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Hong Kong Jockey Club Chefs Win Asian Chef Challenge

Published: Jul 26, 2013
The inaugural United Tastes of America - Asian Chef Challenge at the Taipei International Food Show’s USA Pavilion, organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation and supported by the American Institute in Taiwan on June 27, was a huge success. The grand champions were Chefs Eyck Zimmer and Yiu Sing Lau from Hong Kong Jockey Club's Derby Restaurant. The first runner-up was Tokyo’s Kenzo Estate Winery. Taipei's Bite 2 Eat won second runner-up and Best Dessert. The third runner-up was Shanghai’s Le Domaine du Lac.

Chef Lars Kronmark teaches American Institute of Taiwan Director Christopher J. Marut how to cook a U.S. pork loin

“United Tastes of America was a rewarding experience not only for the U.S. meat industry, but all of U.S. agriculture," said USMEF Senior Vice President Joel Haggard. "This is one of the largest scale U.S. agriculture and food events in the region, and the local food and beverage industries stood up and took notice.”

In concert with some two dozen other U.S. food and agriculture groups and regional USDA Agricultural Trade Offices, USMEF organized the Asian Chef Challenge to culminate on June 27 at the Taipei International Food Show. The event was funded by the USDA's Market Access Program's Global Broad-Based Initiative Fund. With professional guidance from a distinguished panel of top regional chefs and the Culinary Institute of America, the preliminary and final contests were implemented in line with international chef competition guidelines established by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). A year of meticulous planning involving ancillary activities including seminars, media events, and events preceded the event. The Hong Kong United Tastes of America competition, for example, pitted sixteen professional chef teams from Hong Kong and Macau against each other in a contest to prepare an outstanding four-course meal created with three dozen U.S. food ingredients, ranging from Denver lamb ribs to U.S. figs, pecans and cranberries. Similar contests were held in March in Taipei, Tokyo and Shanghai. USDA’s Agricultural Trade Offices in each location provided critical support in coordinating the activity and generating media attention, and initial estimates of the value of the media coverage of the four preliminary United Tastes contests exceed $400,000. Tudou – China’s version of Youtube – posted extensive footage of the Shanghai preliminary, and more than a dozen Shanghai-based lifestyle journalists traveled to Taipei for the final contest.

The Asian Chef Challenge was judged to the highest professional standards

The cooking competition has already resulted in a bump for U.S. food sales and interest in featuring the United Tastes of America theme. After the preliminary competition, one famous Taiwanese restaurant chain, Shin-Yeh, started buying U.S. rib-eye beef, which they did not use in the past. The Grand Hotel and Crescent Phoenix Hospitality Group also plan to launch menu promotions that will feature their winning dishes made with numerous U.S. ingredients. In Hong Kong, western operator Fat Angelo’s is currently featuring a United Tastes of America menu with popular dishes such as a 24 ounce bone-in ribeye steak and a U.S. pork rib platter.

“We believe United Tastes of America has the potential to become a renowned, branded U.S. food activity like the Great American Barbecue in Hong Kong,” said USMEF-Hong Kong's John Lam. “It has allowed us to reach culinary influencers of the future and to forge very positive relationships with the up-and coming youth of the Asian culinary world.”

This international chef competition, co-sponsored by several U.S. agricultural producer groups attracted culinary talents from Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei to compete for Asia's top chef's title. The winning chefs from preliminary competitions in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei faced off for the grand championship:
  • Tokyo - Kenzo Estate Winery: Chef Yonezawa Fumio and Chef Mariko Kuramoto
  • Hong Kong - Derby Restaurant, Hong Kong Jockey Club: Chef Eyck Christian Zimmer and Chef Yiu Sing Lau
  • Shanghai - Le Domaine du Lac: Chef Yi-Lin Pan and Chef Xiao-Hwa Lee
  • Taipei - Bite-2-Eat: Chef Edward Lee and Chef Ethan Lin

The chefs created an appetizer, soup, a main course and dessert using 20 high-quality U.S. ingredients in the three-hour final competition. The mandatory meat ingredients were U.S. pork bone-in loin and U.S. Prime strip-loin beef. The winning Hong Kong chefs managed the ingredients with a culinary and aesthetic brilliance that won them the championship. The winning team was awarded round-trip air tickets from Delta Airlines to attend the Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival in the U.S., which is organized by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the premier U.S. culinary education institution.

"The difference between winning and losing was presentation and taste," said Judge Bill Sy.

Best Main Course was awarded unanimously by the judges to Tokyo’s Kenzo Estate Winery judges. Chefs Yonezawa Fumio and Mariko Kuramoto cooked a U.S. prime striploin with a U.S. fig sauce that complemented the beef perfectly without overpowering it.

The USA Pavilion was the largest international pavilion at the Taipei International Food Show. U.S. exhibitors offered a wide range of high-quality American food and agricultural products from 25 companies at 75 booths. Following the food show, a series of exciting culinary events, celebrating the birthday of the United States rolled on in July, beginning with CitySuper's kick-off of its USA Food Festival on July 4. The Grand Hi Lai Hotel in Kaohsiung launched a tantalizing American-month menu featuring high-quality U.S. dry-aged beef in July.