Mumbai-born Ronak Nanda has won this year’s Culinary Clash, a cooking competition and scholarship fundraiser for culinary students organised by San Francisco’s prominent institute, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in association with restaurant Luce at the InterContinental.
Nanda’s three-course menu impressed diners, guest judges, and Luce’s Michelin-star chef Daniel Corey. Nanda will now work with Corey in May to compete in the Ultimate Culinary Clash against four other teams from InterContinental properties. He also received a $1,500 (approx Rs 90,000) scholarship.
During the finale on March 23, Nanda and his sous chef Cavin The served an appetiser dish of Crispy Pork Belly and an entree of Wild Striper with French Gnocchi to the guests. They concluded the meal with ice cream made of Kumquat, a fruit similar to the orange.
The competition invited students from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts to compete for a chance to cook with Chef Corey at Luce and have their menu featured at the restaurant. Students submitted menus and corresponding recipes in February, and three finalists cooked at Luce to showcase their menu. Event judges included a panel of hotel executives, local personalities and food writers, as well as guests of the restaurant that evening.
Having started his career as a flight attendant for Jet Airways, Nanda moved to San Francisco and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu’s Associate of Occupational Studies programme in 2012, where he currently works on improving his skills.
He dreams of owning a restaurant once he is back in India. Now that he has won the contest, Nanda is looking forward to cooking in the Luce kitchen.
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He beat student chefs Ruhi Johar and Austin Alexander, who finished second and third, respectively, to claim the top honour. Bahrain-born Johar, too, is of Indian origin, though she is an Australian citizen who lives in the US with her husband and daughter.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Nanda always loved eating and cooking. He did his schooling and junior college from Dr S R Vidyalaya, Borivali, and HR College of Commerce and Economics, Churchgate, respectively. In addition to his favourite patisserie and baking classes at school, Nanda likes fusion of cuisines and techniques. As far as Indian food is concerned, he finds it “as good as any other cuisine”.
“A lot of (Indian) food today is being modernised. Indian food, being so versatile from north to south and east to west with all the spices and herbs that we use, would be very fun to work with if modernised,” said Nanda, after securing a place in the finals.