Saturday, February 02, 2013

Nestle Cooking Contest

My art teacher surprised me in class by handing out a pamphlet, which was a carnival organised by the Thursday Women's Club. The two-day event included numerous competitions, of which the cooking competition caught my attention. Given my love for cooking, my teacher encouraged me to participate in the event. What I thought would be a cake walk turned out to be a nightmare for which I was completely unprepared.

Participants had to prepare a unique recipe using the key ingredient, Nestle's condensed milk, since Nestle sponsored the event. I spoke to my foodie friend Ranju, who suggested a no bake cheesecake, but I was convinced it would be an obvious choice; instead I chose to do the pineapple-condensed milk praline, which did not turn out as exotic as I had visualized it in my head. I spent so much time trying to zero-in on the perfect dessert that I did not invest enough time to practice it. My recipe called for caramelized sugar that had to coat the base of the pudding cup, but I kept burning the sugar. Further, the heavy bottomed vessel made it very tough for the heat to sear the sugar and caramelize it. When I switched to a lighter vessel, the sugar almost got burnt. My trial version of the praline though turned out to be a delectable creamy ice-cream. I was overconfident that I could pull another two cups on the day of the competition. I was so wrong. 

The trial version of the dessert I had prepared did not have the exact proportions; it was more of an instinctive cooking, which is not encouraged when you make desserts. The next day,  I was both nervous and excited since this was my first cooking competition. I was a little disorganized, still not comfortable with sugar caramelization, and the proportions I guess were not correct. To make my case worse, the competition was in the open arena and the stage-lights melted my pudding. 

By the time, the judges Muralidhar, Chef at Savera and the celebrated culinary cook, Malika Bhadrinath came to my table, the pineapples were floating over the condensed milk and it was a murky mess. However, the experience was an excellent eye-opener into the world of desserts. The feedback from the chef helped me understand that the choice of dessert I chose was not right, given the open space and lack of refrigeration and second, the key ingredient did not stand out, since the pineapple overshadowed the condensed milk. Chef Muralidhar was courteous, took the time to give me feedback about my dish and invited me to try the brunch menu at Savera. Infact, I told him I would love to attend his Masterchef class!

My dessert was received well by my fellow participants who enjoyed it thoroughly, and were gracious enough to say I stood a chance if only the pudding had not melted. I had also encouraged my mom to participate. She made condensed milk somasis, which was good, but required a little more frying so that the dough came out crisper. 

The winner of this competition had made Guava Delight, which combined steamed  guava, basmati rice, pureed and cooked in condensed milk, while the second runner up made a no-bake cheesecake. 

In the end, both mom and I both happily walked away with Participation certificates and a bag of Nestle's Milkmaid Creations. I plan to try my hand at desserts at home and maybe attend some interesting classes, participate in more competitions and maybe become a pastry chef for my dream cafe in the near future.

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