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IFT chefs to compete against global peers in Hong Kong contest

Chefs Ronald Gonzales (right) and Jimmy Cao (left) of IFT’s Educational Restaurant

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Chefs Ronald Gonzales and Jimmy Cao of IFT’s Educational Restaurant are representing the Institute at the upcoming Hong Kong International Culinary Classic (HKICC). The competition – aimed at promoting culinary excellence – is one of the highlights of HOFEX, a leading food and hospitality trade show that takes place once every 2 years in Hong Kong.

HKICC is certified by the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, a body also known as Worldchefs. This year’s edition features more than 20 culinary categories and takes place from 7 to 10 May, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Chef Gonzales, a pastry specialist, has participated in HKICC many times. He has been a trophy winner at the event, and at other international contests.

This year, Chef Gonzales is taking part in the “Pastry – Professional Display: Showpiece – Chocolate” category at HKICC. Competitors are required to demonstrate their abilities using a range of decorating techniques involving chocolate, applied to a single pastry item at least 60 centimetres in height.

“This is a great opportunity, for I am not only competing with people from Macao, but from all over Asia,” Mr Gonzales states. He adds that competing regularly is a good way to ensure he refreshes his skills and knowledge.

Chef Gonzales, who was born in the Philippines, says ability in the culinary arts is something that runs in his family. He represents a third consecutive generation of his family to have worked as a chef.

He has been at IFT for more 10 years. He started as a part-time instructor at the Institute, while also working in the industry. “I became impressed by the students, who really wanted to learn about pastry,” Chef Gonzales explains. “I thought that with my experience, I could help the younger generations to develop their skills.”

He recommends that IFT students should take part in culinary competitions, in order to learn new skills and to prepare for life as professionals. “I am happy to help, and teach them” to prepare for contests, Chef Gonzales says. “I like to share my experience and create things with students. This requires a lot of time, but it’s worthwhile to see the students being able to motivate themselves and really wanting to improve.”

Chef Gonzales is preparing for the 2019 edition of HKICC amid his busy schedule at IFT. His work for the event will need to be “the best of the best,” he says. “My target in this competition is to bring honour to IFT, and to make my students understand that – under the pressure brought by competition – we can eventually achieve more” than might be expected. He adds his motto is “never be afraid, never give up”.

Chef Cao shares a similar passion for culinary work. He has been a professional chef for more than 16 years, and joined IFT 4 years ago. He specialises in Western cuisine.

“There are differences between working in the kitchen of a large hotel and at IFT: the latter is more like a normal restaurant, as everyone in the kitchen actually needs to be involved in all procedures, while in large hotels usually staff specialise in different tasks,” Chef Cao says.

He will be competing at HKICC for the first time, in the “Western Cuisine – Professional: Pork Loin” category. Competitors will have to prepare and present, within 60 minutes, 1 main-course dish, in the form of 3 servings with appropriate garnish.

“I have joined some competitions before, but all only at regional level in Macao. This is larger in scale,” he says.

Chef Cao plans to introduce some Macanese cuisine elements to his dish for HKICC. “The competition I am facing comes from all around the world,” he notes. “Macanese cuisine is found only in Macao, and through this opportunity, I can promote this special type of cuisine to other people.”

Chef Cao believes that by participating in HKICC he can broaden his horizons and gain additional experience. He hopes to learn new things and widen his professional network. “As Macao is getting more internationalised, both young and senior chefs should join this type of competition, to enrich their knowledge and gain inspiration for new ideas,” he says.

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