Muscat: The contest was fierce as the cooking competitions got underway on Monday at the Food and Hospitality Oman Expo at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.
The annual event which draws restaurant, catering and hotel-related businesses to Oman for three days featured three competitions this year, including two cooking contests and a barista challenge.
Visitors to the expo watched with excitement as the contestants chopped, fried, and stirred, all in hopes of being named the best chef in the Professional Chef's Competition Oman or the master of Omani cuisine at the Best Chef Oman Competition.
"I love competitions. You get to meet other chefs and learn new ideas," said Deepak Patwal, Chef de Partie from 360° restaurant as he prepared five varieties of sandwiches, including one made from strawberry, kiwi and dragon fruit.
The Professional Chef's Competition Oman, organised by the Omani Chefs Guild (OCG), brought together 51 chefs from restaurants around the city, as well as one student from the National Hospitality Institute. Some of the chefs competed in a three-tier wedding cake contest while others battled it out cooking. "They get to showcase their talent and it's good for the restaurants as well because customers don't see what's happening in the kitchen.
"This is an opportunity for people to see what a good job they do," said organiser Chef Thomas Oommen, from the OCG.
For the first time in the GCC, one of the competitions focused solely on local food. Celebrity chef Issa Al Lamki, who has cooked live on Oman TV and recently opened an Omani restaurant in Ghubra, said it's important that Omanis don't lose touch with their culinary heritage. He noted that younger generation of Omanis is better at cooking international food like cupcakes and hamburgers.
"We are trying to develop our skills in Omani food because it's starting to disappear. Omani food used to be the best in the Gulf. We had more than 35 different dishes but now nobody knows about them," he said.
Al Lamki added that he hoped the competition, which had 40 contestants, both Omani and expatriate, with and without professional experience, would allow him to see the level of talent and knowledge people have about cooking Omani food. Then he would be able to promote the needed skills based on the results of the three-day contest. "It's also good to let people know that Omani food still exists. This is a start," he added.
Sisters Naima and Namareq Al Balushi, both high school students, were thrilled to be part of Chef Issa Al Lamki's competition where they shared skills they had learned from their mother.
"It's so nice. We help our mom with her catering company. She makes Omani food," explained Naima.
The competitions end today with prizes being awarded this evening at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.