Thanksgiving, is the expression of gratitude. In North America, it’s also an annual national holiday, marked by religious observances and a traditional meal, commemorating a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 – but this Thanksgiving, two local chefs are shaking up Thanksgiving with a bake-off competition for amateur bakers and students.
Chefs Kevyn Pratt and Tevin Kemp, members of The Bahamas’ national culinary team, are hosting 242 Thanksgiving Bake Off, with the winner walking away with $2,300 in prizes up for grabs – $1,000 for first place, $300 for second place and third place netting $200; there is also a $500 coupon courtesy of Island Connection for the most innovative dish.
No one who advances to the top 10 will walk away from the competition empty handed, as the fourth through 10th entrants will receive a $50 Super Value voucher.
The caveat – bake-off participants must make use of mandatory ingredients – cranberry, white chocolate, pecans and sweet potato, staple Thanksgiving elements; mandatory components include a base (cake or main component), filling (ripe fruit or creamy element), sauce, textural component and garnish.
Participants will be judged on originality, creativity, appearance, texture, taste and theme.
And the bake-off actually takes place on, surprise, surprise…Thanksgiving Day.
Prior to that, bake-off hopefuls must follow @Cj2fpratt and @Chef_tevinkemp on Instagram. They must email their name, photo identification, contact, recipe (ingredients and method) to email@example.com. Hopeful bakers have until 12 noon on Monday, November 16, to submit their recipe entry, which will be reviewed by the chefs. Only one entry will be allowed per person. The recipe entry has to include their ingredient list and method to create the full recipe. Based off the submitted recipes, Pratt and Kemp will choose the best 10 to advance to compete in the actual bake-off. Selected bakers will be notified at 2 p.m. on the day of submission and advance to the competition on Thursday, November 26, and will be given the location to drop off their completed baked dish based on the recipe submitted between 1 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. The recipe and final product have to be the same. The winners will be contacted the same day and announced at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Pratt and Kemp say the competition is their way of putting funds into the pockets of amateur bakers at a time when many people are having economic challenges, and creating culinary excitement.
“Both me and Kevin…the pandemic forced us to put ourselves into different arenas. We always thought we would be chefs in restaurants, and not have to sell food to make a living,” said Kemp.
When the hotel industry shuttered after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in The Bahamas on March 15, Kemp started Skewer Me, and Pratt ran with Bella Buns.
“We thought, there are a lot of people who are in desperate times and seeking to do something good to generate revenue,” said Kemp.
Pratt and Kemp ran with the idea of the competition, which was put to them by Darryl King, executive director, Logikor Group, who took note of the duo’s culinary skills as well as their national team connection, and encouraged them to do a competition sponsored by Logikor.
Pratt and Kemp brainstormed to decide on the competition’s structure and rules. One of their stringent requirements was that only home bakers and students be eligible and that no pastry chefs, professional chefs or professional bakers would be accepted.
“We didn’t want it to be established chefs,” said Pratt. “We wanted home bakers. The thought behind it was to get money in people’s pockets during this COVID time. We know people are hurting. I started Bella Buns and Tevin was doing Skewer Me, his little thing on the side, and he and I both were cognizant of the struggle going on for people. We didn’t want to target people with storefronts. We wanted to target people who are hurting and who bake on the side, and student bakers as well.”
With four days to entry deadline, the duo already has 23 submissions.
Pratt, who has been a member of multiple Bahamian national culinary teams over the years, and who because of COVID-19 has missed every competition this year due to cancellations, said missing out on competing was the driving force behind their event.
“I like any culinary competition,” said Pratt. “I am a competition chef and was unable to go to any competitions or food shows this year, so this is something to get the Bahamian culinary community excited about something again. This has made me very excited, because at the end of the day I was excited to be able to put something on for the Bahamian community and give back. It makes me excited to just put it on.”
Kemp is looking for home bakers to be innovative in their approach to the bake-off.
“I want to see someone who is going to step outside the box and say, ‘I’m not going to bake a cake.’”
Pratt said entrants should be cognizant of the competition’s theme, which is Thanksgiving-centric.