Cooking Macanese At Taylor’s University

The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) recently immersed culinary students at Taylor’s University in Macanese cuisine as it arrived on campus ahead of its Taste of Macao food promotion which kicks off this weekend.

Freshly flown in from Macao was Chef Laurence Tai, who together with Malaysian Chef Gary Chang demonstrated the preparation of an iconic Macanese dish, after which students had to recreate it with their own unique twist in a snap competition.

Chef Laurence Tai and Chef Gary Chang

A pre-cursor to the mouth-watering Taste of Macao campaign which runs throughout July at the award-winning Champignons restaurant, the event at Taylor’s School of Food Studies & Gastronomy was graced by MGTO representative in Malaysia Tunku Dato’ Seri Dr. Iskandar Tunku Abdullah. He welcomed students and chefs inside the School’s Manifestation Culinary Bar Theatre where the cooking workshop took place.

MGTO representative in Malaysia Tunku Dato’ Seri Dr. Iskandar Tunku Abdullah emphasised the importance of Macao’s inclusion in UNESCO’s Creative City’s network under the gastronomy category

In his speech Tunku mentioned the long history between Taylor’s and MGTO, which began in 2011 when Chefs from Taylor’s including Senior Lecturer Chef Farouk bin Othman were tasked with establishing Halal tourism in Macao by hosting workshops with restaurant owners, hotel F&B directors, and tour operators. Those efforts have since led to a marked increase in Halal restaurants in Macao.

Speaking on Macao’s recent designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, Tunku also mentioned the powerful branding it lends to the administrative region as a destination of choice.

Head of School of Food Studies & Gastronomy Puan Siti Ramadhaniatu Ismail, Director of Culinary Institute Chef Frederic Raymond Paul Cerchi, Tunku Iskandar and Senior Lecturer Chef Farouk bin Othman

“For such a small place it has a wealth of gastronomic assets including 19 Michelin starred restaurants. This is the result of Macao’s centuries-long fusion of eastern and western cultures that has shaped the destination into a food paradise. Today’s cooking demonstration is part of a campaign that we’ve been doing for months to promote Macanese cuisine and culture. Chef Gary and Chef Laurence will team up to create a bespoke lunch and five-course dinner menu featuring dishes with Macanese flavours at heart.”

Tunku Iskandar’s speech led right into the cooking demo by Chef Laurence, owner of the bistro-styled Seek Your Choice restaurant in Macao. He took students through each step of the famous Bacalhau à Brás, a dish made with shreds of salted cod, onions, fried matchstick potatoes, olives and egg. Steeped in tradition and ubiquitous in Macao, the dish is rich in taste with a mild salty flavour.

Taylor’s Manifestation Culinary Bar Theatre with the cooking workshop in progress

Upon realising they would have to cook their own version of the dish in a heated competition following the demo, students crowded eagerly around the counter to watch as Chef Laurence constructed the dish while Chef Gary provided commentary and fielded questions.

Chef Laurence adds egg to the pan – a core ingredient of the time-honoured dish

Bacalhau à Brás

With the demo complete and tastings done, students split off into groups of two to make their way to the kitchen battlegrounds at Truffle restaurant where they had one hour to create their own Bacalhau à Brás – adding to it any ingredients they wished.

Darting about the kitchen, the budding chefs could be seen grabbing various items to make the dish as unique as possible. Meanwhile, Director of Culinary Institute Chef Frederic Raymond Paul Cerchi, Head of School of Food Studies & Gastronomy Puan Siti Ramadhaniatu Ismail, Chef Farouk, and Culinary Stream Coordinator Chef Diana Cornwell Neowcharurn kept a watchful eye on contestants.

The competition is on! Students take a crack at Bacalhau à Brás

Chef Diana Cornwell Neowcharurn and Chef Frederic look on as contestants race to finish the dishes

As time approached, contestants plated up their dishes and presented them on a long table set up inside Truffle. There, judges including Chef Frederic, Chef Farouk, Chef Gary and Chef Laurence scrutinised each dish based on criteria including presentation, creativity and style. The aim was to preserve the heart of the dish and maintain its base flavours, while adding their own twist.

Chef Farouk and Chef Frederic carrying out their roles as judges

All smiles from the winning team!

In the end, it was seaweed that won over the hearts of the judges, the winning team revealing that they added the ingredient to the eggs for sweet and creamy complimentary flavours that worked in harmony with the salted cod. The two students walked away with a special cutlery set from MGTO, and a new-found interest for Macanese cuisine.

And that’s a wrap!

Stay tuned for more news from the Taste of Macao food promotion!