Black Box Challenge for Chefs at JW Marriott


JW Marriott is one of the Luxury brand of hotels part of Marriott family.  It is one of the places that gives an enriching experience everytime.  Recently, the JW Marriott property at Bangalore, hosted a 3-day workshop for Executive Chefs across various Marriott properties in India.  The entire workshop was led by the Senior Director of Culinary APAC, Toine Heksel and Direct or Culinary APAC, Raheel Ahmed.

The idea of the workshop was to educate some of the Culinary skills and bring a commonality for dishes available across all Marriott.  Basically, if a guest picks up a simple dish at a JW Marriott outlet in Bangalore, the person should get the same experience anywhere else.  There were Chefs from Stregis @Mumbai, Marriott @Pune, Courtyard @Ahmedebad, Marriott @Whitefield-Bangalore, Marriott @Jaipur, Marriott @Kochi, JW Marriott @Kolkata and various other Marriott properties.

Workshop Details

There were plenty of activities lined for Chefs across 3-days.


They had the introduction workshop by Chef Toine, Chef Raheel and Chef Blake.  It was followed by interactive sessions among the Chefs and then the Black Box Challenge to create dishes with unknown ingredients.


The Chefs were given an opportunity to be surrounded by fresh and natural produce, which were then used for cooking dishes in a ‘Chefs cok-off’ inspired by the preparations made at the Iyengar family’s household.


The new culinary specialities learned, were prepared for a special lunch buffet.  This would allowed guests to experience the local cuisine at its finest.

I was part of 2 events – Day-1:Black Box Challenge and Day-3:Special lunch buffet by chefs.  In this write-up I will be sharing further details regarding Day-1 events.  The details related to Day-3: Special Buffet is captured in a different writeup.

Black Box Challenge

The challenge given to the Chefs was to make an Indian Breakfast with given set of ingredients in a black box.  Time allocated to them was exactly 1 hrs.  Each of them were given individual places in various kitchens at JW Marriott – JW Kitchen, ALBA and Spice Terrace.  They had to come up a dish and present it to for judging.

This was an opportunity to see the competitive spirit among various Chefs.

Each of them prepared some wonderful dishes that were presented in the most unique manner.  All of the dishes were kept on display for everyone to view.

Hi-Tea with Chefs

There was a break soon after the Chefs were done with making dishes & presenting for Black Box challenge.  During the break, Hi-Tea was served at one of the Terraces at JW Marriott.

They had a wide variety of fruits that was arrange in the most unique manner.  There some traditional local favourite items like Holige along with variety of juices, milkshake, cheese, biscuits and many other items.

I found something unique, which was being called as Root of a tree especially from Orissa that was being sliced, seasoned & served.  The taste was quite unique and very different from normal vegetables.

Separate section for Filter coffee was set aside and the coffee was being served in nice brass glasses.

A special cold-coffee was being served which had a huge cube of Iced Expresso.  The idea behind this was to let the iced expresso melt and then cold-coffee itself would change taste on every sip.  This for sure was quite innovative and tasted quite good.

Judging and Feedback

The next part of the event was the judging which was done by Chef Toine who gave various feedback on – Presentation, Complexity, Plating, Quantity of ingredients, Need for Simplicity and many others. 

Many of the comments he shared were quite good and very practical.

For example, there is so much of importance given to presentation that Chefs tend to forget that it should be easy to customer to consume.  If a chutney were to be served in a small bowl kept on a smooth plate, the bowl move in all direction if the spoon is dipped in it.

It was good to see experienced and knowledgeable Chefs trying to ask questions & learn.

They also gave the bloggers an opportunity to taste the food and share the feedback as part of judging which was quite exciting.

Overall Experience

It was wonderful experience being part of Day-1 which was full of Action with Chefs running around to get their dishes ready during Black Box Challenge.  Then when the time came for knowing the feedback from Senior Director in Culinary for Marriott APAC, Chef Toine, everyone listened with rapt attention.  It was incredible day spent with some of the most talented Chefs.  Hopefully there would be many more such challenges where Chefs showcase their talent.