Chefs for ambassadors will compete on Embassy Row

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“I like to have guests that like the food, who really enjoy the food, and when I get good feedback,” he said.

Mr. Reyes and Mr. Idsoe are just two of the 10 embassy chefs competing this year, but they are representative of the wide range of cooking talent lined up for the competition.

Other competitors represent Afghanistan, Trinidad and Togabo, China, South Korea and Russia.

The gala is the second of the two-round competition. During a private round of cooking last month, each chef was given the same list of ingredients and instructed to cook something on the spot. The ingredients are chosen by the previous year’s winner, in this case, Chef Viktor Merenyi of Hungary. Other past winners represented Denmark, Belgium, and Morocco.

The points awarded at the improvised round will be added to the final round Thursday.

Zodwa Sikakane’s task is to create a dish that showcases South African cuisine, a challenge that might be easier said than done.

“We have a history more than 400 years old,” said Ms. Sikakane, 52. “It’s influenced by Dutch, German, French, and Indian cooking. Everything has been intermarried and is quite contemporary.”

But with a nearly two-decade cooking career, Ms. Sikakane said, it’s a test she’s willing to take.

“I want to promote the rainbow of diversity of South African cuisine,” she said. “Being from a large family, you end up being exposed to all types of cooking.”

Sherene James, 36, chef at the Embassy of Jamaica, is competing in her second Embassy Chef Challenge.

She ended up in a professional kitchen after growing up in a family that was always cooking.

“I just started because it was a means to an end. But I fell in love with it,” she said.

Once she realized that cooking could be more than a way to make ends meet, Ms. James discovered her passion.

“It’s like when Serena and Venus Williams step on the court to play tennis,” she said. “When I’m mad, I make my best dishes.”

As for fellow competitors, she said she would be cheering on her Caribbean partner Mukesh Ramnarine, of the Embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and she is interested in seeing what New Zealand chef Nathan Bates dishes up.

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