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Srijaenthi Natraj from the International Centre for Culinary Arts - ICCA Dubai, representing the UAE, won Silver in the 7th International Young Chef Olympiad (YCO). Apart from winning the Silver, she also bagged the title for Best Chicken Dish, with her modern interpretation of a classic Emarati favourite.

Organised by the International Hospitality Council (IHC), London, in association with the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), YCO 2021 turned out to be the world’s biggest virtual culinary battle spanning across 6 continents, 24 time zones and over 8 days, with participants from 100 countries fighting tooth and nail to win the coveted title.

The competition saw two main rounds, where, in the first round; contestants were divided into virtual breakout rooms based on their time zones and were given two-and-a-half hours to prepare three dishes in highly monitored conditions.

Srijaenthi chose to do Chicken Saluna – a modern interpretation of the traditional Emirati favourite for mains, the Middle Eastern vegetarian Baba Ganoush with a twist as an appetiser, along with the all-time classic Chocolate Eclairs for dessert.

Following the first round, Srijaenthi was shortlisted amongst the top 10 participants who moved into the Grand Finale, where she prepared two products; a perfectly clear and elegantly presented Chicken Consomme and St Honore Gateau, on-camera which won the Silver Medal.

For the Live broadcast, a state of the art six-camera setup using Nikon Z6 in 4K HD, covering the front, all sides, top-down, together with a Hand-Held as well, for up-close shots, helped cover all possible angles in great detail to help replicate an as seen in real-life experience, was thoughtfully put into place by Team ICCA - Media.

As the competition was held and judged online, each country had a Country Judge for a fair and accurate evaluation of taste, temperature, flavours, consistency, and standards prescribed, all critical aspects in culinary which couldn't be experienced online.

For the UAE, it was none other than Chef Uwe Micheel, Vice President WorldChefs, President, Emirates Culinary Guild, appointed as the Country Judge, with Chef Vrushali Jadhav, Chef Instructor, ICCA Dubai as the Team Mentor, who helped pave way for this glorious achievement.

Srijaenthi, is a double Diploma graduate in Cookery and Baking & Patisserie from the International Centre for Culinary Arts, (ICCA) Dubai, a City & Guilds, London Approved Centre recognized by KHDA, and she also holds a Bachelor's in Hot Kitchen and Hospitality Management from the Culinary Institute of America, Singapore.

“I am overjoyed with the results and really glad to be able to represent the UAE in this competition with an elevated version of dishes that are staples of this region. And I am very much grateful to my mentor, Chef Vrushali Jadhav for being instrumental in fine-tuning my recipes and putting in the long hours of training which prepared me for a competition of this scale," says Srijaenthi.

This united platform of young chefs is the perfect example of bonding, friendship and learning together. More than a competition, YCO is now a global youth platform and launchpad for the culinary superstars of tomorrow.