Hazen Rolle and Jamal Small executed gold medal-worthy dishes to lead the way for Team Bahamas at the Taste of the Caribbean competition – and Rolle took it a step further with his successful defense of his Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year title. Small’s medal was won in the Caribbean Chef of the Year competition.
Team Bahamas returned home with an overall silver medal showing.
Individually, Derrick Blackmon, Asteir Dean and Tevin Kemp snagged silver medals. Dean picked up silver in the Beef Competition; Blackmon’s medal came in the Caribbean Bartender of the Year competition; Kemp’s medal came in the Seafood Competition.
Celeste Smith was awarded a bronze medal in the Caribbean Pastry Chef competition.
Barbados captured its fourth Caribbean National Team of the Year showing in the history of the 20-year Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) competition at the Hyatt Regency Miami.
Taste of the Caribbean featured 14 Caribbean destinations, competing in a friendly but intense battle for cooking supremacy.
The Bahamas competed against Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Grenada (who returned to the competition following an 11-year absence), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.
In the competition’s history, Trinidad and Tobago is the winningest team with seven Caribbean National Team of the Year titles. Puerto Rico has three wins.
The Bahamas, St. Maarten/Martin, Jamaica, Bermuda, Curacao and Aruba have one win each.
The Bahamas’ lone Caribbean National Team of the Year win was in 2015.
Rolle also joins the ranks of two other Bahamians who have won consecutive titles at the culinary competition.
Sheldon Sweeting won Pastry Chef of the Year in three-peat fashion with wins in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Marv Cunningham won consecutive Bartender of the Year titles in 2015 and 2016.
By virtue of their wins they were inducted into the competition’s hall of fame (HOF). The only other Bahamians to secure a HOF berth in the competition were Sally Gaskins, who won Pastry Chef of the Year in 2004; and Small and Rolle made it into the HOF in 2018 last year by virtue of their wins.
With Rolle’s win of the Junior Chef of the Year title, the division has been dominated by a Bahamian for three consecutive years. Prior to Rolle’s back-to-back wins, Kenria Taylor won in 2017.
Since 1993, the Caribbean’s best chefs and culinary teams have gathered at Taste to compete, demonstrate their skills, learn from each other and offer diners an exhibition of the most delectable culinary treats of the islands.
Taste of the Caribbean is also a rich forum for food and beverage professionals to exchange practical information, develop skills, sample and purchase, strengthen and establish supplier relationships and meet new vendors.
Competitions focus on culinary themes including chocolate, “mocktails”, rum-and-vodka-based cocktails and beef-based dishes. Other competitions include “mystery baskets” in the style of popular Food Network show “Chopped”.
At the end of the five-day affair, the Caribbean Chef of the Year, Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, Caribbean Bartender of the Year, Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year and Caribbean Culinary Team of the Year are crowned.
Rajasekar Ravindran of Turks and Caicos Islands was named Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year. Bonaire’s Dhanesh De Kok and Elise Weerstand took home the glory in the beef and chocolate competitions respectively.
The Cayman Islands’ Dimuth Munasingha reigned supreme in the seafood category.
The Caribbean Bartender of the Year award went to Jurnick Merced of Curacao; his nation also won Best Vodka Drink.
Trinidad and Tobago won Best Non-Alcoholic Drink; St. Lucia captured Best Rum Drink; while Cayman Islands won Best Mystery Bar Drink.
Grenada won the Josue Merced-Reyes Spirit of the Competition award, while Floris van Loo of Bonaire took home the Tony Mack Spirit of the Competition honors.
Jason Thomas Ao of the Cayman Islands was crowned Caribbean Chef of the Year.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.