My week as a judge at international young chef competition, YCO2020

Our Co-Founder and Michelin Starred Chef, John Wood has just returned from judging an international young chef competition, with contestants from more than 50 countries showcasing their culinary talents.

We asked John to tell us about his week in India, from the glitz and glamour of the opening ceremony, to a humbling visit to a Mother Theresa care home…

Now in it’s 6th year, the Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) is a young chef competition organised by International Hospitality Council (IHC) in partnership with the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM). As the world’s biggest culinary competition. The contest spanned five cities in India: Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Goa, from 28 January to 2 February. I was honoured to be invited back as a judge for a third year and to see how the competition has grown and evolved.

I landed in Delhi on the morning of Tuesday 28th January, headed off to a judges briefing followed by a spectacular opening ceremony and dinner

In 3 days I managed to taste 71 dishes!

The following day we flew out to our respective colleges to judge Round 1 and 2 of the competition. Brian Turner, Chris Galvin and I were all judging in Bangalore along with local judges including Abhijit Saha.

For Round 1 students produced a boned chicken dish of their choice. A vegetarian dish of their choice in addition to a Pear and Almond tart were required for Round 2. The judges had to assess both technical skills, taste and also presentation for 17 competitors each day. The points were then collated across all the other cities where other judges were doing exactly the same.

The top 10 proceeded to the trophy final and were announced at the International United World of Chefs event. This was an amazing evening, where each of the 50+ countries cooked a national dish for everyone at the event to taste.

During the 2 finals, competitors produced a vegetarian starter and prawn main course. In 3 days I managed to taste 71 dishes!

And the winners were…..

YCO2020 ChampionTrophy:

  • Gold – Malaysia
  • Silver – Philippines
  • Bronze – England

The YCO 2020 Champion trophy and title, wasn’t the only accolade up for grabs. There were a total of 25 additional awards including the Rising Star, Best Ambassador, Sustainability Award, Kitchen CUT Award and IHC Foundation Hospitality PR Champion. I was proud to present the Kitchen CUT award to Dominic Muello, from New Zealand. There are full details of all the winners on the YCO2020 website.

The closing ceremony in Kolkata was a spectacular event of music, fireworks and entertainment.

Not just a young chef competition – discovering India

During the breaks from judging we went to various dinners and chatted to the media, but for me the highlight of the trip was taking time out to visit charities.

We were privileged enough to have the opportunity to donate some food to a care home for deaf children and women with disabilities in Bangalore. Whilst in Kolkata we visited one of Mother Theresa’s care homes to meet a number of the sisters and volunteers. These visits were incredibly emotional for the chefs that were there and brought home the reality of the poverty that exists in the World and the wonderful people that dedicate their time to help and support these projects.

India is a very special place. We experienced nothing but friendliness and kindness during the trip and I am already looking forward to YCO2021. The aim is to have over 70 countries involved, so it promises to be even more spectacular!


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