Kemar Stevenson preparing a macaroni pie.
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Cooking is a hobby that Kemar Stevenson banks on to keep his body in gear and his mind sharp.
Making tasty meals is not only a way for him to maintain his health, it is also an enjoyable stress reliever.
On weekdays Kemar ably assists customers with monetary issues as he is a teller service officer supervisor at a bank. Then on weekends he transforms into a cook.
Instead of playing video games all day long on his days off, Kemar says he would rather wear an apron and create something savoury in the kitchen.
While cooking, though, he admits that often times he has to run back and forth to the living room to see the score in a football match or to watch the replay of a striker scoring a goal.
He told EASY magazine that he was not always fond of his hidden talent, but when he realised how much fun it was and the economic practicality of cooking, instead of buying fast-food, he decided to learn as much as he could about the craft.
“I used to watch my grandmother, mother and sister but I never used to cook when I was living at home,” he said. “I could, but at home everyone liked to be in the kitchen while I was doing my thing and I didn’t like not having my own space.
“When I started living on my own in 2014 I didn’t get a chance to buy saucepans and I thought that I could just cook food on a Sunday and buy lunch during the week. But when I looked at my wallet after the first week I was, like, where is the money?” It was a lifestyle he soon discovered was too expensive to maintain.
That’s when he decided to take the plunge and go full steam ahead to get his hands dirty in the kitchen.
“I said I might as well give it a go and take that step in life because I had to do it at some point,” he said smiling.
Since then, Kemar has come a long way from having to follow a recipe to the “T” and measure the correct amount of ingredients needed to make a dish.
He recalled his first attempt at preparing rice and peas, an effort he said opened his eyes to how much skill it takes to create quality dishes.
“It was not as easy as it sounded,” he said laughing. “You had to know exactly how much water to put in, when to turn down the stove so the water could dry out and when to put in the peas.
“When I got comfortable with that, I decided I would branch out and try some other stuff like macaroni pie, lasagne and stir fry chow mein.”
Kemar was able to develop his skills by mastering one dish at a time, to the point where he could mix the ingredients “with my eyes closed”. He also said he practised the habit of asking friends for feedback and over time he was able to add his own spin to recipes.
One day, while scrolling through his Instagram feed, he saw an advertisement for a Farmer’s Choice ham cutter competition and he entered.
To his surprise he was selected as one of five finalists. When Kemar saw who he was up against his nerves kicked in.
“Three of the contestants were chefs and the other guy told me he had entered a cooking competition already, so I was basically the only one without any experience.
“These people did not come out to play; one person pulled out a hot box and a grill and a fellow had a gas bottle and a stove top and some device to smoke the meat. And all I had was my ham that was chopped badly, a bag of salt bread, coleslaw and knives and I felt like I was out of place.
“After seeing how they prepared and presented their ham cutters I didn’t think I had a chance. But I remembered I brought malt and a Plus, which is a part of a traditional Bajan Christmas. I served it to the judges with the cutters and I guessed it worked to my advantage.”
The former Queen’s College student recalled that his heart rate increased as the results were announced. When his name was called to collect the third prize, he said, he was shocked and proud of his achievement.
The 27-year-old also enjoys cooking because he gets the opportunity to prepare healthy and wholesome meals. He explained that people who worked desk jobs were susceptible to gaining weight quickly, and eating nutritious meals was a way to maintain one’s figure.
Kemar said with his new-found passion for cooking, he plans to continue to eat healthy meals, prepared by his hands. (SB)