He is only 16, but Chennai lad U Yeshwanth Kumar has carved out a niche in the culinary world for himself and made his country proud — he is the first chef in the world to win four silver medals at the culinary Olympics, held in Germany earlier this month.
Pitted against master chefs from 70 countries, Yeshwant won four silvers in different individual open category events — classical vegetable and fruit carving, live vegetable and fruit carving, artistry made from pastillage and gum paste.
“Pitted against competitors much older and experienced than him, Yeshwanth has brought laurels to India… it is not a simple achievement,” South India Chef’s Association (SICA) President and celebrity chef K Damodaran told reporters here on Saturday.
“Interestingly, the gold medal winner was aged about 50,” said the teenager’s father Umasankar Dhanapal, who himself is a chef and winner of bronze at the 2012 and 2016 culinary Olympics in the fruit carving event.
According to him, carving for competition is far more intricate and complicated than carving some images on a fruit.
“The fruit carvings we see in marriages and other functions are of basic level,” he pointed out.
The SICA presented the teenaged chef with a cheque for Rs 1 lakh as a token of appreciation.
A total of 2,000 chefs had participated in the culinary Olympics 2020 held between February 14-19 at Stuttgart.
“It was very challenging to hold the knife in freezing cold to executive delicate carvings on fruits and vegetables,” Yeshwant said.
Dhanapal said he did not participate this time over due to financial constraints but instead sent his son alone to Germany.
In the 2016 culinary Olympics, Dhanapal won the bronze medal, and Kumar a diploma or fourth place.
P Soundararajan, Corporate Executive Chief, Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India, said while at the 2008 culinary Olympics, he had wondered if any Indian would receive a medal. “It is nice to see a young Indian winning not just one but four silver medals in 2020,” Soundararajan said.
“For live carving event, the theme was floral ecstasy and my son chose Thai carving that is much more difficult than Chinese style of carving,” Dhanapal said.
In Thai style, a person can use only one knife and no other tools, unlike Chinese style. Sculpting a precise image is very difficult with a single knife and it needs long hours of daily practice. Even the knife is made only in Thailand,” he explained.
Though there are team events, till date no Indian team has competed in the culinary Olympics, SICA officials said and added that the central government should sponsor such talent.