I entered the premises of Guchhi, the lovely Indian restaurant of Hyatt, and found myself in the middle of controlled chaos. Tables had been set up with induction cooking ranges, and knives chopped vegetables into fine dices, sauces were being made, and vegetables blanched and tossed. I looked around and found Bibi Sarkar, one of the judges, who was avidly watching the action.

Bibi Sarkar

If you follow my blog, then you will know that Bibi di is one of my favorite people to bump into, and the last time it had happened was nearly a year back, so it was a lovely thing, really. She was staring at the chopping and cutting and the chaos, and we started circulating, looking at each of the contestants and the way they were cooking their dishes.

Of course, the management of Hyatt had organized for some snacks while we watched, along with glasses of sangria, which was, strangely, watered down. After the first glass, I opted for diet coke and tried the paneer tikka, which had creamy chunks of paneer coated with spices and served with a lovely green chutney. I was not much of a fan of the chicken, though, which was relatively drier in texture.

Final dishes of the runner up.

As the dishes started to get plated, the time was announced. I found myself talking to a man who had made chocolate mousse and cakes, and his table was completely clean of everything. Surprised, I confronted Mr. Bommier, who said that it was one of the easiest things that he made, and his team was extremely quick. But he lamented about the quality of the chocolate. Ideally, he would have loved a 70% one, but could only get hold of 45% which for him was a disappointment. I promised to taste the final dish, and moved to see what the others were making.

At this point, we were joined by Chef Vikram Ganpule, Executive Chef, Hyatt Kolkata, who explained to the judges what the criteria were for judgment. “Presentation, taste, complexity, and hygiene are some of the important factors”, he claimed.

Chef Vikram Ganpule

Naturally at this point, the judges started to make rounds and see if the contestants could really keep in mind all the factors which was necessary for a win.

The judges trying out the food

Kids from the Smile Foundation had joined each contestant, and were happily helping them out. They left with goodie bags, and the apron and hat they wore.

Children participants from the Smile Foundation

At long last, a decision was reached and judgment was passed. Here are the winning dishes and the winners.

Runner Up
Runner Up
Winning Dish – Chicken with lemongrass, chocolate and coffee
Winner – Amit Malik
After the winner was declared, we moved to Guchhi for lunch. The daal was creamy, not too spicy, and the mutton was tender, perfectly seasoned, and not overly soft or chewy – a texture which I personally love. A lovely Chardonnay was served with lunch – cold and mildly dry, it was the perfect accompaniment for the day.
My lunch plate with the daal, chicken and mutton.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited for the Hyatt Culinary Challenge, 2014 by the management of Hyatt.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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