Recently, Malaysia played host to the first ever Worldchef Battlefield 2019 held at the Movenpick Hotel and Convention Centre, Selangor. The World Cup-style tournament consisted of 16 invited professional culinary establishments from countries across the Asian continent. Chef Rezal Othman, the Executive Sous Chef for Rizqun International Hotel built his team and represented Brunei in the battlefield.

Chef Rezal’s team comprised of renowned chefs in the country from Rizqun International Hotel, Radisson Hotel, and the Empire Hotel and Country Club namely Chef Rezal Othman as the team’s Chief Commander, Chef Nova Akhbar as Assistant Chief Commander, Teddy Kurniawan as Pastry Chef, and Dani Rustiandi as Assistant Chef. He also brought along two local budding chefs – Awangku Hafiz Dzulfadly and Fridi Said, in the hopes for them to observe, gain experience and knowledge for the future competitions similar to Battlefield.

Photo courtesy of Siti Kaprawi

We talked to four of the chefs who competed for Brunei at the Worldchef Battlefield – Chef Rezal Othman, Chef Nova Akhbar, Chef Dani Rustiandi and Awangku Hafiz Dzulfadly to share their experiences over the course of the tournament.

“For me, one of the challenges was the mystery to what ingredients will be available in the pantry. The concept is who gets to snatch the ingredients the fastest and cook with the ingredients and equipment that are available. For example, we were required to use a pressure cooker but it was not available, so we had to improvise our style of cooking within the time limit,” said Chef Rezal.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nova Akhbar

Even with the limitations, the distinguished chefs were able to come up with three amazing dishes – Poached Prawns with Mussel emulsion as an appetizer, Braised Oxtail calamansi with potato puree as the main course and Biraksa Mont Blanc to clean your palate.

“We tried to infuse local flavours in our cooking, such as the incorporation of traditional kueh, biraksa and the oxtail – we combined a local twist of using calamansi and spices that are usually used in making soups,”  said Chef Nova Akhbar.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nova Akhbar

Even with those three dishes, the team fell short of reaching the finals but managed to gain a high 87 over 100 and was awarded a gold medalist for their performance during the tournament.

“Even though we didn’t win as the grand champion, we are grateful to have achieved a gold medal. In doing that, I hope to be able to inspire others so that more youth will want to join these types of competitions,” said Chef Rezal.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nova Akhbar

For youth like Hafiz, being able to observe the Battlefield and meet chefs from other countries was an eye-opening experience. He mentioned that by being there, he was able to expand his knowledge on new cuisines, learning new techniques on food plating and working with a combination of ingredients from the chefs. All these made him want to join the next battlefield and test his skills among the best in the region.

Even for an experienced chef like Chef Dani, the competition was an unbelievable experience for him as he was able to learn new modern techniques in cooking and use state-of-the-art equipment that is not available in the country.

Photo courtesy of Chef Nova Akhbar

“We want to develop the new generation to be brave and creative, that want to take the risk of enrolling into competitions and bring a good name for the country as well as the organization they represent, especially the opportunity to introduce more Bruneian flavours to the dishes because our flavours are unique and  are not available elsewhere,” exclaimed Chef Rezal.

In the future, it is hoped that a collaboration with Brunei Association of Hotels (BAH) will support and round up individuals to join Brunei Gastronomy group to be endorsed by the World Islamic Culinary Society (WICS). If that is successful, Brunei can bring more people to join competitions like Worldchef Battlefield, an invitation for aspiring chefs to join worldwide events and professional chefs in Brunei can be sent for training to be judges, opening doors for them to be a judge in a culinary competition, not only in Asia but also at a world-level.