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The sixth season of Italian Master Chef concluded with its fourth and final heat, featuring four of the top amateur chefs on the island competing in a black box challenge at the Cucina Italiana restaurant, writes Naman Arora.
Bahraini Chef Noor Abdul took home the top prize of a round trip to Italy, with Chef Saied Ali nabbing second, Laura Gualnetti securing third and Christian Agulto winning fourth place.
The competition, which was attended by dignitaries, including the newly appointed Italian Ambassador to Bahrain Paola Amadei, drew 36 amateur chefs from across the region.
Each of the four chefs picked a mystery black box, each with a different protein that would be the focus of their entrée or piatto. The contestants were also required to prepare an antipasto starter.
The semi-finals were held on February 2 and 4 with 12 participants taking part in a taste-and-make challenge. They were required to recreate one of Italia Cucina executive Chef Jagath Jayasekara’s dishes from taste alone.
While this proved a challenge for some of the chefs, Noor noted: “Understanding what flavours were in the food was the easy part of the semi-final. While cooking is my passion, this competition has pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to plating and presentation. I have always focused on flavour but for this competition, I trained myself on things like plating food properly and figuring out the right bite portion.”
The final was split into two rounds – the 30-minute appetiser round and the 45-minute main course round, with each round being judged separately.
To start, contestants were given 10 minutes to pick their choice of fresh ingredients and Italian spices from a spread set up by executive Chef Jagath.
They then headed to the kitchen to prepare their starters, while a kitchen camera gave the audience an inside perspective of the culinary experience.
The four-heat competition was launched last month, with support from sponsors like the Bahrain Family Leisure Company and Gulf Hotel Bahrain. Competitors of every nationality participated, with some like Laura driving in from Saudi Arabia to cook up a storm.
Laura added: “I have been cooking since I can remember. And now that I am a full-time mom, it’s a big part of my life. But it was good to take a break and cook for a different set of stomachs.”
The event was judged by Chef Carlo Cirone, executive chef at Gulf Hotel Bahrain, Anisa Al Hawaj, editor-in-chief of the Food and Travel Magazine, Lorenzo Sabella, professional chef and sommelier and Laura Bellato, wife of the former Italian ambassador to Bahrain Domenico Bellato.