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      UK's Wokstar competition reaches sizzling finale

      Xinhua | Updated: 2022-06-22 08:58
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      LIVERPOOL - On Friday, the final course was served at a nationwide cookery contest to encourage the United Kingdom's future chefs to dish up Chinese cuisine.

      Around 60 young catering students from colleges throughout the UK participated in the Wokstar 2022 contest, with the final six battling it out on Friday for the top prize in Liverpool's Lu Ban restaurant.

      After a grueling round of heats and a cooking finale, the judges declared Jean Claudine Villaneuva, a 29-year-old student at Middlesbrough College in northeastern England, as the first Wokstar winner.

      Lu Ban's head chef Dave Critchley, who presented a trophy and a check for £3,000($3,660) to Villaneuva, is a passionate disciple of Chinese cuisine.

      For over 20 years, he has specialized in British and French cuisine before his love affair with Chinese cooking blossomed.

      "Wokstar is a fantastic new competition aimed at students across the UK. Our role here at Lu Ban is to talk about Chinese cuisine, Chinese culture, and showcase it to the rest of the UK. We thought, what better way to do that than to run a specifically Chinese cooking competition," Critchley says.

      "There are other Asian culinary competitions out there, but obviously our focus is on Chinese food. We have managed to create this incredible competition, which will encompass the entire country. We have had colleges from all over the country competing, and really, it's about showcasing how fantastic Chinese cuisine is."

      Critchley says in its founding year, the competition involved over 60 students.

      "I must say that the quality we've seen so far has been pleasantly surprising. I think it's the enthusiasm and the passion for Chinese food that is really inspiring. It's great to see people getting really involved in this and really celebrating not just the food of China, but also the culture around it. And what we looked for in our finalists and our winner was actually someone who does understand the importance of Chinese cuisine, so it's very much passion, as well as cookery skills, that we judged in this competition."

      Critchley's interest in Chinese cuisine started when he worked in Asian restaurants in Manchester before becoming chief chef at Lu Ban.

      "I was flown over to Tianjin in northern China, where I worked with some incredible chefs and got to see the most amazing restaurants I've ever eaten at in my life. It completely changed my perspective on Chinese cuisine and culture. That really opened my eyes. It was a life-changing experience and I have not looked back since," he says.

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