Young chef scores culinary coup for M’sia

KUALA LUMPUR: Focus, consistency and adaptability in the kitchen saw young chef Amelia Ng Mei Vern scoring a culinary coup for the country when she emerged champion at the 2017 Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs Competition in Frankfurt, Germany.

The international competition, held since 1977, is organised by the Chaines des Rotisseurs, a gastronomic society with 25,000 members and a presence in more than 80 countries.

Datuk Dr Jagjit Singh Sambhi, Bailli Délégué (president) of the Malaysian Chaine des Rotisseurs, is very proud of Ng’s win.

“This is only the second win for the Baillage of Malaysia since Norhilme Kamarudin won in 2002.

“As a chef, Amelia is very dedicated, particular and consistent. Her thinking seems to be that she should always aim high, right for the top,” he said.

Ng, 25, beat 20 other chefs from around the world on Sunday night.

Michel Oude Booijink from the Netherlands came in second while third place went to Christopher Allan Malone from Australia.

With just under two years as a commis (junior chef) at Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur, Ng didn’t expect to fare so well against chefs with many more years of experience under their toques.

“I was nervous. But my chef mentor Ismail Md Yusoff said that I couldn’t do much about not having experience, and that I just needed to look forward. My chef de cuisine, Sharusmizal Salleh, has also always been supportive,” she said.

“So I did my best – after all, you are the only one in control of your own future,” said Ng.

It was her focus on classic techniques that propelled her to win.

Competitors were presented with a black box of ingredients, from which they had to create a three-course menu, in four hours. This year’s box included ingredients like trout, lamb rack, artichokes and mango.

“Coming up with the menu was the hardest thing because we couldn’t even predict the ingredients,” said Ng.

“But I had used some of the ingredients before and so was able to write a menu that I could deliver.

“Also, a lot of the other competitors work in Michelin-starred kitchens and are used to fancy equipment, but I am more used to the basics and that helped me adapt to the equipment here,” she added.

Ng created an appetiser of tomato terrine with sole and trout rillettes, and soy ginger dressing.

She then served herb-crusted rack of lamb while dessert was eclairs with mango compote.

Ng received the Arthur Bolli Memorial Trophy, the Gold Medal of la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, five weeks Superior Cuisine training at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and a Wüsthof knife attaché case.

She also scored top marks in the kitchen skills category, scooping up a second prize.

Ng’s heart belongs in the kitchen and her immediate plans are to keep learning.

“I’ve always been inspired by my grandmother who cooked amazing food, from the time I was small. She passed away in 2014, and this win is for her, and for my parents who supported me when I wanted to pursue culinary studies, even though I already have a degree in Mass Communications,” she said.

Dr Sambhi said the Malaysian chapter would be honouring Ng at its Intronisation and Formal Dinner next month.