Chef Damien Leach getting feedback from the unofficial judges. (Picture by Ricardo Leacock.)
FOR THE IMMINENT Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s Taste Of The Caribbean competition, slated to begin in under a month, Team Barbados has a secret ingredient in the bag – creativity.
And if the taste and intricacy of the meals prepared during their training sessions is any indication, then the 13 other competing teams from across the Caribbean will have a tough time when the competition starts June 6 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami, Florida.
Taste Of The Caribbean is an annual celebration of Caribbean cuisine and beverages. It also provides an opportunity for participants to network and sharpen professional skills among an audience made up of industry peers and consumer culinary enthusiasts.
Last Friday, aspiring team members showcased their skills when the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) hosted the team’s second gourmet lunch at the Grille restaurant at Hilton Barbados Resort, Needham’s Point, St Michael.
The menu comprised a three-course meal of starter, main course and dessert. Caribbean ingredients were the star in several of the dishes but what was great was that they were not simply plated but transformed into delectable delights.
The final team has not yet been named so the members were divided into two groups – Team Lion Fish and Team Scotch Bonnet Vikings.
Both sides were made up of some of the best of the best of Barbadian chefs and bartenders who used the opportunity to hone their skills by preparing two distinctive menus of scrumptious meals as well as tasty and unique drinks.
Indeed, the innovation of which assistant executive vice-president of the BHTA, Michelle Smith-Mayers, boasted before the dishes were served was clearly evident by the artistry in plating and taste. So much so, that many of those on hand to sample the preparations left with the belief that Barbados could very well take top honours in the very prestigious culinary competition.
Explaining the difference between training for competition as opposed to the restaurant setting, Smith-Mayers stressed the importance of pushing the envelope through creativity, the transformation of ingredients and symmetry when preparing a competition meal. She said that Barbados does consistently well at this competition because they have focused on these particular areas and continue to polish them with training.
“They [chefs and bartenders] experiment a lot. They take eggplant and make dessert, take pudding and souse and make ice-cream with it – they do all sorts of things. In competition we have put souse on that plate in so many different ways you would not believe. We have put cou cou on those plates in so many different ways. They have done pickled drinks, they have put breadfruit in drinks,” she said.
People were invited to judge the dishes and drinks and give their feedback so any adjustments needed can be made before the final team members are named.
Smith-Mayers stressed this was all part of the training process as it assists the participants to become better.
“We have some of the best chefs. They won the competition with what they have but a lot of what we do in the Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the three months that they train is training the chefs and bartenders to put Barbados on the map. Ultimately, what this does is they turn around and go back to their own establishments and they put Barbados on the plate so that when visitors come to Barbados they can taste Barbados through our food,” she said. (SDB Media)