Amid the bustle of the Hotel and Restaurant Expo held last week at PedregalConferenceCenter in San Antonio de Belén, west of San José, a crowd of some 50 spectators awaited the results of Maestro Culinario (Culinary Master), the first Central American professional cooking competition.
Ecuadorian chef Mauricio Almendarez, one of the five judges of the three-day competition that ended Sept. 7, called six chefs up to the kitchen stage to award them bronze medals before announcing the contest’s top three winners, all of whom obtained silver: chefs William Ortiz, Hernán Díaz and Juan José Rodríguez, winner of the first prize.
Rodríguez, 26, is the Café Britt corporation’s executive chef, and has 11 years of cooking experience. He has already won several cook-offs, including gold and silver medals at competitions in Mexico and Guatemala in recent years.
“I don’t feel I’m the only winner; there are many winners, many who got medals,” he told The Tico Times after receiving his trophy and a set of top-of-the-line cooking utensils as his prize.
Rodríguez’s brother Wilky worked as his assistant during the competition, during which four chefs were evaluated each day.
According to Almendarez, competitors did not reach the technical levels required to obtain gold medals with 36-40 points.
However, with organizers planning to make Maestro Culinario an annual event, he predicts that chefs will improve their skills in the following years.
“Each year, participants will do their best to not make the same mistakes,” he said.
For more information about the cooking competition, visit www.maestroculinario.com (Spanish only).