Two young chefs win culinary scholarships

Two young chefs win culinary scholarships

By: Rhe-Ann Prescod

After three weeks of rigorous training, nerve-wracking eliminations, and an intense cooking showdown, two students were victorious at the inaugural Barbados Food and Rum Festival 2022 Junior Chef Cook-Off Competition.

Out of the final eight contestants, Mikalee Williams and Samanta Greenidge were named the top contenders, and each was rewarded one full-ride scholarship to pursue their culinary studies at the Jean and Norma Holder Institute.

Here’s how it all went down.

The Semi-Finals

With a live audience cheering on the contestants, the battle started with the semi-finals.

Each person’s name was placed into a basket and the renowned Chef Peter Edey pulled randomly to choose the cooking order for each round.

The first chefs to cook were Deryka Grazette, Mikalee Williams, Destiny Alleyne and Zedekiah Parris. The second round included Aliah Hazzard, Deryka Grazette, Reese Ann Alleyne and Samanta Greenidge.

Like the quarterfinals, contestants were given a choice from three proteins to create their entrees. The choices were chicken breast, striped marlin, and pork loins, along with starches and vegetables.

Contestants only had 45 minutes to prep, cook and plate their dishes. Using various cooking techniques, contestants creatively utilised Glow Spread margarine and Sunflower butter provided by competition sponsor Robert Manufacturing.

As the cooking got underway, the sounds of searing and the culmination of spices made the audience anxious to see what the contestants had up their sleeves this time around.

As the competition was produced by the event’s sponsors, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, co-hosts Paula-Ann Jackman and Chef Peter Edey kept audiences engaged and informed about what was happening in the kitchen.

By: Rhe-Ann Prescod

New Cooking Format

The contestants’ trainer Chef Edey reiterated that this programme was like no other as it is a new-age cooking format.

Contestants were judged using the WorldSkills assessment, which takes into consideration the entire cooking process. The junior chefs were not just judged by the taste of their food and presentation but hygiene, attire, time temperature, service window, kitchen safety, time management and wastage were also considered.

The panel of judges included Certified Sous Chefs Steve Phillips, Angela Garraway-Holland, Rashi Cummins and Jean and Norma Holder Institute chef instructor Natalia Reid.

Throughout the rounds, the judges could be seen walking around each station, observing the contestants and taking notes.

As the clock countdown, tension started to rise and at this point, the concern could be seen on the faces of families and friends as they anticipated if the contestants would finish in time. Luckily, each contestant did.

After both rounds ended, the judges deliberated and chose two contestants from each round to advance to the finals.

The judges said the contestants handled the time frame very well and were impressed by how they adapted after just three weeks of training.

The contestants that advanced to the finals were Samanta Greenidge, Mikalee Williams, Deryka Grazette and Reese Ann Alleyne.

New Cooking Format

The Final Cook-Off

Now, the pressure was on. The finalists had the same 45 minutes to get everything done but this time it was with secret ingredients. They had no idea what they were cooking until the mystery box was placed on the stations.

The mystery box included Eclipse biscuits, flying fish, fresh thyme, sweet potato and Mount Gay Rum Eclipse, the festival’s official rum sponsor.

The tension was high as the contestants pulled out all the stops and upped their game this round. The junior chefs had to get inventive as they were all using the same ingredients.

The dishes created were:

  • Samanta Greenidge Panné flying fish infused with Mount Gay Rum, sweet potato croquettes with sautéed vegetables and Espanol sauce.
  • Mikalee Williams Herb-crusted Eclipse biscuit flying fish, deep-fried sweet potato medallions with Mount Gay infused beet sauce.
  • Deryka Grazette Sweet potato pancake, fried flying fish stripes, Bajan coleslaw and sorrel and rum glaze sauce.
  • Reese Ann Alleyne Tempura flying fish, sweet potato crisp, Eclipse stuffing, steamed veg and white roux sauce.

Developing the Youth

Though everyone’s performance was impressive, 21-year-old Mikalee Williams and 18-year-old Samanta Greenidge were the winners of the Junior Chef Cook-Off Competition. The second runner-up was Reese Ann Alleyne and third runner-up was Deryka Grazette.

When her name was announced Samanta was surprised and the tears of joy subsequently fell.

“I am very happy with the outcome and my advice to anyone who wants to join the competition next year is to go for it as Chef Peter Edey is a really good trainer,” she stated.

On the other hand, Mikalee was noticeably shocked as she was not confident after she plated her final dish.

“For me to hear my name was a big surprise. This means the world to me because I can pursue my studies in culinary arts and I really needed this push,” she said.

Chef Edey was very proud of all the contestants' performances and was happy with the confidence they displayed throughout the rounds.

“These participants were all great. Before, my job was really difficult as I had to select the semi-finalists but today it was in the hands of the four judges and I felt very good just watching them perform at their best,” he stated.

Developing the Youth

Feed the Future

When the BTMI conceptualized the theme ‘Feed the Future’, this is the kind of impact that the organization wanted to achieve. Through the Barbados Food and Rum Festival, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) pledged to support education and training opportunities for youth in the areas of culinary and hospitality development.

Aprille Thomas, Director of PR and Communications, BTMI stated “Yes, the beaches, yes, the nightlife and everything but they want to talk to the bartender that's mixing them a drink. They want to know who's the chef that's creating what they're eating and where the food is coming from. These are the experiences that people want when it comes to Barbados and so we wanted to see how we can develop the future of culinary arts in Barbados.”

With the Junior Chef Cook-Off champions crowned, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” would be quite accurate in this instance.

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