Young Talent Escoffier Winner

HO Jia Yi, 21, will represent Singapore against 12 other competitors this November 2022 to determine the winner of Young Talent Escoffier Asia Pacific 2022

HO Jia Yi shoulders a huge responsibility.

This coming November, the 21-year old will represent Singapore and compete against 12 other contestants in Bali. The winner of the Young Talent Escoffier Asia Pacific round will then go on in 2023 to Europe (venue to be confirmed), to compete against other winners from the rest of the world.

That final competition (held one year in France and the next in another country) is named for Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), the “King of Chefs” and the “Chef of Kings”. The Frenchman devoted his entire life to the concept of transmitting skills and expertise to the next generation. Escoffier did that in the kitchen and through books.

Candidates for Young Talent Escoffier may not be older than 25 years.

At 21, Ho Jia Yi is younger than most. Apart from being talented, she will have a former world champion and runner-up mentoring her. The duo are KOH Han Jie (Winner, YTE, Zurich 2018) and NEO Jun Hao (Runner-Up, YTE, Bordeaux 2019).

Those two winners were themselves mentored by Edmund Toh, President, Disciples of Escoffier Singapore Delegation and a former president of the Singapore Chefs Association. Such is the regard and esteem accorded to Toh, he remains Honorary President of SCA. In his day job, Edmund Toh is General Manager, Brand Development/Culinary, Aston Group.

KOH Han Jie was Winner at YTE World Competition 2018 held in Zurich. In 2015, Koh won a six-month internship at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and has worked at Les Amis. He is presently Chef of Ce Soir and Under Der Linden

NEO Jun Hao was Runner-Up at YTE World Competition 2019 held in Bordeaux (losing to a Frenchman by a single point). Neo is a founder partner and Chef at Hue, the modern Thai restaurant at 123 Tyrwhitt Road where Ho Jia Yi works

Edmund Toh is President, Disciples of Escoffier Singapore Delegation and Honorary President Singapore Chefs Association. He is also General Manager, Brand Development/Culinary, Aston Group

Ho Jia Yi was born in Singapore. So was her father. Her mother is from Huian, Quanzhou, Fujian Province.

“When in primary school, I helped my mother prepare ingredients for cooking but it was not until secondary school that I was allowed to cook as my mother did not want me near the fire when I was younger.”

Jia Yi enjoyed cooking but it was something else that laid the foundation for what she would eventually pursue.

“I started doing pastry because of my youngest brother and second youngest sister.  At the time, Ci Hong was 4 or 5, and Jia Feng 6 or 7. I was 14 and in secondary school. They wanted to eat cookies. Except they were expensive to buy. So I saved some of my allowance and, during the school holidays, baked cookies for them.”

Jia Yi has another sibling. Also younger than her, Jia Xin is Number 2 of the four children. While her father works, her mother stays home to look after the family and home. It did not, however, escape her attention Jia Yi’s talent. Madam Ho asked her eldest child to make cookies for all her children for them to gift their teachers on Teacher’s Day.

Jia Yi had learned to make cookies – and cakes – via Goggle and Youtube. The mold, so to speak, was cast.

The teenager enrolled for a 2-year Nitec – National Institute of Technical Education Certificate – course in pastry and cooking in 2018. She attended ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang. And went on to do another year in higher Nitec at the same institution.

While in the second year of the 2-year course, Jia Yi brought great pride to her college. Amongst some 40 students from all three schools – College Central, College East and College West – Jia Yi and another student were selected to compete in WorldSkills Singapore. Held once every two years, WSS is a national skills competition “to discover and recognise the most skilful youths in Singapore”.

Competitors come from ITE, polytechnics, universities, private educational institutions and industry. The competition Jia Yi took part in was on desserts and culinary with a greater focus on the latter. Over the course of three days, seven competitors prep, baked and cooked their way through three 4-hour modules including tapas, main course and dessert.

Ho Jia Yi came in First and received a Certificate of Outstanding Performance in Culinary Arts WorldSkills Master Class 2019.

At WorldSkills Singapore 2019, seven finalists took three days over three 4-hour modules to prepare tapas, main course and dessert. The First Prize went to HO Jia Yi

Two years later, she graduated from ITE and the same year in 2021 joined Hue where she does pastry and garde manger preparing, including, salads, hors d’oeuvres, appetizers and canapes. These food are stored under refrigeration and a chef garde manger is referred to as a “pantry chef”.

Ho Jia Yi has come a long way since baking cookies and cakes when she was 14.

YTE Singapore 2022. Front, from left, Runner-Up NG Shi Long (serving National Service, ORD December 2022), Winner HO Jia Yi, and Second Runner-Up Isabelle Koh (working in Sofitel City Centre). Back row, from left, Richmond Lim (Singapore Expo), Edmund Toh (President, Disciples of Escoffier Singapore Delegation and Honorary President Singapore Chefs Association), Anderson Ho (SATS Catering), KONG Kok Kiang (Sentosa Golf Club) and Yen Koh (Bread Talk Group)

The Heat is On

This November 2022 in Bali, Indonesia, HO Jia Yi will compete with 12 other winners to decide who will present Young Talent Escoffier Asia Pacific in the YTE world competition in 2023.

The 13 YTE Asia Pacific competitors are from:

  • Australia
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Macau
  • New Caledonia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Tahiti-French Polynesia
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

The pressure on Ho Jia Yi is palpable.

After all, two Singaporeans were YTE Asia Pacific champions.

KOH Han Jie went on to become Winner at the world championship held in Zurich in 2018 and NEO Jun Hao was Runner-Up in Bordeaux in 2019.

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