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The Culinary Olympian

Being a chef never seems like a job, it becomes a passion- Gordon Ramsay.

When I think of this quote, I remember Yashwanth Kumar Umasankar. This wonderful sixteen-year-old made India proud by winning four medals at the Culinary Olympics, 2020 held between February 14-19, at Stuttgart, Germany.

He is the first chef in the world to win four silver medals. The Olympics had around two-thousand chefs from across seventy countries participating, and most of them were twice his age, with a lot of professional experience. He won the 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. This was not a mean feat considering that the gold medalist was a 50 year old veteran. Yashwanth was not able to participate in the cooking events as it required a trained team of professionals

Yashwanth’s love for the culinary arts began at a very young age. His father, Umasankar Dhanapal, is also a chef. “I used to watch him teach students and was inspired to take it up as a career,” says Yashwanth, whose father began training him from the age of nine. Mr Dhanapal himself is a winner of the bronze at the 2012 and 2016 culinary Olympics in the Fruit Carving event. He did not participate in the 2020 event due to financial constraints and sent his son alone to Germany.

Yashwanth’s first attempt in vegetable and fruit carving was in 2015. He had to drop out of regular school and join the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), because the Olympics clashed with the dates of his Board Exams.

He has numerous feathers in his cap even at this young age. He won the Super Chef Chennai competition three years in a row and it is considered the toughest culinary arts-related competition in the city. In addition to this, he won five Gold, one Silver and one Bronze medal in the professional culinary competitions organised by various culinary associations of India. Yashwanth has also received a higher-education scholarship from Vels University’s Ishari Ganesh after he witnessed the young chef’s skills at one of the local culinary events in the city.

Recently he has added another feather to his already illustrious journey by earning “Highly Recommended” - the best possible ranking at the Virtual Edition of Cake International, the world’s largest cake making competition that took place in the UK.

Yashwanth also has his own YouTube channel, which he began in October 2017. It is called ‘YKU’. and he has posted close to 200 videos and has over 20,000 followers. His ambition is to be a world famous chef with multiple skill sets and to establish his own world class Culinary Art Studio.

His advice to youngsters is precious - “Everyone is born with talent. Those who identify their talent and sharpen them become successful in life. My advice to youngsters is to identify their talent.”

Interviewed by: Hasini Lakshminarayanan Written by: Krishna Vijay Edited by: Akshath Jaganmohan

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