Team Bahamas Ready For Taste of The Caribbean

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The Bahamas is among 11 teams in the hunt for the 2018 Taste of the Caribbean title at the region’s premier culinary competition. And team manager chef Mario Adderley says the squad is ready to head out to put its best foot forward at the Hyatt Regency Miami.

“We’re very prepared,” said Adderley after the team’s gala demonstration dinner at Baha Mar on Tuesday night. “The focus is Caribbean products, and with the Caribbean products we want to put our Bahamian flare to it. And one of the things that Bahamians chefs and the Bahamian cook know is flavor — so we have flavor, we have color, we have plate presentation. We worked endlessly over the past few months fine-tuning.”

Adderley leaves on Thursday to do preliminary work, with the team following one day behind. Competition is June 22-26 at the Hyatt Regency Miami.

Joining The Bahamas in the fray will be Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks & Caicos.

Team Bahamas began its preparation for its Taste run in January.

The squad is comprised of Owen Bain, team captain; senior members Kevyn Pratt, Jamall Small, Celeste Smith, Carvison Pratt and Tamar Rahming; along with junior chef Hazen Rolle; apprentices Ryan McIntosh and Donovan Moss; and bartenders Derrick Blackmon and Chavano Jones.

Titles up for grabs include Caribbean National Culinary team, Caribbean Individual Competition, Caribbean Chef of the Year, Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, Caribbean Bartender of the Year and Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.

The Caribbean National Culinary team competition is a mystery basket format; teams are assigned items from the basket from which a three-course menu is developed within one hour. After the menu is developed, teams have three hours to prepare a three-course meal — appetizer, entrée and dessert — which is then served to attendees. The top scoring team on the culinary team competition receives the award of Caribbean Culinary Team of the Year.

In addition to team competitions, various categories of individual competitions are available to participating team members — one senior chef and one junior chef from each participating team compete in an individual competition to select the Caribbean Chef of the Year and the Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year. During these competitions, each individual must create in a two-hour period, a dish showcasing the main ingredient from a mystery basket. A winner is selected for each one of the individual competitions.

To win Caribbean Chef of the Year, each chef will be given one hour of preparation time in which to write and submit a description of their entrée dish, to do mis en place and get organized (only stocks can be cooked during the first hour). Cooking, finishing and plating take place during the second hour. The dish must be completely plated by the end of the second hour.

To win Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, each contestant must be working and/or studying in the culinary field in the Caribbean, and cannot be older than 21 years of age. Each chef will be given one hour of preparation time in which to write and submit a description of their entrée dish, to do mis en place and get organized (only stocks can be cooked during the first hour). Cooking, finishing and plating take place during the second hour. The dish must be completely plated by the end of the second hour.

Bartenders from the competing national teams prepare a variety of drinks to demonstrate their creativity skills, personality and showmanship. Three rounds are scheduled for beverages in the categories of non-alcoholic, vodka and rum. Each bartender has five minutes to prepare three portions of the beverage. All participating bartenders compete for the honor of Caribbean Bartender of the Year. In the final round, bartenders have 30 minutes to review the content of a mystery bar and then design and prepare a cocktail of their choice.

Pastry chefs from the competing national teams create, in advance, a dessert recipe which they prepare during four hours at the event. The top pastry chef is selected the Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.

Small will compete in chef of the year, team lunch and beef; Pratt is on seafood as well as team lunch; Smith competes in pastry; Rolle is the junior chef; and Blackmon is the bartender competing in run, vodka and non-alcoholic competition. Jones will prepare the drinks for 305, the cocktail reception.

After Team Bahamas’ showing last year, with a relatively new team to the region’s premier culinary competition, Adderley said they returned home and took some time off, before regrouping and refocusing to head back into the kitchen with a vengeance.

“You will see the results come the end of Taste,” he said.

Team Bahamas is hoping to duplicate the result of the 2015 Bahamian team that won three of the five top categories, earning honors for the first time in the history of the competition as Caribbean National Team of the Year. On that squad, individual honors went to Marv Cunningham (Caribbean Bartender of the Year) and four-time winner Sheldon Tracey Sweeting (Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year).

At the team’s gala dinner on Tuesday, the squad served a six-course meal — Long Island duck rillettes, pickled seasonal vegetables and salted bagel chips; Andros crab bisque with island crab ‘n’ dough; citrus-dusted Long Island hog snapper atop roasted fennel artichokes, kalamata olives and saffron-coconut foam; native beets and fresh mozzarella salad, beet root — lime and ginger ice, micro greens, mignonette pepper; grilled beef tenderloin with pan-seared foie gras, morel-Chianti reduction, Yukon gold and fresh horseradish spun potatoes, tarragon wild honey infused young vegetables; and an island coconut cake with tropical fruit stew, mango rum cream, roasted corn sherbet, chocolate spice biscuit and torched meringue.

The canapés during the cocktail hour included mini lobster cigars with roast pineapple and bird pepper jam; coconut rum cured Nassau grouper on blini with key lime aioli; asparagus and forest mushroom pinwheel with Boursin cheese; lamb and feta tart with Exuma onion-mint marmalade, air dried tomato infused risotto cakes with fresh sweet basil and Gorgonzola cheese.

The meal served at this year’s gala demonstration went away from the norm of previous dinners at which patrons got a taste of the flavors of the Caribbean and Bahamian, that the team hoped to produce at competition. It was not that this year. They served a good meal, but for the most part didn’t have as strong a Bahamian or Caribbean influence as I’d seen in years past. The strongest Caribbean flavors came through in the dessert and the cold items — the beet sorbet, the roasted corn sherbet — the flavors were intense and spot on.

Adderley said the goal of this year’s dinner was to ensure that persons attending received value for their money.

“We were like if you’re going out to dinner, what would you like to eat? And so for $200 we wanted to make sure you had the best.”

Adderley said they didn’t want to show their hand. “We can’t take everything out of the bag and do it now,” he said.

Chefs Devin Johnson, Emmanuel Gibson, Angel Betancourt and Sally Gaskins (a Taste competition Hall of Fame inductee, 2004) are in consultancy roles to the team.

The winning Bahamian team was inducted into the Hall of Fame (HOF) in 2015 by virtue of its win.

Bartender Marv Cunningham was inducted into the HOF in 2015 and 2016 by virtue of his wins. Chef Sheldon Tracey Sweeting is a three-time inductee by virtue of his 2013-2015 wins as well as his first win in 2006.

The Nassau Guardian