The Bahamas National Culinary team was awarded Gold in several categories at the 2016 Taste of the Caribbean, recently held in Miami Florida. The team’s gold wins included Team of the Year, Chef of The Year, Bartender of the Year, Seafood Competition and Best Vodka drink.
Mixologist Marv Cunningham and Chef Richmond Fowler II won the coveted title of Bartender of the Year and Seafood Chef of the Year respectively.
The consecutive win in the Caribbean Bartender of the Year Competition is a first for the competition.
Taste of the Caribbean, hosted by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) in Miami, is considered one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the region.
This year, 13 countries participated including Anguilla, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and US Virgin Islands.
The Bahamas team went in as the champions this year, but finished a hair’s breadth behind Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition to their Gold medals, the National Culinary Team won a Silver medal in the Beef Competition and took Silver in the Junior Chef of the Year Competition. Team Bahamas also took bronze in Pastry and Cheesecake.
Some of the dishes included herb marinated sirloin flap and grilled scallop; crab stuffed chicken with stuffed leeks and sweet potato puree and a red wine sauce and a banana and chocolate lime bounty with rich chocolate and compressed fruit.
“Marvelous” Cunningham, who is no stranger to mixology competitions, said his secret to winning was simplicity.
“The less ingredients you have in the shaker, the better it will be,” he said. “For the daiquiri, I did a twist using ginger, lime, spirit and sugar which gave the drink more flavor, body and texture.”
He added what gave him courage throughout the competition.
“This was about service to our country. We put this country on our chest and backs to make you guys proud. It was never about us. It was always about our country. This is not easy. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears to come out on top and I am so happy to be a part of this team,” he said.
Cunningham said this may be his last time entering Taste of the Caribbean as a competitor, but he plans to play an even bigger role in The Bahamas Tourism product.
“Taste has been instrumental to my growth and development. I have reached my pinnacle with this competition and for that I am forever grateful. I have big plans for myself and my country in the field of Culinary/Mixology Tourism as I believe it has a big role to play in our tourism product. Food creates memories and it’s the same with cocktails.”
Co-Captain Sheldon Sweeting cooked entree for the first time at Taste of the Caribbean.
Sweeting has won Hall of Fame consecutively for three years for Pastry Chef of the Year.
He spoke about the challenge this year brought. “I just try to have fun,” Sweeting said. “I haven’t cooked like that in the competition in a long time. I’ve always wanted to cook and now that I have, I can put everything to rest. It was a learning experience and now I want to challenge myself with chefs around the world and that’s what culinary Olympics offers.”
Richmond Fowler II, who won Seafood Chef of the Year, plans to return to Taste of the Caribbean next year. Chef Fowler said he learnt a lot from this year’s competition. “It was challenging, but we prepared for the competition every Tuesday for the past six months so we were ready, willing and able. Competing is indeed an invaluable learning experience,” he said.
The team’s manager this year was 18-year veteran Ron Johnson. “The best part of the team is that they worked hard and they worked together,” he said. “This competition is so much more than cooking. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of foresight to get it done. Cooking is only 10 per cent of the full execution, planning is 90 per cent. I am very proud of what the team has accomplished.”
This year’s team includes Chef Ron Johnson, Team Manager, Chef Sheldon Sweeting Team Co-Manager, Mixologist Marv Cunningham, Team Captain, Chef Charon McKenzie, Chef Richmond Fowler II, Chef Jamal Small, Chef Shelby Coleby, Junior Chef Leonardis Moss, and Apprentice Chefs Marvonne Thurston and Savannah Adderley.
The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), in alliance with industry partners and sponsors, support the National Culinary Team in an endeavor to promote the Bahamas as a premier Culinary destination and to train and heighten the levels of exposure for young Bahamian Chefs.
President of BHTA Stuart Bowe said he has proud to see how much the team has grown over the years. “The results show the hard work the team has put into the competition. In the last three years we have performed tremendously well. This year was a transition year for the team, where seasoned chefs stood aside to allow the younger generation to compete. We can clearly see the transfer of knowledge from the legacy Bahamian Chefs to the Millennials. We are very proud of the Team. ”
Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu spoke about how impressed she was with the team. “I am just so proud of this team. I am so proud to have seen the professionalism and perfectionism this team has brought. They have truly knocked it out of the park and all Bahamians should be proud of them,” she said.
The National Culinary Teams’ participation is made possible through the efforts and support of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association and its partners; The Ministry of Tourism, Cable Bahamas (Rev On); Key Platinum Sponsors of the Team, RBC Royal Bank , Bahamian Brewery (Sands Beer), John Watlings, Atlantis Paradise Island, One and Only Ocean Club, Albany Private Club, Lyford Cay Club, Bahamas Food Services (BFS), Bahamas Air, Betty K Shipping, Savory Art, Le Sprouts Private Catering and the College of the Bahamas.
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