In just 33 days, the flames are going to be fanned as the event known as Ignite – a night of Bahamian culture through food, music and art – flames on with the flick of a match.
Chef Simeon Hall Jr. has lit the fuse on the Bahamian culinary scene to an event that will implode with a series of events that will bring together talented chefs from The Bahamas, the Caribbean and the international scene for an event known as Ignite, which is about more than just food, but Bahamian culture, fusing the food with music and art – which will culminate in a main event that will be reminiscent of the way our ancestors prepared food.
Hall will host chefs Eric Adjepong, Gal Kotzer, Erika Cline, Wayne Moncur, Digby Stridiron, Alpheus Ramsey, Jeremy Leven, Jamall Petty, Benjamin Dennis, Basil Dean and Neil Cline for the four-day event that will see the cohort of culinary heavyweights come together, supported by apprentices and student volunteers to prepare 400 savory meals that will be delivered and coordinated by Hands for Hunger to the underprivileged in homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers in New Providence, before having to rely solely on their culinary genius to prepare and serve a delightful meal without the use of gas, electricity or modern equipment in the main event.
It’s an event that was approximately nine months in the making and that became a reality after an ad hoc post that Hall, who works in Hawaii, made on his page last year, inviting some of his colleagues and industry partners to do something when he came home in June. He got immediate responses and the idea of Ignite morphed into reality.
Ignite will be held June 19-22 and will feature a chef’s welcome dinner on day one, a chef’s social on day two, the feeding of the 400 on day three, then culminating with the main event in which the 12 chefs will prepare and serve a meal without gas, electricity or modern equipment.
The organizing committee commissioned a welder and grill crafter to fabricate grills with very specific designs for the chefs. Hall said people should expect an evening that will be reminiscent of the days when people would go to the beach with an old car rim with a screen on top, on which they would cook hot dogs and hamburgers in the sand.
“Or when you go to the Family Islands and people are still cooking – not because they have to these days but because they want to – over some rocks and twigs and branches they would find in the bushes. It’s not something that Bahamians and the other chefs that we’ve invited are strangers to,” he said.
“The chefs will receive a market list upon their arrival, but it’s definitely not your everyday items. We’re working now with a few farmers who are going to start feeding in particular – heritage breed goats, heritage breed pigs – a certain diet that will reflect into the actual taste of the product. We’ve also researched some non-traditional food items that will be on the table as well. So, the chefs won’t have a long-time advantage in knowing what they’re going to have, but as soon as they get on island they will receive a package and that package will let them know what they are going to have available. We’re then going to have to work with each other to create a menu that’s reminiscent of what this event is going to be about.”
Hall stresses that the main event is not a dinner, but rather a cultural show at which food and beverage will be present from the moment patrons arrive until they leave. But that they will be doing that alongside music, alongside art, and alongside some other things that he says make up true Bahamian culture. But definitely it’s one of those events where every stage of the way there will be food for everyone to enjoy.
During Ignite he wants people to realize that culture is often made up primarily of three components wherever they go in the world, and is defined by food, music and art, simply put.
And the participating chefs are people to be excited about.
Hall, who presently serves as owner of the Simeon Hall Restaurant Management Group and the restaurant chef at La Hiki, Four Seasons, Ko’Olina in Oahu, Hawaii, brings more than 25 years’ experience to the table. He’s a fierce proponent of the farm-to-table and sea-to-table movements, and has the enviable reputation of an artisan who creates unforgettable and authentic culinary events that attract those in search of their next culinary adventure.
Eric Adjepong is the co-founder of Pinch & Plate, a full service dinner party and event company based in Washington, D.C. He was also a contestant on Season 16 of Bravo’s Top Chef.
As a first-generation Ghanaian-American born and raised in New York City, he sources the flavors and influences in his cooking from many of the West African nations, dishes he grew up eating. He is passionate about introducing diners to West African cuisine and the impacts its diaspora has had on South American, Latin American and American food in his elegant, artfully plated style.
Gal Kotzer, an Israeli-born chef, is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City. After spending time working at some of New York’s restaurant, he moved to Jamaica and spent the next few years living and working on the island as an executive chef for some of Jamaica’s finest hotels. In 2009, he moved to The Bahamas as an executive chef at the Atlantis resort for the next six years, then later served as resort executive chef for the One&Only Ocean Club.
Erika Cline, a celebrated pastry chef, has crafted some of the most decadent desserts and chocolates in the United States. Her career started in Detroit, Michigan, as a pastry cook under the United States’ first Master Chef Milos. From there, Cline’s passion for the culinary arts spanned the U.S. including places like The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and Ponte Vedra Country Club in Jacksonsville, Florida. In July 2012, Erika opened and developed the chocolate program for Graycliff Chocolatier in New Providence. Also, in the fall of 2012, Erika became one of a select few celebrity chefs to serve as spokesperson for “Sunday Dinner Chefs” for Publix Supermarkets, showcasing holiday entrees and desserts for the holiday season. In 2015 she married Chef Neil Cline and worked alongside him and also opened a chocolate boutique named Bleu Chocolat.
Wayne Moncur’s almost 30 years of culinary heritage evolved from humble beginnings in both his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens where food was prepared with love and pride using the simplest and most minimalistic ingredients while producing meals potent with powerful and memorable flavors and aromas.
These experiences were embedded in his memory, especially at his grandmother’s residence in the settlement of New Bight, Cat Island. Farm-to-table and sea-to-table concepts were all a natural way of life for the community – salt-cured fresh goat meat hanging in the barn, dried corn being ground in the mill for yellow grits, or freshly-caught conch being prepared for stew conch were all commonplace.
Digby Stridiron, a native of St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands, grew up around what many today call the slow food movement – fresh, locally harvested ingredients and proteins gathered from the sea just steps away. Add to that a West Indian culinary tradition influenced by the African diaspora.
Alpheus Ramsey’s jewel is the Lukka Kari restaurant in New Providence, a fusion Bahamian restaurant with a gourmet twist. His was a passion that became real.
Jeremy Leven gained acclaim for being an early pioneer in Chicago’s underground dining scene with his pop-up event series “Tuesday Night Dinner”, and his efforts were recognized by Zagat Guide, having been inducted into their “30 Under 30 Class in 2014”. In 2017, he received a Michelin Bib Gourmand for his Basque-inspired menu as executive chef of mfk. in Chicago’s East Lakeview neighborhood.
Becoming a staple in Chicago’s culinary world through having worked at notable restaurants, he has ventured out on his own with “Sweet Home” which brings his vision of progressive Great Lakes cuisine while paying homage to the food traditions of Chicago, the Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
Jamall Petty as a child watched his parents compete at home to see who could prepare the best family dinner. That is what inspired him to cultivate his passion for culinary arts. He began his journey in the apprentice chef program at the Bahamas Hotel Training College (BHTC) and that program took him to famed hotel restaurants where he honed his God-given gift of cooking and developing his unique style of fusion cooking in which he marries international dishes with Caribbean flavors and spices.
Benjamin Dennis, born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, is a personal chef and caterer. He infuses the flavors and culture of the Lowcountry into his Gulla Ceechee cuisine, bringing a new taste to the ever-expanding culinary palate of the south. Chef Benjamin’s differentiating factor is in “southern” cooking that pays homage to the Gullah Geechee culture, brought to the Americas by West Africans, and disseminated along the West Indies and the American south. He infuses the techniques of his ancestors, learned from four years of study on the Isle of St. Thomas, as well as the lessons taught by his grandparents about eating from the land, to create fresh interpretations of local dishes, focusing on in-season, locally sourced vegetables and seafood. He has appeared on the PBS show “Moveable Feast” and Bravo’s “Top Chef”.
Basil Dean, a multiple culinary Olympic medalist, noted ice carving artist and New Providece native, has over 30 years’ culinary experience, having begun at the BHTC. Throughout his career he has secured many positions, and currently works at the Warwick Hotel, New York.
Neil Cline is known as the “chef of the British Virgin Islands (BVI)”. He believes in culinary education and giving future culinarians the foundation to be successful in the Caribbean culinary industry. For the last 25 years, he has been an educator in Tortola, BVI. He began teaching in the high schools and later became the director of one of the Caribbean’s best culinary schools – the H. Lavitity Stoutt Community College Culinary Center. Now in his last years before retiring, he has returned to the community as one of the culinary instructors at the Virgin Island School of Technical Studies.
As the chef and owner of De Loose Mongoose Restaurant and Beef Island Guesthouse, every season, he rolls out with a new, exciting menu along with great live entertainment that brings in guests from all over the world. In September 2017, BVI was hit with two category five hurricanes which caused major damage to De Loose Mongoose. He has begun construction on the new and improved De Loose Mongoose, which is anticipated to reopen winter 2019.
Ignite brings all these talents together for what is anticipated to be a memorable and emotional event.