The culmination of the first annual Rotary Cookery Competition, took place at a Gala Dinner at The Conrad Hotel, recently where the teams from Almancil and Silves Sul schools which had battled it out head-to-head, received their trophies and certificates. Silves Sul was declared the winning team, by the smallest of margins; good food, well executed had been judged over two months.
Peter Hinze, of Almancil International Rotary Club was delighted with the challenge between the two schools. In line with one of Rotary’s major focuses – education and the future of the young – the cookery competition took the young participants to a new level with their culinary efforts.
The future is certainly bright for culinary standards in Portugal.
Rotary had been successful in gaining the support of The Conrad Hotel, in Quinta do Lago, where their Gusto Restaurant is renowned for its fine dining.
The teams of finalists were challenged to cook a three-course meal in the kitchens of The Conrad Hotel, under the watchful eyes of Executive Chef Andrew McGie and his experienced team. Daunting in itself, the teams were presented with ‘black boxes’ containing over 20 ingredients, from which they had to choose their menu – just two hours before serving the meal.
And, if that was not enough excitement for the young cooks, Chef Heinz Beck, who has three Michelin stars, was present as part of the judging team, along with Mike Brautigam, Head Chef of Gusto at The Conrad.
Chef Beck told us that there is nothing more rewarding than passing on skills to young people. He applauded the Rotary initiative. “This is part of the social responsibility which I take very seriously in my business life” said Heinz Beck. “The important thing for me is never to have more than 10% of staff being trained or on work experience. This ensures that they are learning and enjoying and not being used as cheap labour.”
The Conrad Hotel had generously offered the winning team the opportunity to spend time learning in their kitchens. However, the final was so closely run that Andrew McGie confirmed that both teams are to be afforded experiences at the hotel. “Not only was this a great opportunity for the young people,” said Andrew, “it was also invaluable experience for our chefs. We were reminded of the need for patience and understanding, whilst revisiting what we do and why we do it. We have been delighted to be part of this important event, which mirrors that of The Conrad – being involved in the community,” Andrew concluded.
The presidents of Silves and Almancil Rotary Clubs, Alan Winn and Raymond Parfait, thanked all the participants, the schools for encouraging their students, the judges, The Conrad Hotel and Peter Hinze who led the project.
The two teams of finalists were presented with their certificates at a Gala Dinner, at The Conrad Hotel, where the winning menu was cooked and served by the Conrad personnel.