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Wine & Dine

The secrets of fine dining

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An 800-year-old French order devoted to good food is slowly recognising the talent of young Indian chefs

Secret religious and military orders - remember Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code? - attract attention because of their history, mystique and, of course, secrecy. These ancient societies, founded in present-day Europe and West Asia, were brotherhoods that transcended geographical boundaries. In the present day, while many such groups only remain in books, there is one ancient order that continues to keep its secrets. 

The Chaine des Rotisseurs, an order that dates back to 1248 and the reign of King Louis IX, is an international gastronomic society, devoted to promoting fine dining, honouring chefs, and preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table. The 800-year-old French order has now come to recognise the talent of young chefs in India. 

Every year since 1977, Chaine des Rotisseurs, which has 25,000 members across 70 countries, has been holding a global talent hunt, Concours International des Jeunes Chefs R?tisseurs. The competition is open only to chefs under 27 years of age having less than five years of professional experience. They also have to be working in one of the Chaine des Rotisseurs member establishments. The awards include a huge cash prize, funding for higher education and sponsorship. 

This year, for the first time, a young chef from India, Hitesh Gautam from Ista Bangalore will be competing in Concours International des Jeunes Chefs Rotisseurs to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in September. 

The selection of Chef Gautam came about after the India chapter, Bailliage de L'Inde, organized Le Concours de l'Inde des Jeunes Chefs R?tisseurs 2013 (National Young Chefs' Competition) at its headquarters in Bangalore. This was first year that Bailliage de L'Inde has held the event since its inception on April 15, 2008. 

"From this year, Le Concours de l'Inde des Jeunes Chefs Rotisseurs will be a regular annual event, which will be taken across India, " says Anja Matysik-Kroll, president of Bailliage de L'Inde. The French order has 100 members in India - 60% professional and 40% non-professional. Professional members comprise top hoteliers, restaurateurs and chefs, while non-professional members consist of noted members of society with a passion for good food and wine. 

Seventeen young chefs from five-star hotels and stand-alone restaurants participated in the competition. "Each participant had to prepare a three-course meal of appetizer, main course and dessert in three-and-a-half hours, " says Matysik-Kroll. Participants were given a secret black box with various ingredients just half-an-hour before the competition started. Participants had to incorporate ingredients from box and dish out a three-course continental meal. 

"A chef must always keep on learning and push himself, " says Jacques Le Divellec, a Michelin twostarred French master chef and owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Divellec. A high-ranking member of Chaine des Rotisseurs, Chef Divellec, who was in Bangalore to judge the competition, says Indian cuisine is unlike anything he's ever tasted. "I always try and adapt the flavours of the different spices you get in India to French cuisine, but somehow not many people in France have a palate for such strong flavours. " 

The winning meal by Chef Gautam read: Soy marinated prawn, tangy black pomfret, squid 'flower' and avocado shooter;Duo of Shiraz marinated tenderloin and chicken roulade, eggplant mash, balsamico risotto, garlic wilted arugula and glazed vegetables;Dry fruit sticky cake, chocolate and strawberry mille-feuille and Arborio cake. 

The second and third runners up were also from Bangalore - Chef Pushpender Yadav from Vivanta by Taj, M G Road, and Chef P Senthil Kumar from The Leela Palace. 

World over and in India, each chapter of La Chaine des Rotisseurs organises several events for its members, from the less formal Diner Amical to the formal Grand/Diner de Gala. The highlight of the year is the annual Chapitre: a black tie event for the induction and promotion of new members.

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