chefs on social media, it was not difficult for her to prepare these dishes. The second round also had a set menu which included preparing king prawns along with one vegetarian dish in a span of two hours.
The aspiring chef wants to work in a standalone restaurant in Europe after her degree and hopes that it will give her the necessary experience in cooking. In the next five years, she aims to start her own food court chain across India. She also hopes to adopt orphanages and old age homes so that she can provide them regular food.