Israel's branch of the Order of the Knights of the Grill held its annual young chef competition last week. Orit Itzik provides highlights and tells of the wonderful lady-chef winner that will move on to the international competition.
The organization entitled the "Order of the Knights of the Grill" is a culinary encouragement fund. They took it upon themselves to promote the top chefs in the country through the nurturing of young, funky activities to increase the general awareness of the importance of gastronomy and persistence and to encourage and support periphery area chefs.
Last week was the competition for a talented group of young chefs, up to age 27, held at the Tadmor school in Herzeliya. These young chefs labored over burning flames cleaning vegetables and fish with fearful hands; they baked, flamed and decorated their dishes and competed for a ticket into the Knights of the Grill Order. They had to adhere to strict competition rules and use black-box components unknown to them previously. They had slightly trembling hands and many looked young and a bit afraid.
The room in which the competition was held in the Tadmor school is usually the library; however today, the scents that wafted out from the competition made one think they were in an excellent restaurant for find food and wine. Seated at the round tables of the honorable guard of the Knights were big names in the field, such as Meir Adoni, Eyal Lavi, Avi Biton, Yoav Bar, Charlie Fedida, Chaim Schwartz, Eyal Kishon, Jackie Cantor and more. Their job was not much easier than that of the competitors, tasting more than 200 dishes and concentrating on each one to fairly judge the competitors. The made their decisions based on presentation criteria, originality and, of course, flavor. They carefully examined each component, experienced in giving opinions on how to rest the fish differently on the platter or choose the proper herbs to make the dish just a bit more successful.
They mercilessly criticized those dishes that were not "up to snuff" but clearly this has a determined purpose: they want to find the brightest young chefs to represent the Israeli branch at the Order of the Knights of the Grill Global Competition. This year, of all places, the international competition will take place in Turkey. Not to worry, however, as the chefs of the Order of Knights can identify a good dish when it is brought before them regardless of where the preparing chef might come from.
The top three winners were declared at the end of a tension and flavor-filled day. In third place was Avi Barzilai of the restaurant Adora. Second place went to Omri Brill of Rokach 73. First place, which was quite a surprise, went to Ayala Vitzgol from the restaurant Grill Bar in Eilat.
This young starlet received the greatest number of points well beyond her fellow competitors. Winning any one of the top places in this competition, however, is a great honor to bestow upon the restaurants where these chefs work. The delightful surprise with this honor is that it was presented to one of the few quality restaurants in Eilat, a far cry from the variety in Tel Aviv. One small fact that I might not have already emphasized enough is also that the winner is a chef-ess and not a chef! The competition of young chefs by the Order of the Knights of the Grill succeeded in bringing chefs from the geographic peripheries of Israel to display gender non-biased culinary excellence. This year they can wholeheartedly declare that they held to their missions and goals!