Simple is more – Why the courage to a gap additionally counts in cooking Contests – Young chef Petra Brajkovic wins the 2017 Hilton Cooking Competition
Amsterdam, Netherlands – 28 September 2017 –
The best moment was the very first, as everybody confirms in retrospect: whenever the eight finalists of the Europe-wide Hilton Cooking Competition started their “Black Box” to scrutinize the raw materials, many of the hopeful young chefs faced up to their worries. Developing a well-marketable signature dish out of premium beef (short ribs), langoustines and the excellent cod fillet is a superior craft of cooking. In the end, the courage to fulfill the gap of a young Croatian woman won: Petra Brajkovic, 28-year-old chef de partie of this Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, narrowly won the demanding contest – using a reduction to a Pasta Bowl in exceptionally aromatic fish sauce and perfectly cooked cod fillet with fresh salad on the side plate. Even chef Sidney Schutte in the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, a chef ennobled by two Michelin stars, was swarming here.
Florian Gille surprised as youngster and shooting star of the Cooking Competition in 2nd place with 24 years and chefs apprentice in the third year of apprenticeship at Hilton Cologne. Stefan Wodl, a Sous manager at the Hilton Vienna Plaza, came in third.
It is probably one of those peculiarities of a cooking contest that even experienced sous chefs can lose to novices. At this first-class Hilton event, nobody can argue this: Whoever has flown in as a finalist here has already belonged to the elite of up-and-coming ability and can confidently note the mere participation as a further milestone in their hotel career. For Hilton, this first major final in continental Europe is a significant event having a tremendous effect on the general public to strengthen the image of their ambitious and creative chefs. In times of precarious employees problems, such competitions have the best external impact and are pure adrenaline for HR marketing.
The jury, which included that the two-star chef Sidney Schutte from Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam and the writer of these lines, agreed that all eight main courses presented in the “Black Box” have what it takes to become bestsellers on Hilton Hotels’ menus.
This speaks for the ambitious young chefs, that only had to work magic in 2 and a half an hour, in addition to for the first-class training standard of the worldwide hotel chain. This was also to be observed in any moment in the show kitchen of the lifestyle hotel with an airport – the Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol isn’t thought of as an “airport hotel”.
With the new structure of a cooking contest without preparation – all of the raw materials were the same for each participant at a “black box” – Hilton set another milestone in the series of attractive events to inspire employees to achieve new top performances and to inspire some curious novices or career changers for a glamorous career in the resort sector.
As well as careful planning and expert event management, one thing remains important: to be surprised by the participants’ chutzpah. Winner of the title Petra Brajkovic just cooked what she later confessed to being her favourite dish. No more and no further.
(Photos: Bete van Meeuwen / Betephotography)