Microwave manufacturer Panasonic has upped its support for renowned chef Cyrus Todiwala’s Zest Quest Asia competition by taking the headline sponsor slot for the 2017 event.

Now in its fourth year, Zest Quest Asia was founded to address the skills shortage threatening the £3.5bn Asian food industry in the UK, to stimulate interest in Asian cookery as a career among home grown student chefs and to raise awareness with catering colleges of the need to expose students to authentic skills, methods and ingredients of Asian cuisine, as well as traditional gastronomy.

Panasonic has been a gold sponsor since the competition’s inception.

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Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager for the commercial microwave division, said: “We have long been supporters of Cyrus’ work promoting young people into the hospitality industry as it sits alongside our own company policy of developing human talent.

“When the opportunity arose for us to sponsor Zest Quest Asia we couldn’t say no and as we’ve seen interest in the competition among catering colleges grow year on year, it made sense for us to step up our support too.”

Last year’s winners, from Milton Keynes College, enjoyed a culinary tour of Bangkok as their prize, and previous years’ winners, Westminster Kingsway College and Farnborough College, visited Mumbai and Sri Lanka, respectively.

Closing date for entries for the 2017 contest is 4 November 2016, after which paper judging will take place.

Six finalists will be chosen for the cook-off which will again be held at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, on 13 February 2017.

Other sponsors of the event include Regale Microwaves and Bidvest Foodservice.