The Umami Mystery

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It’s always a treat to watch live culinary shows and contests. Who wouldn’t be interested in food? I caught some portions of Ajinomoto’s 3rd Umami Culinary Challenge: Battle for the Umami Bowl held last Friday, January 20 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. The inter-school multi-category competition drew over 30 participating schools and showcased the culinary students’ knowledge, creativity and skills related to umami, considered as the 5th basic taste. The show also featured cooking demonstrations and talks by industry experts.

umami challenge quiz

My curiosity in the event was due to lingering questions about the safety of monosodium glutamate or MSG, a seasoning that gives off the umami or “malinamnam” taste in food. These safety questions were answered in a video presentation viewed inside a booth in the venue. The video basically contains what’s in the Ajinomoto website about the Truth About MSG.

umami mystery video

I stayed for a cooking demonstration done by Chef Michelle, sponsored by Elba. The chef honestly admitted  that some ingredients were lacking so she had to improvise. At one point she had to just recite the recipe then show the finished product. It was a good thing that the random taste testers called by the chef liked the finished product.

umami challenge cooking demo

cooking demo courtesy of Elba

My favorite part of the competition was the Umami Bento and Plate My Dish categories. There was a very long table where the bento meals and plated dishes were displayed for judging. Presentation plays a big part in enjoying a meal. A lot of viewers certainly enjoyed the visual feast, as evidenced by the countless photos taken, and positive comments given on the food on display.

umami challenge

umami challenge

It was heartening to see the enthusiasm shown by contest participants, student viewers and the public. I hope this enthusiasm would translate to a long-term widespread interest in the culinary profession.Overall competition winner was Miriam College, which got the Umami Bowl Award for having the highest average score in the major categories.Nina Daza-Puyat, editor-in-chief of Appetite Magazine, observing the contestants at work

Congratulations to the participating schools and students, Ajinomoto Philippines and sponsors for supporting a fun and educational event.

Other event info and photos can also be seen in the Umami Culinary Challenge Facebook Fan Page.

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