This past Friday I participated in my first ever cooking competition. The Yalla BBQ Competition at the Dubai Food Carnival was sponsored by Weber and hosted and judged by Master Chef Tarek Ibrahim. Let me tell you, I absolutely loved the thrill! The crowd and the Yalla BBQ team were supporting, singing and even dancing which added that extra spice to make this experience even more memorable.
My grill mate Nour Hajir and myself decided to go with the team name Kick Ash – yup that’s right! and boy did we kick it!
During each round we were presented with a mystery box including a protein and a fruit and a vegetable which had to be used. There was also a separate table with a nice selection of fruits, vegetables, spices and tools which we can use to create our master dishes.
In round 1, we worked with steak which we marinated with mustard, salt and pepper and was cooked medium-well. The steak was topped off with an eastern twist to a chimichurri sauce (parsley, coriander, lemon, oil, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika). The sides were a sweet potato mash, a grilled pineapple (marinated with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and parsley) and a crunchy julienne style fruit & veg salad (pears, apples, yellow bell peppers, mint) seasoned with oil, lemon and paprika.
We came out as the runners up of the first round and were invited to come back and compete against 3 teams for another cook-off in the semi-final round. We knew our competition was fierce, we had tasted their dishes and all had earned their rightful place.
During the semi-finals, we were provided with lamb chops which we marinated with (garlic, diced onions, oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper) and wrapped it in aluminum foil and cooked till we hit medium tenderness. We topped it with a hot salsa (diced tomatoes, garlic, red chili, chili flakes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper) grilled on high heat. We also served it with ultra-thin and crispy oregano flavored potato wedges and a side of a vegetable tower (tomato, onion and eggplant).
We came close, but team Egypt & team India went on for their final cook-off. They did such a fabulous job! Our feedback during both rounds was that the meat was cooked well but the it needed to be seasoned further, “more salt” said Master Chef Tarek Ibrahim. And I will take that feedback and learn from this experience. I don’t have access to a master chef judging my work on a daily basis so this was a complete blessing!
Truly grateful for such an experience, and very happy to have won Weber’s pincer tongs which I can now add to my tools collection! Thank you Chef Tarek & Weber for such a wonderful experience. Thank you to our loved ones and friends who came out to support! And a bigger thanks to my teammate, couldn’t have done it without you!