We talk to the judges of the S.Pellegrino Southeast Asia semi-finals to hear their thoughts on what traits the young chefs need to bring home the world title.

In the most recent S.Pellegrino Young Chef Competition that took place at Dusit Thani Hotel School in Bangkok, India’s Tarun Bhatia impressed the six judges with his signature dish, “Inspirational Daab Chingri”. As Southeast Asia’s representative who will compete in the global competition this October, he will battle it out with the young and talented chefs from the different regions to earn the coveted title. So we asked the six judges: What do the finalists need to win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition?

Emmanuel Stroobant

Photo: Edmond Ho

Saint Pierre, Singapore

The qualities they need to win the competition are… attitude and a lot of respect for the ingredients. For global competitions like this, hygiene also matters because when you’re in a hurry, you tend to leave things lying everywhere.

They also need some form of creativity. It’s important that the judges see things that they have not seen before. Because the participants are young, they don’t have the boundaries that we, as older chefs, may have. Their goal should be to blow the judges’ minds.

My advice for the young chefs is… to keep it simple if they want to impress Michelin-starred and other great chefs. The panel have seen and done it all. It’s about showing the judges something simple but good.

Umberto Bombana

Photo: Otto e Mezzo

8 ½ Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong

The qualities they need to win the competition are… of course, skills and talent. But I believe the finalists are already in a different level, so they should focus on making sure that their dishes not only taste good but are also visually appealing.

My advice for the young chefs is… to have fun but keep their eyes on the prize. Most importantly, respect the food and the ingredients.

Alvin Leung

Photo: Alvin Leung / Facebook

Bo Innovation, Hong Kong

The qualities they need to win the competition are… skill and intelligence, and if you want to go beyond that, artistic abilities. If you process all that, you now have talent, so the next thing you have to look for is motivation—the ability to endure hard work. If you have that, you are one step further from being a successful chef.

My advice for the young chefs is… to be logical and smart. Be aware of the changing trends. They should remember that they can never be on top. If they are close, then they must reach further.

Will Meyrick

Photo: David Burden Photography / Facebook

Sarong, Bali

The qualities they need to win the competition are… knowledge and understanding of the ingredients. They should know what and when to use it in cooking. For me, cooking is not all about a great piece of beef or fish, it’s also about using the right spices and how they marry with other ingredients. It would be interesting to see how the young chefs will tackle this.   

My advice for the young chefs is… they’re only as good as their last service. What I mean is that they have to keep striving for consistency and perfection. Another important thing is that they have to love being in the game, cause there’s no point in carrying through if they don’t enjoy it anymore. Based on my experience, being a chef is incredibly hard but can also be rewarding and amazing.

Ian Kittichai

Photo: Ian Kittichai / Facebook

Issaya Siamese Club, Bangkok

The qualities they need to win the competition are… their ability to pick great ingredients, cooking skills, creativity in the kitchen, presentation of the dish. They also need to communicate the message of the dish clearly to the judges.

My advice to the young chefs is to… keep cooking and never stop. Always strive to learn new things and they will do well in the competition and their career. 

Bo Songvisava

Photo: Bo.lan / Facebook

Bo.lan, Bangkok

The qualities a young chef should have to win the competition are… determination and commitment. They also need to understand what they are cooking, and this comes from having the right foundation.

My advice to the young chefs is to… respect the roots of the culinary arts, and they will do well.