Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Good Taste Series 2018 at Hyatt City of Dreams

Flounder. Bacon. Couscous. Squash blossoms. And lychees. Five ingredients from a Mystery Box. And six talented young chefs take up the challenge in creating a lavish dish using these same five ingredients. Welcome to this year's edition of The Good Taste Series at Hyatt City of Dreams...

The 2018 Edition of The Good Taste Series at Hyatt City of Dreams was recently held at The Cafe last week with three winners selected for the next round of qualifying stages leading to the Asian semi-finals in Macau. Observing the competition up close was a memorable experience for me, seeing the whole creative process unfold all the way until final plating. Read on for another look back at the recent The Good Taste Series 2018 at Hyatt City of Dreams...

Using the different live open kitchen theater-style stations of The Cafe, the six young chefs began to prep the ingredients for their main dish. Barely an hour after opening the mystery box to reveal the five ingredients, the young chefs were given only two hours to execute their dish. By mid-afternoon, the different stations at The Cafe were all fired-up as the pace picked up.

Five ingredients. Yet each of the six young chefs offered six unique interpretations of the ingredients reflecting their culinary styles. It's refreshing to see how the creative process unravels revealing six different perspectives with the same set of ingredients. It's what makes The Good Taste Series at Hyatt a much-anticipated annual event.

Each chef was completely in the zone, intensely focused, as the different stations hummed with a frenetic yet definitive pace.

The distinct culinary styles of each chef pierce through the blur of activity in the different stations... each ingredient was carefully prepped...

...and executed for the final dish.

And what a spread. That day, six different elegantly plated dishes were presented using the same five ingredients. It's Flounder, Bacon, Couscous, Squash blossom, and Lychee prepared six different ways.

Each dish was clearly different from the other, reflecting uniquely personal culinary styles.  

With the ingredients revealed just a few hours before preparing the dishes, you just have to hand it to these young chefs for creating masterful creations on the fly. Two hours is all you need in the kitchen for creating that perfect dish. If you know what you're doing. For these six young chefs, each one had a pretty clear idea on what to create right from the start.

The panel of judges led by Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage and Culinary Operations Chad Ogden, Executive Chef Markus Tauwald, and Executive Pastry Chef Hoon Sung deliberate on the dishes along with the other judges as Executive Sous Chef Bryan Salarzon assists the panel.

For the six young chefs, a few more anxious minutes pass before the winners were announced...

That day, the top three winners for The Good Taste Series of 2018 at Hyatt City of Dreams reflected creativity, mastery in execution and commitment to flavor with Jennylyn Arizabal bagging Third Place with her intricate Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Flounder with Couscous Brown Butter infused in Lychee with Cilantro Beurre Blanc and Pickled Vegetables...

...while Second Place goes to Elbert Maranan with his elegant Flounder Gratin with Mixed Vegetable Bulgur, Lychee & Bacon Custard and Caramelized Onion Mayonnaise.

Presentation and flavor wins the top prize for David Diona with his inspired Flounder Confit with Caramelized Lychee Couscous, Balsamic Orange Reduction and Buttermilk Froth. All the dishes played with delicately balanced and nuanced flavors capped by contrasting textures. The future of the local culinary scene looks bright. David, Elbert and Jenny will then join three of their counterparts from the Grand Hyatt Manila culinary team for another competition to determine one winner who will represent Hyatt properties in the Philippines for the regional qualifiers against the rising culinary stars of Macau and Hong Kong.

At the end of the competition, all six young chefs were awarded certificates to culminate another successful edition of The Good Taste Series at Hyatt City of Dreams.

Executive Sous Chef Bryan Salarzon stands proud with the young and talented culinary team, all winners in my book. And you can recreate the winning dish at home with the special recipe from this year's The Good Taste Series winner...

Flounder Confit with Caramelized Lychee Couscous, Balsamic Orange Reduction and Buttermilk Froth


White Wine
Red Onion
Green Bell Pepper
Tempura Flour
Squash Blossom

  1. Combine cinnamon, oregano, basil, orange, lemon, red onion and olive oil. Use low heat for about 30 minutes.
  2. Reduce balsamic with orange zest.
  3. Reduce white wine with sugar.
  4. Caramelize the lychees and set aside.
  5. Boil couscous, drain then add reduced white wine, oil confit, bruinoise of bell pepper and red onion. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the fish to the oil for about 12 minutes.
  7. Deep-fry the squash blossom with tempura batter.
  8. Simmer the milk with butter and froth with immersion blender.
For more on Hyatt's annual culinary competition, follow the hashtag #TheGoodTasteSeries.

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