it’s not easy to be a judge of Filipino cuisine!Did you attend the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® last month? It was so much fun wasn’t it? If you missed it, make sure you attend next year’s Festival as it is an annual event.
The 2017 Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival® took place on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center. It was a fabulous event with various entertaining and engaging activities highlighting Filipino culture. One of the highlights of this event is the The Master P-Noy Chef® Cook Off.
A few days before the event I received an invitation or request to be one of the three judges for this cook-off. I was hesitant. I had not judged a cook-off before and so I wasn’t sure if I was the right choice. Nevertheless, I agreed to do it. I decided it is an honor, a privilege and it will be fun. Plus I’d get to eat yummy Filipino food freshly cooked by talented chefs!
This cook off featured Chef Gemsley Balagso of Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Chef Jonathan Pasion of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort and Chef Jason Carpio of Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott.
The theme of this year’s Cook Off was “Street Food.” Oh I love street food. I remember the isaw, the fish balls and the taho while growing up in the Philippines. It was a time to reminisce and I did.
There are three thoughts I want to share in my experience of being a judge:
1. It’s hardwork! It wasn’t easy being a judge because all the chef contestants are talented and creative and gave their best. I wanted to give all of them perfect scores. But I reminded myself I really need to pay attention to the criteria: execution, taste, presentation and most unique interpretation of the Filipino culinary heritage. And so I did my best. Still, the difference in points were miniscule, but I did my best in rating them.
2. I wish we had more time to eat and finish the meal presented to us. I wanted to finish eating all the food presented to me during judging time. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t leisurely eat and finish the dishes presented to us, so we tasted and gave points. After the contest I was wishing I could eat some of the left overs to really appreciate each and every dish. I am remembering the Pork dish that tasted like adobo, the arroz caldo, the spiked halo halo, the fried gizzards on the stick, and more. Maybe judges who are used to judging cooking contests don’t feel the same way and they are happy just to have small bites to taste, but for me, I wanted tp finish the meal! Okay, maybe it was a lot of food and I couldn’t really finish it, but I’m sharing this thought anyway, in case next year, it’s your turn to be a judge.
3. The Filipino heritage is so rich and we are well represented in the area of Culinary Arts on Maui. After submitting my scorecards, I started to muse on how the Filipino heritage is so rich. And since I was judging a cook off at that time, I thought of how many famous chefs on Maui are Filipinos (or part Filipino). We have many award-winning chefs such as Chef Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof, Chef Isaac Bancaco of Andaz and more.
The guest host this year was Chef Jojo Vasquez of The Plantation House Restaurant and he did an excellent job of keeping the audience informed and entertained. The director of the cook-off was Chef Jake Belmonte who did a fabulous job in its organization and making the contest truly a success. All the students from the U.H. Maui College culinary school who assisted the chefs also did a marvelous job.
Will I judge again? Yes I would but only if I can eat the rest of the dishes I tasted after the contest.