This is the second part of the series “Bento cooking contest 2014“. If you have not read the first part yet, I would like to recommend you to read it before you continue on this post, Thank you!
Now the contest is over, how did it go with you and your bento? FIrst and foremost I would like to congratulate the International Grand Winner Joan from France and the Japanese Grand Winner Noriko from Japan as well as the 10 finalists: 1. Tomomi, 2. Marie, 3. Mitsuko, 4. Ika, 5. Tomoko, 6. Tomiko, 7. Valerie, 8. Syntia, 9. Akiko and 10. Reiko for their splendid bentos and wonderful achievement. Congratulations! And, I have not forgotten you who participated but could not make it to the final round. This year the total number of entries was 182 which was much less than last year’s number (349). I am just wondering if it was due to this completely new kind of theme which was maybe a bit too demanding or confusing for some people? I did not see so many Kyaraben this year, was it difficult to find a good balance between the cuteness and the culinary performance? The reason can be many and personal. But one thing is sure regardless of the final result, this event which was a big adventure for you will work positively to support you next year. Even though your bento did not make it to the final round, I saw many good ones. I would like to pick up some of your bentos and will continue on this issue in my next post Part 3, but in this second part I hope you can see the contest from a bit different perspective. I will be using Joan’s bento as a good and successful example. So please follow me….
I thought Joan’s bento was an excellent example. Bento&co asked Joan to write some descriptions about his bento (They are available to read in English and in French) and when I read it I was very impressed. It sounds like he understood the theme and the ingredients very well, which is easy to say but difficult to do, in addition he knew exactly what was asked for to win this contest. I think this was the reason why his bento became so successful for this contest. In my blog about the bento contest in 2012 I pointed out the importance of understanding the rules and discovering what is hidden behind the rules. I could see from the descriptions and the plans Joan designed for his bento that each part of his bento was carefully thought and designed under the strong running theme, let alone his cooking techniques and works were so good and supportive to his ideas. His imaginary “Garden Theme” worked really well with the selected ingredients and his own choice of a herb, basil. (smart choice) I read Joan’s descriptions both in English and French (as some cooking terms in french can explain more about the specific techniques and cooking method or even tools in detail) and I knew immediately he is a man who visits his local market and he loves to cook and he CAN cook!
Of the whole concept of this contest I think the most important part could be described by these questions :
How do I cook egg?
How do I cook carrot?
How do I cook rice?
How do I cook chicken?
How do I cook broccoli?
How do I cook potato?
How do I cook tomato?
And, what can I add to make them taste more delicious?
And, how can I make a harmonized 1 bento with all of these?
Do you see the answers to these questions in his bento?
At least I do. Each selected ingredient was prepared and used in at least 2 different ways. Many of the ingredients were represented by a coupf of different sorts. He even used 2 kinds of basil. Eggs were cooked as a Melenge with egg white, quail eggs in the salad, 2 different kinds of potato… So lovery. So lovery. But what impressed me specially in his bento was his way of presenting tomatoes in this bento.
In my previous post I wrote one of the 7 ingredients of Bento&co’s choice could turn out to be a wild card and, yes I meant tomato was it. Why tomato? Can you guess?
Because when it comes to using tomato in our bento we are so routinely used to putting a fresh unskinned tomato in our bento box. It is red, it is cute, it is round and it is small. What a perfect accent tomato is! But that is exactly why I thought it would be a problem for this contest and I imagined there will be many bentos with a cute little cherry tomato in it in this contest, which I think actually happened. I hope you won’t understand me wrong here, there is nothing wrong or bad about putting a cherry tomato in our bento box. I also use it a lot, probably almost everyday. Tomato is not really an easy food to cook for bento. It becomes a soupy sauce which can be unfortunate for the look of your contest bento. But the more I thought about it, the larger my curiosity grew, I was very much looking forward to finding somebody or anybody who conquered tomato and presented it in a great culinary way.
Yes, Joan did.
It was not only jellied and spherified, it was flying! What a pretty way of decoration! I really liked his presentation of sweet tomato spheres around Mt. Fuji. Who would think of this form of presentation with tomato!! Spherification is not a new culinary technique but I have never seen it in any bento before.
But Joan, I think you are a man who can cook and you are able to listen to other’s opinion. As you kindly wrote that one of my bentos was the source of inspiration for a tiny part of your bento I choose to be bold and write this to you. If I allow myself to be unreasonably demanding to you, I think it could have been nicer if we could see more basil in your lovery suprêmes de poulet roulés (the chicken) and change the dark wild rice to a little lighter colored rice so that it gets more contrast to your fantastic mini-carottes poêlées and show the part of rice there as your sushi Thai rice is covered by green. I am probably being nitpicky and you may not agree, but Joan, it is my advise. You can toss and trash, that is ok, but I am so happy to share the love of culinary with you.
Anyway, congratulations Joan. I hope you will have a good trip to Kyoto and enjoy your time there. Thank you for sharing your wonderful bento, it was an experience for me, an extraordinary one, and I am so sure many others will think so too.
xx Rie, your cooking friend