Chef Jamal Small will lead Team Bahamas into competition at this year’s Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Taste of the Caribbean event, considered to be the culinary Olympics of the Caribbean, with five members from last year’s squad doing battle with him.
The team captain will be joined by senior chef Kevyn Pratt, pastry chef Celeste Smith, junior chef Hazen Rolle, beef category chef Astier Dean, seafood category chef Tevin Kemp, chef Caribbean 305 Leonardis Moss and mixologist Derrick Blackmon for the June 21-25 competition in Miami, Florida. Devin Johnson will travel as the team manager with Mario Adderley as the team administrator.
Small, Pratt, Smith, Rolle and Blackmon were all members of the 2018 squad.
Small is going in as the defending Caribbean chef of the year; Rolle is going in as the defending junior chef of the year.
In 2018 Smith returned home with a silver medal in the pastry chef competition, Blackmon took a bronze medal in the bartender competition and Pratt took bronze in the seafood competition.
The 2019 team was named after the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) culinary and mixology competition at the University of The Bahamas to determine who would comprise the national culinary team to compete against top chefs and mixologists from around the Caribbean.
The BHTA, alongside public and private sector sponsors, fields the team each year in an effort to highlight the culinary and mixology prowess of The Bahamas, and to support the growth and development of Bahamian culinarians and mixologists.
“Bahamian cuisine and cocktails are in a realm of their own,” said Carlton Russell, president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association. “We continue to see our young and seasoned chefs and mixologists create food and drinks that are at the cutting edge yet retain the essence of Bahamian flavors. We recognize how important this element of our culture and heritage is to Bahamians and visitors alike. It reflects who we are as a people, and we are so pleased to help bring raw, innate talent to new levels of development through competitions, such as the Taste of the Caribbean.”
Titles up for grab at the competition include Caribbean National Culinary Team, Caribbean Individual Competition, Caribbean Chef of the Year, Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, Caribbean Bartender of the Year and Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.
The Caribbean National Culinary team competition takes on a mystery basket format; teams are assigned items from the basket from which a three-course menu is developed within one hour. After the menu is developed, teams have three hours to prepare a three-course meal — appetizer, entrée and dessert — which is then served to attendees. The top-scoring team on the culinary team competition receives the award of Caribbean Culinary Team of the Year.
In addition to team competitions, various categories of individual competitions are available to participating team members — one senior chef and one junior chef from each participating team compete in an individual competition to select the Caribbean Chef of the Year and the Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year. During these competitions, each individual must create in a two-hour period, a dish showcasing the main ingredient from a mystery basket. A winner is selected for each one of the individual competitions.
To win Caribbean Chef of the Year, each chef will be given one hour of preparation time in which to write and submit a description of their entrée dish, to do mise en place and get organized (only stocks can be cooked during the first hour). Cooking, finishing and plating take place during the second hour. The dish must be completely plated by the end of the second hour.
To win Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, each contestant must be working and/or studying in the culinary field in the Caribbean, and cannot be older than 21. Each chef will be given one hour of preparation time in which to write and submit a description of their entrée dish, to do mise en place and get organized (only stocks can be cooked during the first hour). Cooking, finishing and plating take place during the second hour. The dish must be completely plated by the end of the second hour.
Bartenders from the competing national teams prepare a variety of drinks to demonstrate their creativity skills, personality and showmanship. Three rounds are scheduled for beverages in the categories of non-alcoholic, vodka and rum. Each bartender has five minutes to prepare three portions of the beverage. All participating bartenders compete for the honor of Caribbean Bartender of the Year. In the final round, bartenders have 30 minutes to review the content of a mystery bar and then design and prepare a cocktail of their choice.
Pastry chefs from the competing national teams create, in advance, a dessert recipe which they prepare during four hours at the event. The top pastry chef is selected the Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.
Team Bahamas is hoping to duplicate the result of the 2015 Bahamian team that won three of the five top categories, earning honors for the first time in the history of the competition as Caribbean National Team of the Year. On that squad, individual honors went to Marv Cunningham (Caribbean Bartender of the Year) and four-time winner Sheldon Tracey Sweeting (Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year).
The winning Bahamian team was inducted into the Hall of Fame (HOF) in 2015 by virtue of its win.
In the history of the competition Trinidad and Tobago is the winningest country with seven wins (2018, 2016, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2006 and 2004); Barbados (2017, 2013 and 2010) and Puerto Rico (2014, 2012 and 1997) are level with three wins each. The Bahamas (2015), Bermuda (2000), Jamaica (2003), St. Maarten/St. Martin (2005), Curacao (1999) and Aruba (1996) all have one win to their credit.
The Bahamian squad is supported by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, REVOICE, University of The Bahamas, the Lyford Cay Club, RIU, Baha Mar’s SLS, Grand Hyatt and Rosewood, Fusion Superplex, Commonwealth Brewery and Coventry Realty.
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