I NEVER get tired of judging at the annual Robinsons Chinese Cook-Off. The job has its perks, you know. First of all, I get to meet the organizers Christine Tomas (marketing communications manager), John Dennis Rabang (mall artist), and Dwight Morana who helps out every year.

It is best to do the congratulating at the beginning, so, kudos to you, my friends, for outdoing yourselves again at the fifth cook-off.

The event held at the fountain area of Robinsons Place Bacolod was orderly and well-paced.

For the fifth time too, lovely and perky host Carmela Arcolas-Gamboa manned the microphone like the pro that she is. Never a dull moment with her as she gives details of the competition spiced up by her funny repartees.

The second reason is so obvious – I get to taste original recipes done by culinary students. Do not underestimate the talents of our young kitchen aspirants. A lot of them have so much potential in creating edible masterpieces.

Hence, congratulations to the five schools that sent off into this competition the best of their products. The following schools are represented as follows:

VMA Global College - Jemark Belarmino, AJ Orcajada, Pearl Marie Sergio, Reymar Balboa

College of Arts and Sciences of Asia and the Pacific - Elvin Iñigo Villaester, Jerome Uy, Nikko Libo-on, and Raffy Moreno

University of St. La Salle - Nielyn Mae Vera Cruz, Niel John Cortez, Neil Evangelista, and Stephine Paul Dungca

University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos - Dio Anne Pangue, Renz Montebon, Glory Mae Pecaoco, and Steve John Barredo

And last but certainly not the least is the champion for this year’s Robinsons Chinese Cook-Off is Southland College – Kabankalan with the incredible Jay Vallagomesa, John Dember Baricuatro, Sheene Kilayko, and Jason Larawan.

The participating teams were given a basket each of ingredients just before the start of the competition the main ingredient of which was chicken.

The spices, vegetables, and condiments were all similar in each basket and this was the test for each team’s ability to produce a stand-out dish from scratch.

We judges – the popular Honey Grace Patindol Catalan, Bacolod Academy for Culinary Arts chef Dennis Lamsfus who is from Monchengladbach, Germany, and yours truly – based our decisions on Chinese-style technique, taste, creativity/presentation, and cleanliness.

We were unanimous in choosing the entry from Southland College-Kabankalan. The plating was perfect, and the blend of flavors showed creativity and a well-planned Chinese-style recipe. Despite the bedlam and the din, the group was able to perform under pressure.

Congratulations, Southland College-Kabankalan! You have something to crow about. For the runners-up, don’t give up. Next year might be your year.