With only two minutes remaining on the clock to complete her dishes, Mia realized the oven she was assigned was not heating and had to make use of two ovens to get her dishes out. Despite her troubles, her Abaco crab and chicken duff and Marsh Harbour guava rice cheese cake propelled her to the top spot of the senior division of the 28th annual Young Chef Culinary Competition (New Providence district).
Doris Johnson Senior School’s Santone Pugh, who finished eighth place in the 2018 competition, emerged as the second-place winner. He presented a rice dish titled “tropical sunrise”; and a flour dish: “peas soup on a clear day.”
Anatol Rodgers’ Anya Coke placed third.
Santone and Mia will move on to the nationals, March 16-20.
Mia, who transferred from Patrick J. Bethel High School in Abaco to Doris Johnson Senior School, after Hurricane Dorian devastated the island in early September 2019, said the transition wasn’t easy and left her uncertain of her ability to compete. But, she said her teacher believed in her and they practiced daily after school, sometimes as late as 9 p.m.
Her diligence was awarded with a win.
Mia was among 12 students, representing eight schools, who displayed their culinary skills in phase two of the New Providence District contest under the theme, “Preserving Our Heritage: Exploring Bahamian Gastronomy”.
The 28th annual regional competition, sponsored by Mahatma and Robin Hood, was held at Doris Johnson Senior School and judged by professional chefs Clement Williams, Theodore Burrows, Celeste Smith, Gerald Rolle and Jimmy Dean. The chefs tasted the dishes, assessed students’ performance, provided dish critiques and offered ideas on how to improve them.
Chef Rolle said the students’ level of skill in this year’s competition was “good”.
“The knife skills, sanitation practices and techniques performed today were better than last year. Hats off to the coaches in preparing the students for today,” said Rolle.
He highlighted and congratulated the three males – Santone Pugh, Doris Johnson Senior School; Ashton Newbold, Government High School; and Tevin Wright, C.R. Walker Senior School. “I wish we could have more males join,” said Rolle.
Raquel Turnquest, acting education officer, explained the process.
“Once each school has chosen an individual candidate, we move to phase two, which is the district competition or island competition.
“Any school that has a hospitality and tourism studies program is allowed to enter one entrant along with schools that have a food and nutrition program at the senior level.
Turnquest said the competition is an expensive venture, but it provides an opportunity for parents, teachers and the industry to work together.
“Parents have to come up with ingredients to do experiments, work on dishes and refine them. I encourage family and consumer science teachers to reach out to hotels, restaurants and private chefs who are already executing at that level because exposing that young chef to somebody in the industry brings the teachers and the students’ skills up higher. If they forge relationships with hotels and restaurants, they might get a better result,” said Turnquest.
“We also ask the schools, once they’ve had a school run-off in November, to make a little investment in the student that’s representing their school. The ingredients are expensive and it calls for continuous practice.
“We need more principals to come on board, perhaps to include the Young Chef school-based competition as part of their inter-house competitions. The houses can get awarded points for whoever is winning at the school-based level to encourage greater participation.”