CHEF Benji's face was a study in deep thought as he sat on his chair for two hours now, alternately hunched on the table, both arms supporting his head, or feverishly scribbling on his notebook, the tattered copy of his beloved Larousse Gastronomique in front of him.

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"This has got to be good," he mumbled to no one in particular - his loss last year on a time technicality still fresh on his mind - oblivious to the loud barking of neighbors' dogs which shattered the stillness of the night.

CAGAYAN DE ORO. The officers of Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant Association (Cohara) for FY 2010-2011 (Contributed photo)
It was past midnight when Chef Benji finally sidled up to his wife in bed, his mind on the crème de la crème of Cagayan de Oro's hotels and restaurants who'll see action during the Chef Wars of the much-awaited Kumbira 2010, organized by the Cagayan de Oro Hotels and Restaurants Association (Cohara).

"Kumbira, here I come."

The 14th Kumbira 2010 opens on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 as it has done in August every year since 1996.

Like the city fiesta, Kumbira has become an event eagerly awaited not only by city residents but by people from neighboring cities as well, especially HRM students and hotel and restaurant staff, as evidenced by the busloads of students from all over who make their annual pilgrimage to Cagayan de Oro to see, quite literally, what's cooking.

This year's guests will form a bee line to Limketkai, where, for three days, professional chefs from the city's hotels and restaurants and aspiring chefs from schools all over will showcase the finest of their craft, the event brightened by a constellation of stars of the Philippine culinary scene who will act as judges: Norbert Gandler (International School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management/ multi-awarded chef); international awardee cake stylist Penk Tan; Myrna Segismundo (restaurateur, cookbook author, TV chef); Ed Tuazon (Executive Chef, Marco Polo Davao); Dietmar Dietrich (Belcris Foods); Jill Sandique (Senior Trainor - USDA); Carsten Radke (La Vetta Restaurant); Colin Mackay (People's Palace); Michaela Makabenta (FOOD Magazine); Glenda Baretto (Via Mare Group of Restaurants); Jessie Sincioco (Le Soufflé / Rockwell Club); and Sandy Daza (Chef and Food Writer/Columnist), among others.

The professional live competition will have the following: Watermelon and Squash Carving; Bamboo Floral Buffet Centerpiece; Kagay-an Ham Sandwich and Salad; Kumbira Team Challenge; and the climax Chef Wars.

The display competition includes the Gourmet Cold Buffet Challenge, Artistic Bread Showpiece, Piña Pie, Plated Appetizer and Bridal Cake Decorating while the service competition will have Flair Bartending.

The student live competition will feature Watermelon and Squash Carving, Banana Floral Buffet Centerpiece, Cashew Dessert, Kagay-an Ham Sandwich and Salad, and Kumbira Team Challenge while the display competition will include Fiesta Buffet Table setting, Artistic Bread Showpiece, Set Menu and Baptismal Cake Decorating.

The service competition includes Flair Bartending-Tandem and On-The-Spot-Bedsetting. The students will also have their Chef Wars.

Seminars, cooking demonstrations and food sampling will also be held.

As always, a trade exhibit featuring hotel and restaurant equipment, supplies, services, food and beverage items will also be held.

For those interested to join, they may contact the Kumbira 2010 Secretariat c/o Exec. Secretary Ms. Nollie Arguelles at the Cohara Office, Cha-Li Beach Resort through tel. nos. (088) 8581705, 09195872812, 09228636442 or cohara@cdo.ph or nollie_arguelles@yahoo.com. Visitors may also check out their Web site at www.cohara.org/.

Cohara was organized in 1996 with eight members. Today, it has a strong cohesive membership of 28 hotels, 12 restaurants, 60 associate and four allied members. Its officers for FY 2010-2011 are Joanna Cris L. Yu of Bigby's Café as president; Alexis Chaves of Cha-Li Beach Resort as VP-Hotels; Joe L. Almodobar of Xavier Sports & Country Club as VP-Restaurant; Alex Podador of Pryce Plaza as Secretary; Blanquita C. Marco of Casa Crystalla as Treasurer; Jeffrey Ang of Max's Restaurant as PRO; and Bong Pelaez of Duka Bay Resort, Edward Ian Ang of Hotel Conchita, Eileen San Juan of VIP Hotel, Josy Aliñabon of La Ilongga Restaurant, Juvy Gontinias of Basamanggas Resort & Restaurant and Russel Awat of Kagay-anon Restaurant as Board of Directors. Its Honorary Members include Decius Esmedalla and Josephine Roque of Department of Tourism (DOT) Region X and Jocelyn Gordiel-Balbon while the Immediate Past President is Nelia B. Lee of Dynasty Court Hotel. Abraham V. Llera