Junior chefs infuse locally grown ingredients in dishes to impress judges

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The Hon. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, gave the students a surprise visit during the competition, and is pictured chatting with the young chefs and judges. (BIS Photos/Raymond A. Bethel, Sr.)

Junior chefs from around the country, participating in the 2019 Bahamas Young Chef Culinary Competition, wooed the judges with their interesting creations. The five chefs, local and international, who judged the competition gave intense constructive critique, and agreed the recipes and colourful presentations of the eleven junior high school students represented the theme, ‘Creatively Embracing Indigenous Foods Through Innovation for Sustainable Development.’ Kicking Beef Rice Kabob (donkey meat), Creamy Papaya Coconut Soup, Mahatma Jasmine Seafood Fried Rice, Crusted Island Grown Vegetable Rice on Watermelon Salsa, Mini Rosemary Trifle, Arawak Cay Pigeon Peas n Rice, Honey Conch and Cassava Pie, Mini Tropical Rice Cheesecake with Coco Plum Topping, Onion Thyme Infused Waffles n Fried Grouper, Tamarind Syrup and Pineapple Salsa were just some of the myriad dishes the students prepared for the competition now in its 27th year.

“Overall, you achieved the goal of infusion,” said Chef Edwin Johnson, Executive Chef and General Manager, Sapodilla Fine Dining.  He explained to them: “The infusion theme – some of you missed the finesse and finishing of product because you focused so much on ‘fusion’ which is good – taking the local indigenous stuff from the various islands and fusing!”Chef Gus Griffith, Culinary Classroom Presenter, Johnson and Wales University, said he was impressed and commended the students on a job well done.   He encouraged them to show pride, not just with plating presentations but also by selling their dishes — “The critique across the board is ‘show us your pride.’  All that work that you do for those dishes — show us as if you’re recommending [to] a customer.”

The students impressed Chef Jeremy Haughton, Department Chair and Senior Chef Instructor, Johnson and Wales University, with the flavour profiles they showcased in their recipes.   He noted, for example, “People used vinegar, it’s not just sweet. You balanced it on a plate, which is very hard to teach some students…. It’s not just to look pretty.”  And he encouraged tasting before submission for critique, sampling before presenting to the judges: “Did you take your dish and try the rice before you put it on the plate?  If you didn’t, then maybe we would have told you a pinch more salt, little more sugar in that whipped cream. Give it a little taste before you put it on a plate, and make sure everything is the way you want it.” Chef Debbie Wheeler, Test Kitchen Manager, Mahatma Rice/Riviana Foods Inc., mirrored all of the comments and recommendations of the other judges.  She was pleased with the variety of rice used this year, the overall flavor infusion, the many wonderful dishes – sweet and savoury, and the pigeon peas used in a dessert recipe too.

Chef Johnson, as one of the top in his profession in The Bahamas, advised the young students that the job of a chef is very rewarding, if indeed there is a passion for it. This year’s participants were Ciara Kessaint – Patrick J. Bethel High School, Abaco; Lynique Saunders – Mangrove Cay High School, Andros; Kristen Ingraham, Preston H. Albury High School, Eleuthera; Johnathan Brown, L.N. Coakley High School, Exuma; Sarah Braynen, East End Junior High School, Grand Bahama; Sierra Turnquest, N.G.M. Major High School, Long Island; Romyah Ingraham, Inagua All Age School, Inagua; D’Asia King, San Salvador High School, San Salvador; Gabrielle Ferguson, Old Bight High School, Cat Island; Anyah Coke, A. F. Adderley High School and Kendra Estil, D.W. Davis Jr. High School.Emerging 2019 winners were: Kristen Ingraham, winner; Kendra Estil, 2nd; Sierra Turnquest, 3rd and Sarah Braynen, 4th.

The contest is organized by the Department of Education in collaboration with participating sponsors, J.M. Smucker Company and Riviana Foods, Inc., sponsors of Mahatma Rice and Robin Hood Flour.  The aim of the competition is to showcase the knowledge and craftsmanship of Family & Consumer Science Education students throughout the country, to expose students to innovative methods of food preparation & presentation by chefs in the tourism and hospitality industry, and to assist students in obtaining scholarships funding toward higher education at technical schools or universities.   During the competition event, coaches received praise for their dedication.

Scenes from the 27th Bahamas Young Chef Junior High School Culinary Competition at A.F. Adderley High School. 

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