The Malta Chefs Society owes its origin to an amalgamation of two ‘rival’ groups, and one of the society’s main events is the Malta Kulinarja, a biennial competition for local and foreign chefs.
We meet up with Dr Lino Schembri, Malta Chefs Society Chief Executive Officer, who recounts the competition’s modest beginnings. “Our first venue for the event was the Dolmen Hotel,” Dr Lino recounts. It was only through an association with Eric Bartoli that the competition started growing and was organized in conjunction with a catering related exhibition. The first event on these lines, called Vivanda, was held at the Ice Arena, Intercontinental Hotel.
The event started growing and after a couple of years it moved to the Ta’ Qali Pavilion whilst the next step was to take the event to the actual MFCC arena, which will once again be the venue for the competition in January 2020.
Next year’s Kulinarja will include the following Individual and Team sectors:
• Senior Individual Events - including Street Food Challenge, Local Cheese Starter, Mediterranean Underutilised Fish Dish, Asian Fusion Dish and more.
• Senior Individual Events (Pastry) – including Banquette Plated Desert and Entremets.
• Junior Individual Events – including First Course Dish, Pasta Dish, Local Pork Dish and more.
• Junior Team Events – including Juniors’ Vegetarian Dish
• Static Team Events – including Grand Buffet Display and Chefs Grand Prix
• Team Classes Practical Theatre – including High Tea Set Competition, Mystery Box Menu, Cook and Serve, among others.
The competition itself has gone through some name changes, including Salon Culinaire and De Malte, until Lino opted for a local terminology, hence Malta Kulinarja. Dr Schembri explains that his vision for the Kulinarja was to present a platform where local and International chefs can showcase their talents competitively and the winner is awarded the prestigious “Chef of the Year” title. Winning the competition invariably helps boost the Chef’s career and credentials.
Participants for the Chef of the Year award will not be asked to prepare a Static Buffet – this is being done to reduce food waste as much as possible, explains Dr Schembri. This experiment was successfully initiated two years ago in the Juniors’ category and now the Association has decided to replicate it in the Seniors category.
Dr Schembri will be the only Maltese on the 9man adjudicating panel – the rest will hail from foreign countries, including Norway, Italy and England. Judges use international score sheets in line with criteria set by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS). Competitors will not only be judged on the taste of the food, but also on aesthetics, portions, mise en place, overall hygiene and cleanliness & organization of food preparation.