International Chinese Culinary Competition Gets Cookin’ in Times Square

International Chinese Culinary Competition Gets Cookin’ in Times Square

By Yi Yang
Epoch Times Staff Created: Sep 22, 2011 Last
Updated:
Sep 23, 2011

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Authentic Kung Pao Chicken (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)
NEW YORK—The aroma of freshly prepared Chinese food permeated Times Square
when the biggest Chinese culinary event in New York City kicked off on Thursday
morning.

The heart of Manhattan was transformed into the royal kitchen
of the Tang Dynasty for the Fourth Annual International Chinese Culinary Competition, hosted by the New Tang Dynasty
Television (NTD).

Thirty-one contestants from around the world competed
in five regional categories of traditional Chinese cuisine: Szechuan, Shandong,
Cantonese, Huiyang, and Northeastern.

Five stations were set up for the
contestants, and there were seven rounds of competitions from morning to evening. Contestants had 45
minutes to prepare one self-selected dish and one standard dish in their
regional category. Each round began and ended with the sound of the gong.

The finished dishes were presented to the judges, who evaluated each
dish according to appearance, aroma, and
taste.

After a second day of competition on Friday, the gold winner from
each category will take away $10,000, the silver $3,000, and bronze
$1,000.

Hosts began each round by introducing the contestants, the
judges, and the standard dishes. With the sound of the gong, the contestants
began chopping, slicing, and boiling away.

The chefs carefully prepared
their dishes with their cleavers under the pagoda-like cooking stations, while
staff members dressed in traditional Han couture whisked the prepared food away
to the judges. An LED screen projected the contestants’ progress and showed
video clips about Chinese culinary arts.

Though facing a time limit and
hundreds of eyes, the chefs were surprisingly calm.

“I feel as calm as
usual,” said contestant Chen Zuozhen. “I finished the two dishes within 20
minutes.”

Chen was part of the Cantonese division and chose the steamed
pork ribs with black bean sauce as his self-selected dish.

Last year’s gold medal winner Jiang Rong Yi serves up
authentic Chinese cuisine at the Fourth Annual International Chinese
CulinaryCompetition, being hosted by the New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television in
Times Square on Thursday and Friday. (Amal Chen/The Epoch Times)
Although the contestants come from different parts of the globe, they all
share a common passion for Chinese culture and have extensive experience in the
Chinese culinary arts.

Matthew Babbage, one of the rare Western
contestants, has 30 years of cooking experience. He prepared a Szechuan dish,
Kung Pao Chicken, a dish that he says usually is not prepared authentically in
America.

“I wanted to prepare [Kung Pao Chicken] the way it’s supposed to
be,” explained Babbage. “I’ve always admired China and the Chinese, and what
better way to learn about China than through food?”

Of the 31
contestants, 23 made it into the final rounds, which will happen on Friday. Last
year, only 17 had qualified for the finalcompetition.

Ma Lijuan,
director of the Nine Competitions, said that the results of the competition were
satisfying and this year’s contestants were more skilled in general. She added
that some of the most talented chefs from Asia were not able to attend because
of their visas, and one chef had injured his hand on his flight to New York.

“This year’s competition was very
successful,” said Ma. “Many people worked very hard all night to prepare for
this, and it was worth it.”

The chefs who were selected for the finals
were excited for the day ahead of them.

Sayuki Kandama from Japan, who
had prepared a Northeastern dish, stir-fried julienne pepper and potato, said
that he was “very excited” about becoming a finalist and that he was confident
of his performance tomorrow.

This year’s competition featured a 9/11
charity event to commemorate fallen heroes who participated in the ground zero
rescue, which took place after all the chefs had completed. The event included
the “Lightning Wok Kung Pao Chicken Challenge,” where celebrity chefs were
invited to prepare Kung Pao Chicken, a classic Szechuan dish, for tables of
guests followed by a 10-course Forbidden City feast prepared by past winning
chefs and the celebrity chefs. All money generated from the event will go to
9/11 families.

Among the celebrity chefs were Greg Grossman, a
16-year-old prodigy, Sargent Cosmo Lubrano from the Sargent Benevolent
Association, and Jiang Rong Yi, who was a gold medal winner of last year’s
culinarycompetition.

“It’s an unbelievable experience to be able to cook
in the middle of Times Square,” said Grossman. “The cooking set up is amazing
and it feels like home.”

Grossman
started working at professional kitchens when he was 8 years old. One year ago
he began working with more Asian chefs and learned more about the art of Chinese
food.

Related Articles
In connection with the competition, NTD will hold a silent auction, Han
Couture Fashion Show, and reception on Sunday, followed by a 10-course
“Emperor’s Banquet” prepared by the winning chefs from at Pier Sixty in
Manhattan.

With the goal of “reviving 5,000 years of culture in a single
bite,” NTD, an individual nonprofit
television station, launched the competition in 2008 to change the world’s
perception of Chinese food.

The competition is part of a series of
nine competitions held by NTD. Other competitions include the Han Couture
Competition and Violin Competition.

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