... and then there were six

... and then there were six

The semi-finalists had to go it alone to impress the judges with their signature dishes

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Photos: Thomas Yau/SCMP
The semi-final of the Towngas Young Master Chef contest, involving 17 budding chefs, took place on Wednesday. After six weeks of cooking classes from the experts, the contestants were left on their own.

The chefs - competing as 12 entrants, some individuals and others in teams - had to bring their own ingredients and make their signature dishes. They had to cook in front of eight renowned judges, including leading chefs and food critics, and give a good oral introduction to their dishes.

They were battling it out for the chance to win the top prize of a cooking trip to Paris ... In the end, only six entrants were selected for a place in the final - four individuals and two teams of two.

Let's see what happened.

Last man standing

Since the first round, it seems that boys were being eliminated almost every week. In the semi-final, only two boy contestants remained: Kelvin Wan Chi-lung, competing by himself, and Loro Kun Lok-yiu, who teamed with his girlfriend, Sally Sze Lok-yee.

"I'm really nervous today," Kelvin said as the cook-off was about to begin. He feared ending up like the other boy competitors, and missing out on reaching the final.

The boys who were eliminated before had been generally good chefs, but had failed at particularly tricky challenges, he said.

Looking at the semi-final line-up, he added: "The girls look really strong."

Quiet Kelvin made a dish called Golden Jade. It consisted of a small cylindrically cut winter melon (the jade), topped with a juicy shrimp. Those cylinders were slightly submerged in a pond of pumpkin soup (gold).

He tried to make the dish at home twice in the week before the semi-final, but both attempts had failed. This did nothing to boost his confidence on the big day. "I couldn't get the taste right, and I was half an hour past the deadline," he said.

Yet against the odds in the cook-off, he won a place in the final as Loro and Sally were eliminated. So Kelvin is officially the last man standing with the chance to win the trip to Paris.



Grace Chan presents her dish to the judges.

School spirit

Grace Chan Yin-yu, Trista Tang Yuk-ching and Florence Tse Hin-wing are from Holy Trinity College. While Grace entered solo, Trista and Florence competed as a team. All are good friends, and they were encouraged to enter the competition by their home economics teacher.

"We are not competitors," Trista said. "All of us wanted to reach the final."

Trista and Florence modernised traditional har gao (prawn dumplings) by turning them into cute goldfish. Their dish was called Golden Fish over Gate, which, besides the dumplings, had in its centre, minced fish meat braised with bitter melon.

The dumplings won the heart of a few of the judges, including South China Morning Post commissioning food editor Bernice Chan. "It's impressive," she said.

As for Grace, despite the enticing appearance of her dish, the minced beef burger in her Steak with Rice Patties was not cooked well.

Towngas Cooking Centre tutor Margaret Fu said beef was known to be served sometimes undercooked. But since Grace had bought her minced beef at a wet market, it would have been dangerous if not fully cooked, Fu added. So Trista and Florence reached the final; Grace's journey ended.



Our judges taste each of the 12 signature dishes.

Eye-catcher

A few minutes into the cook-off, the team of Natalie Wong Wing-yin and Agnes Chan Ka-hei immediately caught the judges' attention.

The two had made a scrapbook to tell the judges what they were doing as they made their signature dish. But nothing surprised people as much as their cooking skills, as they created nets with beaten eggs in a frying pan.

Their creation was called Gems on the Green - a healthy Thai-inspired dish with a mixture of shrimp, meat and vegetable wrapped in an egg net.

Star chef Bjoern, Master Wan, and Annie Wong said they couldn't wait to taste the dish after watching Agnes show off her delicate frying skills.

It must have been delicious, as Agnes and Natalie got through to the final.


Hello to our inspired finalists


Farewell to our unlucky cheflings

Next week is the grand final of the Towngas Young Master Chef contest. The six finalists will face a "black box" challenge. They will have to improvise from the ingredients they are given and create the best dish possible. Only one entrant, whether it's an individual or a two-member team, will win the trip to Paris. Who will become the first Towngas Young Master Chef?

Stay tuned to the feeds on our Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday from 2 to 5pm for instant updates and photos. Check out next Friday's Young Post for the full story.


Complete coverage of:
Round One
Round Two
Round Three
Round Four
Round Five
Round Six
Final

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