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21 February 2007
Cookery competitions are always popular events and we visit one on the Gold Coast that has attracted entrants from top hotels all over the world.
PETER LEWIS: Welcome to the pressure cooker world of an international culinary competition. Generally chefs enjoy a reputation for volatility matched only by dynamite, so a real-time battle of wits between precociously talented egotists from across the culinary and cultural spectrum might well be a recipe for disaster, right? Or wrong?
If this event is anything to go by, pressure also makes diamonds. The loud-mouthed bullies were weeded out in the elimination rounds, leaving a field of "snags" - sensitive new age gastronomes - to fight out the final. In fact, you barely heard anyone all weekend raise their voice above the whir of mixers and blenders.
GARY FARRELL: I think competitions are very important to young chefs, important to chefs in general. It teaches you certain things that you don't necessarily learn in the kitchen. Obviously working under pressure, working with a team, small group of people, limited time, limited resource, so, you know, you've got to get in, you've go to do what you've got to do, hopefully you will come up, using the skill set, using what you've learnt.
CHRISTIAN GRADNITZER: We've got a fantastic team out here today as well. The guys obviously need to be very passionate about this. There's a lot of hours going into it a day, 16-18 hours of hard work going through, not only for this, but for the operation where your original employer is still there. There is a lot of work going into it. You need the commitment to it. Then the passion again and then some experience. The best way to start off is just local competitions, do local salon culinaires, do local competitions which we are quite active in Dubai over the last four years and get experience out of there and then just get further into international results.
PETER LEWIS: His team faced a formidable challenge from 15 others drawn from some of the best known hotels and restaurants across Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
The Black Box Culinary Challenge was an idea conceived 10 years ago by Meat and Livestock Australia's regional manager in Asia, Tim Kelph, as a way of showcasing the best red meat we produce to the most fastidious end of the food chain.
ALAN PALMER: To be very clear again, you will get soon your boxes. There are three boxes coming in which are wrapped in black covers.
PETER LEWIS: Stirring the pot, as it were, at the inaugural event and every one since was challenge convenor, Alan Palmer.
ALAN PALMER: All of those ingredients in those boxes have to be used in your menu. Must, OK? Must be used.
PETER LEWIS: With the pleasantries over, it was time to unveil the secret
ingredients contained within the black box.
ALAN PALMER: OK, drop it, OK.
PETER LEWIS: They had one hour to rifle through their black box and work out a four-course menu to feed 40.
Precisely 24 hours after they got their ingredients they plate it up for the judges, who gave a whole new meaning to fast food as they swept from kitchen to kitchen, sampling 16 appetisers, 16 soups and 16 mains. The judges would allocate 10 per cent of the marks for how well organised and efficient each kitchen was maintained, 20 per cent for the creativity of the dishes and the use of all the ingredients, 20 per cent for how well they're cooked and 50 per cent for how it all tastes.
In the end, scarcely a few points separated the top three. Singapore finished third. And the delighted Aussies picked up the silver medal.
ALAN PALMER: Now, we have a winner of course. This hotel already has seven stars. They have an 8th star tonight. Burj Al Arab in Dubai, UAR, 5,000 Australian dollars.
PETER LEWIS: For the winners, it scarcely mattered that the cheque would barely cover the cost of a meal at their own hotel. They'd stared down the challenge of the black box and prevailed.
COMPETITORS: Come on!
A pressure cooker is a machine that cooks food under pressure. It works by building up steam inside. People use the phrase pressure cooker to give the feeling of a situation being very tense and a bit dangerous.
Culinary means related to cooking.
Volatility is the ability to change suddenly, to suddenly become angry. Chefs are known for being able to change their moods very quickly Ė and to get angry very easily.
†matched only by dynamite
He means that they are thought to be as dangerous as dynamite - they can explode at any time.
†recipe for disaster
A recipe is a set of instructions, something that tells you all the right ingredients. A recipe for disaster is a situation that has all the ingredients for a disaster - itís likely to go wrong.
Example: Your idea sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.
†pressure also makes diamonds
He means that the stress of the competition can actually bring out the best in people.
got rid of the unwanted, while leaving the most desirable
Example: The exam will weed out the less able students.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.
†field of "snags"
Here field means all the people in a competition. It was a field of snags - a competition full of snags. But whatís a snag? Well to an Australian, itís usually a sausage. But he uses it as an acronym - to mean a sensitive new age gastronome.
A gastronome is someone who loves good food.
To fight out is to compete until someone wins.
Here heard is the past tense of the irregular verb hear. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: hear
Here learnt is the past participle of the irregular verb learn. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: learn
Gave is the past tense of the irregular verb give. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: give
Here swept is the past tense of the irregular verb sweep. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: sweep†