From education to employment



Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala launch Zest Quest Asia 2024

(6TH October, London) The competition responsible for acquainting many a student chef with the myriad cuisines of Asia – from Indian to Japanese, Filipino to Vietnamese, Thai, Sri Lankan and beyond – is embarking on its eleventh year, with the launch of Zest Quest Asia 2024 by founders Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala.

Now a firm fixture of the UK’s culinary competition calendar, Zest Quest Asia was created in 2013 with the support of the Master Chefs of Great Britain to lift the profile of Asian food among budding chefs enrolled in full-time in colleges across the country.  Since then, the annual competition has awarded 10 teams composed of three students and their tutor with a first prize trip of a lifetime to an Asian culinary capital.  There, local hosts take them on an educational voyage across the tastes and flavours of Asian cooking where they visit local markets, take part in hands-on chef demonstrations, help to prepare special menus and imbibe the local food scene. 

Last year’s Zest Quest Asia champions from the University of West London spent over a week in Bangkok.  They were billed at the 5-star Dusit Thani Bangkok where they both enjoyed and learned the techniques of preparing ‘royal Thai cuisine’.  The location and itinerary of the first prize trip is always a closely guarded secret until the gala dinner and awards evening.

One of the main criteria for entry is that students hold permanent residency in the UK.  In this way, the competition strives for a legacy whereby talent in Asian cuisine remains in the UK, thus helping to build a roster of ‘home-grown” chefs able to prepare authentic and Asian-inspired dishes in the country’s commercial and industrial kitchens.  However, Zest Quest Asia is well-known for its rigour; teams that go on to the final round must then submit to a live cook-off, preceded by a face-to-face presentation to determine their knowledge and understanding.

The competition will be spread over two days: the presentations take place on Monday, 26th February 2024, followed by the live cook-off on Tuesday, 27th February, and the announcement of the winners later in the evening at the gala dinner, to be held in 2024 at Hilton London Wembley.

Tilda Rice has been confirmed as headline sponsorship of Zest Quest Asia 2024 and coming on board as gold sponsors are Hilton London Wembley, Panasonic and the Tokyo College of Sushi and Washoku, London.  Underscoring the growing importance of Zest Quest Asia in the wider hospitality arena, the Institute of Hospitality will be supporting this year’s competition by providing one year’s membership to every finalist.

Robert Richardson FIH MI, chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality, said,

“We are delighted to be supporting Zest Quest Asia 2024.  Developing and nurturing young talent across the hospitality industry is what the Institute of Hospitality stands for, so we are delighted to provide this year’s finalists with membership to help support them by providing  access to a wealth of resources, such as our mentoring programme.  Zest Quest Asia provides young chefs with an incredible opportunity to develop themselves, so I would encourage any young chef to jump at this opportunity and apply.”

Cyrus Todiwala OBE FIH said,

“I have always said that Zest Quest Asia is the competition for the most talented and ambitious student chefs.  Pervin and I have seen how incrementally through the years the competition has made inroads.  More and more colleges seem to be encouraging their students and tutors to take Asian cuisine seriously.  So I would call on all colleges to give their students the opportunity to experience the excitement of preparing and cooking of Asian food.  Asian ingredients that can be used in Asian cooking are more popular than ever.  You have so much to gain.”

Deadline for submission of entries is Friday 8th December 2023.  Finalists will be announced on Wednesday 4th January 2024.

Tickets for the Gala Dinner and Awards Night are now on sale priced at £110pp, or £1,000 per table of 10, and include a drinks reception and three course dinner with wines.  

Related Articles