With an aim to challenge and test the culinary skills of Goan women, The Navhind Times in partnership with Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Goa organised a culinary competition, on Sunday, July 8 at the hotel premises in Benaulim. Eighty seven ladies from across the state participated in the competition that included a hundred and thirty eight dishes. Designed exclusively for women, this competition was conceptualised with the objective to promote culinary passion and taste for excellence in the participants and bring to the fore some traditional recipes that have been handed down through generations.

Registration commenced at 8.30 a.m, and the buzz as the contestants arrived and registered was extremely exciting and infectious. The participants had come fully prepared with their dishes, garnishes and of course presentation items.

Contestants were given time to set up their dishes in the allotted spot on the table in the presentation hall. There was a flurry of activity as the ladies 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. Jackfruit cutlets, alluchi panache bhaji, ansa pansache sansav with sukhi sungta, pork Alentejana and dry mackerel Amotik were some of the mouth-watering dishes on display.

Participant’s creativity came shining through not just in the preparation of their dishes but also in the garnishes used and presentation. Traditional Goan crockery, spoons, plants, and flowers were used for highlighting the dishes and the cuisines. The tables laden with food and amazing props were definitely a treat to the eyes. Keeping in mind the increased number of dishes and participants this year, the number of judges too were increased and the 10 judges included, proprietor of Mum’s Kitchen restaurant in Miramar, Suzie Martins; director of Kamat Construction Private Limited and author of the book ‘Mom’s Recipes, Smita Uday Kamat; specialist and consultant in Goan Hindu cuisine, Anjali Walaulikar; Goan Master Chef at Lalit Goa, Chef Sacramenta Carvalho (Sarita); Director and CEO, Nirvana Arts Private Limited, Sneha Bhandare; Managing Director, Event Bazaar and Secretary, Goa Culinary Club, Sunita Rodrigues; Corporate Chef for Goan Cuisine – Taj Group, Chef Urbano Rego; Sous Chef, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Chef Edridge Vaz; Director, Madame Rosa Distillery and President of the Cashew Fenny Distillers Association, Mac Vaz; and Executive Sous Chef, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Chef Melroy D’Souza. The judges had a tough time making a decision with regards to the winners. “It as extremely heart warming to see so many women of different ages proudly showcase Goan food at the event. Listening to the story and emotion behind each dish really made my day! I am proud and happy to be associated with the Goan Woman Chef of the Year 2018,” said Sunita Rodrigues. The tasting was divided amongst the judges and each tasted about 10 dishes grading on taste, authenticity and creativity. Out of the total of 138 dishes, twenty eight dishes were shortlisted for the semi-final to ensure fair judging. The twenty eight dishes shortlisted were judged by all the 10 judges before selecting the winners.

While the tasting and judging was being done, live entertainment by duo Frank & Angelo and spot prizes were organised in the restaurant for the family members of the participants along with high-tea.

From the twenty eight short-listed dishes, the judges selected eight finalists, two in each category. There were 4 gold medallists and four runners-up in the Saraswat and Goan/Portuguese cuisine and the overall prize for excellence was The Goan Woman Chef of the Year. The prize winners in the Goan Saraswat cuisine under main course were – Medha Talaulikar for her Prawn Uddemethi and runner-up Yogita Dalvi for Lonchyatale Mutton. In the Saraswat dessert category, the winners were: Rucha Talaulikar for Ragi Satwa and runner-up Yogita Dalvi for Tender coconut pudding. In the Goan/Portuguese category under main course the prizes were bagged by Maryann Lobo for Bolo de Camarao and runner-up Prashanti Sawant for Bharleli kurli. Ida Fernandes’ Espumas and Sarita Fernandes’ Bolo sans rival were the winners in the dessert section under Goan/Portuguese cuisine. The overall winner for excellence was Ida Fernandes who was also coincidentally the senior most participant. Her espumas were as light and soft as cotton and melted in the mouth leaving one asking for more!
Exciting prizes were given to the winners and the prizes were as follows:

Winners: Two nights stay at a Taj hotel in India for a couple, a recipe book by Smita Kamat, gift hamper, a gold medal, a trophy and certificate

Runner-up: Meal voucher for a couple at a specialty restaurant at the Taj hotels in Goa, a recipe book by Smita Kamat, gift hamper, a silver medal and certificate

Overall winner: Awarded with a specially designed monogramed apron, a two nights stay at Taj Dubai for a couple, a trophy and certificate

Speaking on the occasion area director Taj Goa and general manager Taj Exotic Resort and Spa, 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. He congratulated each and every participant for showcasing their talent and travelling from across Goa. He said the competition was tough despite having 10 experts to judge, but what was important was the fact that authentic flavours were brought forth by every participant. “The main objective of ‘The Goan Woman Chef Edition II’, is to appreciate culinary talents of Goan ladies while inculcating a spirit of healthy competition and a passion for creativity. Taj strongly believes in gender diversity and women empowerment. Our focus is continuously on initiatives to empower women; initiatives that are designed to increase their degree of self-determination thus enabling them to represent their interests in a responsible and autonomous way,“ he added.

Excellence was the keyword in the successful collaboration between The Navhind Times and Taj Exotica Resort and Spa and it promises to only get better every year.