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Cook it Up, Show it Off

David Blanks gives us the insider information on the upcoming Gifted Chef competition and tips for potential contestants. And why wouldn't he? He is one of the judges after all...

I dig reality TV shows. All kinds really, especially food ones, like Kitchen Nightmares. Watching Chef Gordon give some clueless restaurant owner a thorough bollocking is entertaining as hell. Man vs. Food is another favorite. If you’ve never seen Adam Richman attempt to eat Fire In Your Hole chicken wings (made with ghost chilies, which are 100 times hotter than jalapenos), or a four-pound grilled cheese sandwich; seven pounds of seafood and sides, or 15 milkshakes—then you have no idea how dramatic a food show can be. He actually puked from the milkshakes. What could be more exciting?

But the best reality TV shows are the cooking competitions like Chopped, where professional chefs are given “mystery baskets” from which to make their dishes. Can you put together an entrée with rack of antelope, stinging nettles, jicama (a Mexican root vegetable), and port wine cheese? Or a dessert from chocolate, mustard, tofu and pretzels? I also like Iron Chef America, where professional chefs have to make five dishes from a secret ingredient in an hour. It’s like watching roller derby.

The best by far is Master Chef. There are various versions around the world, most famously in Australia. The fun comes in getting to know the competitors and in the competition itself because, unlike on the other shows, these people are amateur home-cooks, which makes it especially entertaining to watch them break down as one of the judges spits out their food or throws their plate in the garbage. The essence of the program is group and individual cooking competitions that eliminate competitors each week until the grand finale, where the winner gets their own cookbook deal and enough money to open a restaurant (Which is a lot).

Unfortunately, we don’t have a Master Chef Arabia. Some people tried to make one, but it didn’t work out for some reason. Who knows? There are certainly plenty of talented amateur cooks about, so it must have been because the producers couldn’t get there shit together.

The good news is that we have Gifted Chef 2: Recipe for Fame. This is the second annual competition for home cooks held in Cairo. Sponsored by Casper & Gambini's and TheGiftery.com, it is the first of its kind in the Middle East. So it’s very cool. Plus there are prizes. Eklego, Gourmet, Invotis, Hope Flowers and My Gym are all offering something, but I hear that they are giving away a Weber grill. That’s what I’d go for, totally; I would love to win that. Except I can’t, because I am one of the judges. 

Joining me will be Mr. C&G himself, Mark Khalife, the inestimable chef and restaurant consultant, Sarah Khanna, and Jalal Abu Ghazaleh, CEO of Gourmet Egypt. We’re psyched up, and we’re hungry, and so you all need to do is cook it up and show it off. We are already getting submissions from as far away as Dubai, so it looks like it’s going to be exciting this year. You can check the rules on the Facebook page. It says on there that the deadline for submissions will be tomorrow, but I suspect that it will be extended.

Basically what you have to do is this. Learn to cook in the next couple of days; pick the dish you do best—creativity, originality and presentation all count; make it; take a picture of it; and send us the photo and your recipe. We’ll check out them out and choose a final five. Then we’ll have a live cooking competition at Casper & Gambini's City Stars on Saturday, 25th May. That’s the fun part. You can come with some of your ingredients prepared but, during the show, you’ve got to be able to make your dish in 20 minutes.

I don’t know if this is going to be more like Kitchen Nightmares or Man vs. Food or Chopped or Master Chef, but one thing is for sure: you can’t win if you don’t take a chance. So since all you’re doing is lying in your bed, cruising the internet on your iPad anyway, you might as well get your ass in the kitchen and give it a shot. See you there. 


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