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Chef Kirk steps up to the plate

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Chef Kirk steps up to the plate

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Kirk Ruck is a talented executive sous chef working at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion. He has been in the culinary profession for the past 20 years. In his first time on the Barbados Culinary National Team last year he placed third in the individual beef category in Miami at the annual competition, and this year he is gunning for top spot. Called “the Chemist” on the team because he likes to manipulate powders into food, he tells EASY about his journey.

SEVEN YEARS AGO Kirk Ruck got his first taste of international competition. August 10 to 13, 2010, he was the only Barbadian competing in a United States-sponsored culinary cook-off against 24 other chefs – nine from the Caribbean and 15 from Mexico.

Back then he had very little formal training, having done a one-year certified course at the PomMarine Institute, Barbados Community College, in basic trade cookery, international cuisine and food art presentation.

“I learnt to cook at my grandmother’s knee. I said I wanted to be a chef and that was my only career choice,” he told EASY magazine.

In 2010, Kirk placed in the top six, winning Best Beef Dish, and for his efforts he got a golden chef hat trophy, a medal and certificate of participation and prize money. He also won a week-long educational and culinary tour to San Francisco and New Orleans, United States, a tour of Napa Valley and a two-day training session at the Culinary Institute of America.

Fast forward to the present, and Kirk is in training for another competition – the annual Taste Of The Caribbean held in Miami in June. Here 13 Caribbean islands tests skills to see who has the best culinary artistry in the region.

Last year was his first time on the team, and he did well, placing third to claim bronze in the Beef Individual.

“I went over my time, which means disqualification. You had two hours from start to finish and I went over by eight minutes. But my dish was so good that the judges rewarded me.

“This year I am looking to redeem myself.”

The culinary team is in intense preparations, training three days a week for about six to eight hours a day.

“We are a talented bunch of creative chefs. I am here for the team. Whatever they want from me I am willing to do. We work as a team we win as a team.”

Kirk is called “the chemist” on the team “because I use a lot of powders to manipulate into food. I love every aspect of cooking. The textures . . . smell . . . taste . . . presentation. I like plating.”

Kirk has honed his skills in various kitchens, such as Treasure Beach, Lonestar Restaurant, John Hazzard Events and is now executive sous chef at Fairmont Royal Pavilion.

In that position he is responsible for creating menus and new recipes and putting twists on top sellers.

He is in charge of four outlets and two kitchens and 44 staff.

To test his skills, EASY gave Kirk a mystery basket with snapper, saltfish, shrimp and pork to create a dish.

The culinary concoction was a beetroot and cornmeal crusted shrimp, saltfish and plantain coated snapper, corn and carrot puree and smoked pork and breadfruit croquette.

“I learnt to cook at an early age. It is something I enjoy. I can see myself being an artist. For instance, when I see ingredients I get to analyse what I am going to do, what I am pairing it with and what protein is a must for colour, texture, taste and presentation.”