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Two-in-a-row for Dubai's top junior chef

A young Goan chef has captured his second Junior Chef of the Year title on the trot, beating 450 hopefuls and winning a trip to London to experience the city's culinary scene.

Young chef Francky Godinho has become the first back-to-back winner of the Emirates Culinary Guild’s Junior Chef of the Year competition. The 26-year-old Goan emerged victorious after 450 hopefuls battled for a week in a live cooking arena under the watchful eye of an international panel of top judges.

Godinho’s triumph has earned him a week in London, where he will work at the Sheraton Park Lane, meet celebrity chefs and visit some of the city’s leading restaurants. “I can’t wait to go to London as I have heard so much about the restaurant scene there. Hopefully it will be a really valuable experience,” said Godinho, chef de partie at the Burj Al Arab’s flagship restaurant, Al Muntaha.

The competition, which provides a rigorous examination of each participant’s abilities, acts as an invaluable tool for the development of young talent in the region, according to the judges.

“These guys really benefit from the feedback,” said Ralph Porciani, executive chef at Westin Turnberry, Scotland. “We advise them and guide them on what kind of dish they want to come up with, and then break the dish down for them and give them pointers, before sending them back to improve it. On top of that there are all the hours in the week that we can coach them on their techniques, so it really is a huge training tool.”

The standard of the competitors varied enormously. “It was a very mixed bag,” noted Andrew Bennett, executive chef at Sheraton Park Lane. “There were some dishes that were clearly well-practiced and developed. But a lot were a bit muddled. Some had what we call seven touches, seven different things crammed onto a plate, and inside those seven components there might have been a total of 12 different flavours going on,” he added.

The end lesson for Dubai’s culinary talent was quite simply, that less is always more. “After this experience hopefully they will learn not to overload their dishes with flavours and concentrate on more simplicity. They need to stop trying to be clever, and rather just get those three or four components spot on,” said Porciani.

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