The ‘Inter-Hotel Culinary Competition – Mystery Box Challenge’ is returning to Saudi Arabia this week with a bigger line up of hotels and resorts for its 2018 edition, battling it out to be recognised as the country’s finest hotel kitchen.
After its highly successful debut in 2017 which saw Jeddah’s Mövenpick Resort Al Nawras cook up a storm to be crowned champion, the competition will now remain a central annual feature of The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia and run across its three days – 10-12th April 2018 – at the Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events.
Some of the finest hotels from across the Kingdom are set to take part this year including: Hotel Pullman Zamzam Makkah, InterContinental Jeddah, Le Méridien Towers Makkah, Hotel Mercure Jeddah Al Hamra, and Swissotel Al Maqam Makkah.
Endorsed by WORLDCHEFS, the Saudi Arabian Chefs’ Association and Culinary Partner, Unilever Food Solutions, the competition is the only of its kind in the Kingdom and its organisers’ have raised the bar this year to provide an even more challenging experience for competing F&B teams.
“In 2018 we will continue with the ‘Mystery Box’ concept, but in order to increase the degree of difficulty for the chefs we are reducing the available cooking time and adding in some more tricky ingredients – with a focus on healthy eating,” said Chef Yasser Jad – Founder and President of the Saudi Arabian Chefs’ Association (SARCA) and Food and Beverage Manager at Saudi Airlines – who will chair the panel of judges, a line-up of international chefs based outside the hotel environment, to ensure impartial judging.
Each of the teams will be given 2-3 hours to whip-up four courses using ‘Mystery Box’ ingredients only revealed to them once they have stepped inside the kitchen.
Jad added: “To cook an impressive, tasty four-course meal from unfamiliar ingredients is a challenging feat for any chef.
“This competition is so important for chefs in the Kingdom today. There is a wealth of new hotel and restaurant concepts opening with so many international dining options on the agenda. Hotel chefs need to be prepared to handle a wider range of new ingredients to cater to the tastes of both domestic and global travelers.
“More people are traveling across Saudi than ever before. A Japanese guest, for example, staying at a local, traditional Arabic hotel might ask for something with more of an oriental flavor that’s not on the menu. Today’s chefs need to be versatile to cater to the needs of international palettes. More unusual takes on the items in the Mystery Box and a real focus on flavor – which makes up the largest part of the scoring at 50% – is what will set the winning team apart from the rest of the competition.”
The judges will sample each dish created, before crowning the winners based on the WORLDCHEFS-approved judging criteria namely: fixed time (0-5 points), preparations and processing of raw materials and hygiene (0-10 points), correct professional preparation (0-25 points), organization and innovative presentation (0-10 points), and taste (0-50 points).
Speaking about the Mystery Box concept – made famous by various international food television programmes – Jad added: “Cooking TV shows such as ‘Master Chef Arabia’ and ‘Top Chef’ – which I have personally participated in as jury judge – undoubtedly encourage amateur and professional chefs of all ages and classes not to fear the audience and to be themselves given the challenges they face so as to develop their skills. This will also help them develop the necessary personality traits to become one of the respected, world-class chefs in the future.”
The Inter-Hotel Culinary Competition – Mystery Box Challenge will take place throughout The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia, 10-12th April 2018 at the Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events, with a series of heats each day until the winner is revealed on the final day of the event (12th April 2018).
Now entering its 6th year, the Saudi Arabian edition of Dubai-based The Hotel Show unites thousands of hotel and restaurant professionals for three days of business and networking each year.
For more information on The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia 2018 and how to register to attend for free, please visit: www.thehotelshowsaudiarabia.com
Pictured: last year’s winners of the debut Inter-Hotel Culinary Competition – Mystery Box Challenge from the Mövenpick Resort Al Nawras Jeddah with the expert judging panel from WORLDCHEFS, and representatives from The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia and sponsors RAK Porcelain