(London, 14th February 2020) University College Birmingham is the new Zest Quest Asia champion, with the team and their mentor winning a culinary and cultural trip of a lifetime to Bangkok as guests of Dusit International, Thailand’s premier luxury hotel and resorts group.

In addition, they will undertake training in Thai cuisine at the Dusit Thani’s signature Thai restaurant and at the recently launched Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School. They will also meet five of Thailand’s leading chefs in their Michelin-starred restaurants.

The awardees and their accompanying first prize were announced at a gala dinner held at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal Five (Hilton T5) attended by over 250 food, drink and hospitality industry representatives, catering equipment suppliers, colleges, students, the trade media and numerous well-wishers on Friday, 7th February. Also in attendance were key representatives and officers from the Japanese Embassy and the Philippine Department of Tourism in the UK.


This is the second time that University College Birmingham has won Zest Quest Asia, the last time being in 2017.

This year, University College Birmingham students John Almeida, Dorottya Kalo, Goncalo Machado, with the guidance of their mentor, Lewis Walker, won over the judges with their bold 3-course Pan-Asian menu inspired by the cuisines of Thailand, Sri-Lanka and Japan.

Their winning culinary showcase, prepared during a live cook-off at Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen earlier in the day, comprised a starter of Thai Langoustine ‘Mi Krop’ Croquette, Langoustine & Spinach Bisque, Mango & Coconut Salsa; a main course of Sri Lankan Monkfish ‘Malu Mirisata’ Curry, Cashew Sauce, Spiced Infused ‘Kiribath’ Rice Green Bean Salad, ‘Wattaka Kalu Pol’ Pumpkin Curry, Tomato Sambal, and a dessert of Japanese Cherry Blossom Garden Dark Chocolate and Yuzu ‘Namelaka’, Macha ‘Kasutera sponge, Spiced Cherries, Sesame Oil, Blossom Garnish.

The judges were equally impressed by the team’s performance during the presentation and interview that followed, where they had the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of their chosen cuisines’ underlying cultural

and historical traditions.

Now on its seventh series, Zest Quest Asia 2020 is a competition that celebrates – and generously rewards -- talent and ambition in the Asian culinary arts among student chefs in Britain. Founded by restaurateurs Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL and Pervin Todiwala with the involvement of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, it aims to raise the profile of Asian cuisine as a career among budding chefs. By doing so, it hopes to stem the loss of skills in traditional Asian cookery brought on by restrictive immigration and to one day see Asian cuisine embedded in the curriculum.



Other awards and prizes announced during the evening were:

  • Panasonic Cooker RoundThe Sheffield College, who won a ‘money can’t buy’ experience to cook for an event hosted by the Japanese Ambassador to the Court of St James, working alongside the Japanese Embassy’s chef

  • Tilda Best Use of RiceNew City College, Hackney who won a ‘Tilda Italia Tour’, exploring the Arborio Rice Mill and Milan’s gastronomic scene.

  • Castelnau Best Wine Pairing AwardThe Sheffield College, who will undertake a bespoke wine masterclass and dinner at a 5-star Central London hotel hosted in a private dining environment

  • Best Use of Robot Coupe MachineUniversity of West London who took home a brand new Robot Cook Machine and Micromix stick blenders

  • Glengoyne Best Menu Planning Award –  North Hertfordshire College, who won bottles of 18-year old Glengoyne Single Malt Whisky

  • Chefi Minimum Wastage Award –  University College Birmingham, who won sets of Chefi Knife Rolls

  • Lincolnshire Game Best Use of British Produce - Loughborough College, who will enjoy a ‘field to fork’ experience with a tour of a shooting estate followed by a visit to the Lincolnshire Game state of the art facility.

  • KellyBronze Best Local SourcingLoughborough College, who will visit the KellyBronze farm for a fun day of learning