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Heat Goes On School Chefs In Asian Cook Off

From Mangonui in the Far North, to Invercargill in the south, the heat is on to find New Zealand’s best original Asian-style dish in the nation-wide schools cooking competition, the On energy Great Asian Cook Off.

Almost 3,000 students from 100 schools have entered the competition so far in the hope of winning the grand prize of a trip for two to Hong Kong flying Cathay Pacific. In the first phase of the contest schools will be holding heats to select junior and senior representatives for the regional finals on August 18.

Organised by the Asia 2000 Foundation, the Cook Off is thought to be New Zealand’s only national schools cooking competition and is sponsored by On energy, New Zealand Beef & Lamb, Lee Kum Kee, SunRice, ZM, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Cathay Pacific and the BBQ Factory.

The contest encourages students in years 9-13 to learn more about Asian food-styles, food preparation and cooking in a “professional” environment. It was designed specifically for schools by a professional cooking studies tutor, and has the backing of the Home Economics and Food Technology Teachers Association and the National Heart Foundation.

“The main objective of the Cook Off is for students to have fun while learning about the different food styles and cultures of the wider Asia region, many of which are part of their own communities,” says organiser Stephannie Tims. “But there’s a serious side, too – students who may be thinking about a culinary career can experience what’s its like to work under pressure in a busy kitchen.”

Students must design and cook a nutritionally balanced Asian/Pacific Rim dish for two people within one hour using beef or lamb and sauces from Lee Kum Kee. Judges (usually drawn from polytechnics and the trade) will be looking at preparation and cooking skill, creativity, presentation, taste, and nutritional balance among other factors. “The winning dish will reflect a modern approach to Asian cuisine, with clear concepts of flavour and colour, and high nutritional values,” says Ms Tims. “But we’ll also be looking for that something extra: Asian-style cooking with a taste of home – the Pacific.”

The Cook Off will take place in four phases. The first “heats” are now getting under way in schools. The best two junior and senior students from each school will take part in regional competitions on Saturday 18 August in 16 or so polytechnics and technical institutes throughout the country. First, second and third regional place-getters go onto the semi-finals in 10 major shopping centres on Saturday 1 September. Up to 20 finalists will go on to the Grand Final Cook Off to be staged in Auckland on SUNDAY 16 SEPTEMBER at the national Culinary Fare at the Logan Campbell Centre.


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