The Navhind Times culinary competition, The Goan Woman Chef of the Year, in partnership with Taj Exotica Goa, was held on Sunday, July 2 at the hotel premises in Benaulim. Sixty two ladies from across the state participated in the competition that was organised to challenge and test their culinary skills. Designed exclusively for women, the competition aimed to promote a culinary passion and taste for excellence in the participants and bring to the fore some traditional recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Registration which was to begin at 9 a.m, commenced at 8.15 on the arrival of an enthusiastic young participant. The buzz as the contestants arrived and registered can only be described as extremely exciting and infectious. Ladies with their assistants and some with their families had come fully prepared with their dishes, garnishes and of course presentation items. The competition began with a briefing wherein rules and regulations and judging parameters were clearly explained.
Participants were then given 20 minutes for setting up their dishes, and the allotted table in the presentation hall. There was a flurry of activity as contestants rushed to present their dishes as planned by them. The dishes which were prepared at home by the contestants spanned Saraswat, Goan and Portuguese cuisine. Dik, Bachaulau, Chocopataudio Delight and Mori Tonak were some of the mouth-watering dishes on display.
Traditional Goan crockery, spoons, plants, flowers and even a toddy trapper’s pot was used for presentation. The tables with the laden food and amazing props were definitely a feast for the eyes. The 5 judges namely, owner of Fernando’s Nostalgia in Raia, Margarida Tavora e Costa; Goan Master Chef at Le Meridien, Chef Sacramenta Carvalho (Sarita); Corporate Chef for Goan Cuisine for Taj group, Urbano Rego; Executive Chef Taj Exotica Goa, Shyam Longani and Executive Sous Chef, Taj Exotica Goa, Melroy D’Souza; had a tough time making a decision with regards to the winners. “It is absolutely amazing to see the spread that the contestants have put up and what is even more admirable is the time and effort each woman has invested in the preparation and presentation of the dish,” said Chef Longani. The tasting was divided amongst the judges and each tasted about 12 dishes grading on taste, authenticity and presentation. To ensure fair judging, ten dishes were shortlisted and the judges again tasted and graded before zeroing on the winners.
While the results were being finalised, celebrity chef of the Taj group, Urbano Rego, gave a demonstration of two of his signature dishes; Lominho de Galinha Freito (starter) and Prawn Stew.
This was followed by the award ceremony and Sarita Fernandes’ Bebinca was chosen as the winning dish while the 1st runner up was Cliffa Fernandes’ Sorpotel. 2nd runner up was Nadia Marie do Rosario Aguiar for her Toucinho Do Céu. The judges also awarded two special prizes for the Alsanyache dhabdhabith by Chitra Sawnt Natekar and Ambyachi Kheer by Juliet Vaz. In addition there was a prize for the youngest participant which was given to Shwetha Pandey.
Exciting prizes were given to the winners and the 1st prize was a 2 nights’ stay for a couple at St. James Court, a Taj Hotel in London besides a dinner for four at Miguel Arcanjo- Mediterranean Restaurant at Taj Exotica Goa. Medals, mementos, bouquets, certificates and trophies were given to the winners. “It would have made my late mother-in-law so happy to know that her recipe won the prize,” said a tearful and emotional Sarita Fernandes as she accepted her prize.
Speaking on the occasion general manger of the Navhind Times, Pramod Revankar congratulated and praised all the participants and said, “We are extremely happy that the competition has turned out so successfully and wish to make it an annual event.” Area Director Taj Goa and general manager Taj Exotica, Goa, Vincent Ramos, spoke about the essence of a woman and why The Goan Woman Chef of the Year was a testimony to that very essence and the various roles she plays. “I am spellbound to see the enthusiastic participation and the way the dishes are presented by each participant, it is simply marvellous. Truly amazing to see so many ladies from all over Goa taking part and with such enthusiasm,” he added.
Excellence was the keyword in the successful collaboration between The Navhind Times and Taj Exotica Goa and it promises to only get better every year.