‘Sous vide,’ ‘ molecular gastronomy,’ ‘gastriques’ and ‘fumes’ are among the culinary jargon that budding student chefs attending the 4th annual Young Chef Culinary Conference were introduced to. Executive Chef Jamal Small encouraged students through live demonstrations to learn these modern techniques in molecular cuisine and incorporate them into their dishes. “Food evolves every day. Every week something new is coming out. You definitely want to keep up-to-date. [You should] start from the basics and always have old fashioned rustic cooking to start. If you don’t start from the basics you won’t get molecular cooking,” said Chef Small.
He was among a team of chefs to speak to junior and senior high school students at the conference Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The two-day event was held at Marriott Courtyard Hotel, West Bay Street. The theme for the event was ‘Preserving Our Heritage: Exploring Bahamian Gastronomy and Tourism’. Speakers included: Raquel Turnquest, Acting Education Officer, Family & Consumer Science Unit; Chef Valarie Gray, Chef Gerald Rolle, Chef Jimmy Dean, and Chef Clement Williams.
Chef Small told the students that the world is far beyond using just the basic items that we use nowadays, so making powders, making fumes, making gastriques (flavoring for sauces) and sous vide (a cooking technique in which food is heated at a consistent temperature in a water bag) are all good cooking methods. “I showed the students a few techniques. I think they grasped what I was saying. The food is elevating. We have to keep up with trends. That’s what chefs today need to pass on to students,” he said. “Customers are asking for eye appeal — they want to see a foam, powder, something molecular. As basic as a cupcake can be, you [can] add foam, a form of crunchy texture, a filling element and charge way more [than usual]. “The requests for allergy and dietary needs have skyrocketed. Basically, molecular gastronomy focuses on plant based items. The items are vegan friendly. You have to get in the kitchen and discover new ways to create old fashioned dishes. [For example] oatmeal cookies — if someone is allergic to oats or has a gluten allergy — we take that [oatmeal] refine it and we can make an oatmeal cookie [more agreeable],” added Chef Small.
Chef Gray shared trends in the evolution of pastry making from old time Johnny cake to today’s modern methods of rich, fondant and plain cake; types of icing; marshmallow, buttercream and royal; types of meringue; and types of cake; rich, plain and fondant. Chef Clement Williams, now retired, told the students of his rewarding career as a chef. “Education is the key,” he said. “Don’t settle for anything but the best. Don’t allow anyone to tell you what you can’t be.” The annual Bahamas Young Chef Culinary Competition which is sponsored by Mahatma Rice and Robin Hood Flour and conducted in conjunction with the conference, was postponed as a result of COVID-19 national response.