Published: 05th January 2021
Here's how this 16-year-old became the youngest chef to win 4 silver medals at the Culinary Olympics 2020
16-year-old Yeshwanth from Chennai tells us how he got interested in cooking and culinary arts from his childhood. We find out more
For 16-year-old Yeshwanth Kumar Umasankar, his childhood was not a regular one like most other kids of his age. Yeshwanth watched his father, who is a chef, work in their kitchen, instead of playing with toys or even spending time with friends. His fascination for cooking began at an early age, nine to be exact when he first participated in a local cookery competition in Chennai. From then to now, Yeshwanth has definitely come a long way. He recently represented India at the Culinary Olympics 2020 in February that took place at Stuttgart, Germany, where he won four silver medals.
A total of 2,000 chefs from across 59 countries had participated in the Culinary Olympics 2020 held between February 14-19 at Stuttgart. Yeshwanth did not participate in the cooking events as it required a trained team of professionals but he did secure four medals in four different competitions related to vegetable carving and other culinary arts. There was no age limit for the events he took part in but he says that he was the youngest one to do so among a thousand other chefs. "In one of the competitions, we were given three hours to showcase our carving skills. We had to choose five fruits and vegetables including a pumpkin, which was mandatory. I also participated in a few other events which did not have a time limit, we just had to showcase our creativity in terms of vegetable carving and finally present it to an expert jury," Yeshwanth tells us. For those who were not aware, the Culinary Olympics is the oldest, largest, and most diverse international culinary arts competition in the world. Just like the Olympic Games, this one too takes place every four years.
The 16-year-old's first vegetable and fruit carving attempt was in 2015. Since then, he followed his father everywhere, around the world wherever he went for his work. Yeshwanth met his father's colleagues who are also chefs and culinary artists from various parts of the world. In 2015, Yeshwanth also devoted his summer holidays to train at India's best culinary school Culinary Academy of India and a fortnight of professional training helped him sharpen his skills, adds the young chef. Yeshwanth tells us that he had to drop out of regular school and appeared for his Class 10 board exams under the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) as he already knew that his board exam dates would clash with the Culinary Olympics.
When we asked him who his inspiration is, Yeshwanth tells us it has always been his father. His father, chef Umashankar Dhanapal has been working at a well-known hotel in Chennai for the past few years. He used to take Yeshwanth on world tours when he went for work. The young chef met experts and learned how things work in the industry. "I had participated in a lot of competitions when I was younger but initially did not win anything. My father had also represented India for the Culinary Olympics in 2012, 2016 and won Bronze medals in both the editions. I had seen my father work and how his designs came alive through the carving. So, I had made this my aim and took part in the Olympics this year," adds Yeshwanth.
Yeshwanth has numerous feathers in his cap at this young age. He won the Super Chef Chennai competition three years in a row and it is considered to the toughest culinary arts-related competition in the city. In addition to this, he won 5 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal from the professional culinary competitions organised by various Culinary Associations of India. Yeshwanth has also received a higher-education scholarship from the Vels University's Ishari Ganesh after he witnessed the young chef's skills at one of the local culinary events in the city.
Going forward, Yeshwanth wishes to become a celebrity and start his own brand of culinary equipment. He adds that he expects some amount of financial support from the government in order to achieve his dreams. "Having some help would obviously make a difference," he concludes.
Some of his carvings: