Cooking enthusiasts, culinary students or even restaurateurs, they are 21 pre-selected to take on the challenge launched by the Digital Challenge and TéléPlus, in partnership with Tea Blenders Ltd (TBL Ltd), as part of the Kitchen Battle competition. The pre-selected auditions were held yesterday, Sunday 8 May, in the buildings of the Défi Training School on rue Labourdonnais in Port-Louis. The program will soon be broadcast on the Defimedia.info Facebook page and the TéléPlus YouTube channel. Back on this day rich in discoveries.
At 9.30 am the pressure for the candidates starts to mount. In a few minutes they will each pass before the jury, consisting of chefs Vijranand Kallooa, Avinash Cheenatur, Veerun Pillay and Ricardo Kathan. The latter are members of the Mauritian Chefs Association. A few tight smiles, shaking hands and a few beads of sweat on their foreheads, some candidates can’t hide the stress of the moment. While some are regulars at culinary competitions, others are having their first experience. Out of 100 applications, only 30 were selected, but some were unable to answer the call on Sunday. The dishes are already prepared at home to save time. But they had to train them on the spot to put the finishing touches on their new creations.
Candidates were scored on presentation, dish temperature, taste and balance of flavours, texture, suitability of the recipe and its execution. They were also judged on their knowledge of the ingredients used and their techniques.
The last dressings are going well for the first group of pre-selected ones. In the distance we see Carleen Tse, 26, a chocolate lover who has chosen to offer a savory dish with chocolate sauce. A perilous challenge according to the chefs, but one that she could handle. A “butter chicken” smell also perfumes the room. This is the dish of Deevilesh Omrawoo, 25. A telecommunications engineer by trade, he left everything behind to indulge his passion for cooking. When she was 17, Annieska presented Juliette with a dish of chicken stir-fry and vegetables. Veeramootoo Murdamootoo’s good humor immediately captivated the jury. This snack manager presents a platter with breadfruit au gratin. The profiles follow each other and are not the same.
These cooking enthusiasts were seduced by the taste of their dishes to some or the presentation to others. Like Kormagen Valaven, 18, and his beautifully dressed seafood platter, or Umair Mungloo and his shrimp carpaccio, or even Emmanuel Lisette, Culinary Arts student at Polytechnics Mauritius. Others, regulars of culinary competitions, but also mothers, conveyed their love in their dishes, in particular Laura Sangeeleemootoo, who treated the “brède mouroum” in different variations. Manome Curpen, 56, who has won competitions before, invented a moussaka dish that only she has the secret to. “I didn’t come to win. The most important thing for me is to participate,” she confides.
Food vlogger Ashvin Pothano of Pothaknows was also on hand to support the participants and chefs on the day. He will act as an influencer during the episodes.
At the end of this trial marathon, the chefs had to do a lot to choose the sixteen best dishes. In fact, they say they are pleasantly surprised and impressed by the level. “We saw cooking enthusiasts from 17 to 71 years old pass by before our eyes. We had fairly good dishes,” emphasizes chef Veeren Pillay.
Same story with Shareemah Boolakee, Group Digital Project Manager at Defi Media Group. Since the incarceration, the team has staged no less than a hundred cooking shows. “The shows started during the 2020 incarceration. We had the idea to install a cooking studio on our property in view of the need for entertainment for Mauritians.”
Kitchen Battle is the first show on such a large scale orchestrated by Défi Digital and TéléPlus. “We had participants of all ages and social strata. Some have overcome their shyness to enter the competition. The show wouldn’t be possible without our partners,” said Shareemah Boolakee.
The next step is the ‘battles’: two participants compete per theme. One of them will be eliminated and the other will reach the quarter-finals and then the two semi-finals. The two best candidates advance to the final.
This event had the support of several partners including Tea Blenders Ltd, Batimex, Cidona, Polytechnics Mauritius, Lajawab, Soap and Allied, Canal+, AB Desai, Eagle Brand, Avsar, Winner’s, Oceamer, Unanyme, Air Mauritius, Prodigal, Mauritian Chefs Association, Club Med Albion, Les Jardins de Medine, Del Spa, Krestrel Gym, Atom Travel, Luxe Boulevard Ltd, Moroil, Polytol Paints and Lemon Yellow.