Maria Fernandes | NT
Edition III of the Goan Woman Chef of the Year was held on August 17 at Taj Exotica Resort and Spa, Benaulim. The culinary competition which has been growing in popularity and number of participants, was organised by The Navhind Times in collaboration with IHCL Goa.
Designed exclusively for women, the competition was conceptualised with the objective to appreciate gastronomic talents of Goan ladies from all walks of life irrespective of caste, creed, race or religion while inculcating a spirit of healthy competition and a passion for creativity; in addition to promoting culinary passion, taste for excellence and bringing to the fore some traditional recipes that have been handed down through generations. The minimum age to apply was 18 and it was heartening to see several 18 year olds participating with gusto. Senior ladies too in their 60s and 70s participated with equal enthusiasm. More than 30 per cent of the participants were in fact in the age group of 50 years and above. The senior-most participant was 79-year-old Aninha de Noronha, who will soon be celebrating her 80th birthday.
Registration commenced at 8:30 a.m, and the buzz and excitement as the contestants arrived and registered was palpable. Hundred ladies from across the state participated enthusiastically with each dish planned, prepared and presented creatively and meticulously.
Every contestant was allotted a spot in the hall to present her dish with ample time for presentation. Keeping in mind the large number of Muslim women and their unique cuisine, this year another category was added for contestants to choose from and also to motivate Muslim ladies to participate. The dishes which were prepared at home by the contestants thus spanned not just Saraswat, Goan and Portuguese cuisine but Goan Muslim cuisine as well. Kokum tart with jackfruit mousse, poss, Banguley ki Fakki, Natas do Ceu, Killache tonak ani adsarache pole and pise were some of the mouth-watering dishes on display.
Participants’ 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 a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Keeping in mind the increased number of dishes and participants this year, the number of judges too were increased and the eight 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; Managing Director, Event Bazaar and secretary, Goa Culinary Club, Sunita Rodrigues; popular TV actor, writer and one of the eminent Goan Master Chefs, Amita Salatry; proprietor of Foxes Fiesta a restaurant in Calangute and a chef by profession, Alka D’Souza; and specialists in Muslim cuisine, Sana Rizvi and Shagufta Amin along with Mayuri Narvekar.
The competition was neck-to-neck and the judges had a tough time deciding the winners. “The dishes were painstakingly made and garnished. Some even had accompaniments! The effort and time taken to prepare and present the dishes was clearly evident. The dishes were well-balanced and cooked to perfection,” said Alka D’Souza. The tasting was divided amongst the judges and each tasted about 15 dishes grading on presentation, taste and innovation. Out of the total dishes, 28 dishes were shortlisted for the semi-final to ensure fair judging. The 28 dishes shortlisted were judged by all eight judges before selecting the winners.
From the 28 shortlisted dishes, the judges selected 14 finalists, two in each category for the Goan and Portuguese cuisine and three in the Goan Muslim and Goan Saraswat cuisine. The overall prize for excellence was ‘The Goan Woman Chef of the Year’. The prize winners were as follows: