Chef competitions have a widespread resonance at Riga Food 2019!

This is a very special year in Latvia’s culinary life as six chef competitions took place during the International Food Fair “Riga Food 2019” bringing together 43 participants. Moreover, for the first time in Latvia, the national selection for the world’s most prestigious chefs’ competition “Bocuse d’Or” was held, which is one step closer to international awareness and increasing culinary quality.

Pāvels Skopa clearly won the title “Latvian Chef of the Year 2019”

September 4 was particularly lively, as six chefs, six claimants to the title – Jānis Osis, Artūrs Bilzens, Pāvels Skopa, Jegors Porulevs, Mārtiņš Pupurs, Roberts Bedikers Bērtulis – and six assistant chefs – Laimons Ričards Gerliņš, Gustavs Raubiško, Daniels Damanis, Nikita Buslajevs, Sandis Damarovskis, Toms Fridrihsons – who not only tried to help their chefs but also competed for the title “Latvian Journeyman Chef of the Year 2019” started preparations for the competition in the early hours of morning. The competition “Latvian Chef of the Year 2019” by the way, was held for the 16th time!

This year, Pāvels Skopa (Restaurant “Koya”) won the Reaton Golden Ladle and the prize money EUR 700, leaving Jānis Osis (Restaurant “Fifty-Six Twenty-Four”) in the second and Jegor Porulev (Restaurant “Hügge”, Estonia) in the third place. The title of the best journeyman chef went to Nikita Buslajev who assisted Jegor Porulev.

According to the jury’s spokeswoman Franciane Tartari (UK), all five members of jury had the same opinion – it was a convincing win for Pavel. However, Franciane added, that compared to the competition she judged two years ago, the level of contestants had slightly fallen: “In the preparation process, chefs should taste whatever they are cooking, offer for tasting to friends and customers, listen to their opinions and improve failures. There is no need to be afraid of criticism, it will help more than self-assurance!"

Raimonds Zommers triumphs at Master Chef 2019
The “Master Chef 2019” competition, called a “contest of dinosaurs” by contestants themselves, gathered a great number of spectators. The “Master Chef 2019” competition participants included the best chefs of Latvia, who had not only been working for years to build a restaurant culture in Latvia, but had also been appearing in various TV shows. Raimonds Zommers, Valters Zirdziņš, Māris Jansons, Jānis Zvirbulis and Ingmārs Ladigs took part in this competition for two important reasons: firstly, to show the importance and prestige of the chefs’ profession and, secondly, to prove that the “dinosaurs” are still great masters of the art of cooking. The chefs’ task was challenging enough – to cook a meal within an hour from products hidden in the black box provided by the company “Augļu serviss”. The title of the Master Chef 2019 was awarded to Raimonds Zommers, a chef of the Entresol restaurant and the winner of many competitions.

Dinārs Zvidriņš to represent Latvia at Bocuse d’Or
“Bocuse d’Or” is the most prestigious international cooking competition in the world bringing together best of the best chefs in Lyon, France. Its organisers like to compare it to the Olympic Games.

Only two chefs – Dinārs Zvidriņš and Juris Latišenoks – and their assistants – Toms Fridrihsons and Dans Ivanovs – took part in the “Bocuse d’Or” National Selection. The competition was tough enough, and it was evident that the both competitors were highly motivated and had come to win, but there can only be one winner. Thus, Latvia will be represented at “Bocuse d’ Or” by Dinars Zvidriņš. According to the panel of judges, the best assistant chef was Dans Ivanovs.

The member of panel of judges Jo Nelissen from Belgium admitted, “There is still a lot of room for growth! To be honest, none of the applicants have reached the level of “Bocuse d’Or” at the moment, but this is a first step towards it. There must be a lot more of practising, because each movement should be targeted and well-rehearsed, each taste – tested. There is a lot to be done!”

Team Latvia wins at Baltic Culinary Heritage!
The Baltic team competition “Baltic Culinary Heritage” is becoming a tradition. Jury repeatedly announces Team Latvia as the winner of this competition. The Team Lithuania, on the turn, won the audience favourite’s title. The Team Latvia included three chefs: Kristīne Strode, Baiba Brasle, Aigars Sīlis and the team manager Viesturs Lasmanis. To further strengthen the tradition of this competition, a tripartite memorandum of cooperation was signed during the awards ceremony, stating that this competition will "travel" from one Baltic country to another, so we will see it return to Latvia again in three years.

Tallinn School of Services (Teko) wins Zero Waste Challenge
The “Zero Waste Challenge” competition for the Baltic Schools invited young chefs to think about climate change, which is also caused by food waste, so the aim of the competition was to leave as little waste as possible. Two schools from each of the Baltic States took part in the competition. This time, the best turned out to be Teko (Estonia). “To date, our national cooking schools lacked cooperation, therefore, this competition is aimed to bring these schools together enabling both teachers and students to become acquainted with each other and to start sharing their experience,” told Svetlana Riškova, a chairperson of “Chefs’ Club”.

International panel of judges
All competitions were judged by an international jury: Jo Nelissen (Belgium), Franciane Tartari (UK), Alexander Prokopovich (Russia), Gert Kletzke (Sweden), Dimitri Demjanov, Emannuel Wille, Pavel Gurjanov and Tarvo Stint (Estonia), and Jorn Lie (Norway).