At the presentation of the insignia of the 2016 National Honours and Awards, I was happy to be the recipient of the Barbados Service Medal for outstanding service to the youth of Barbados in the culinary arena. This is, of course, for my work with the children of the Junior Duelling Challenge and the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference.
The awards were presented at Government House in a lavish affair, filled with pomp and pageantry. I must admit that I felt honoured and was humbled to be a part of the celebration; the men were looking dapper in their lounge suits and the ladies exuded beauty in their elegant morning dresses.
I also felt a sense of pride being on the beautiful grounds of Government House and therefore took some time to fill my memories with the picturesque and perfectly manicured and highly polished facility.
This event afforded me one of the highlights of my culinary career, which was ascending the stage to be presented with the Barbados Service Medal before a large and most
appreciative audience, knowing that it was for hard work and total dedication to my field.
It also felt good to be in the company of the other recipients of the 2016 National Honours and Awards, because when I looked around and did my assessment of these awardees, I saw doctors, lawyers, prominent business persons, tourism experts and cultural icons, among others, and it got me to thinking, with all the pride and gratitude and many other emotions that I was experiencing, that at long last the culinary field has been recognized at the highest national level. As far as I can recall, this is the first time ever such an award was given directly to an exponent of the culinary arts.
At this point, a different source of pride filled my heart, but with it came the realization that as large an accomplishment as it is, it still represented only one small step for the culinary industry.
This became even clearer once the citations were read and you heard one after the other, about the professional achievements of these recipients, so it was very difficult not to award them their rightful due.
My thoughts ran even deeper into how professionals are able to command respect and it was quite apparent to me that years of studying and research in the field were absolutely essential before you could boldly stand and stake claim to any position of authority in a given field.
Of course, my own profession immediately came to mind and where we stood as far as certification and accreditation are concerned. It also became quite obvious, not only as to what made it so easy for people in the culinary field in Barbados to be used and abused by anyone with the wherewithal to put on an event, but also why it is so easy for event managers and owners to dictate what a so-called professional in this field should be paid. It also brought back memories of the many times I would have read in the news of requests being made for overseas culinary professionals to manage kitchens, since after a search no one locally could be identified for the position.
Even in this tranquil and emotional setting, with the well-orchestrated sounds of the Royal Barbados Police Force Band playing in the background, I found myself thinking about what we as culinary professionals would have to do to continue this forward momentum and boldly state our claim as true professionals.
I also started to think about the roads travelled to get to this point. In years past, if you were not the sharpest knife in the drawer, to put it in culinary parlance, you would gravitate to the kitchen either to wash the dishes or pots and pans and clean the surroundings; and, if you showed the interest or the chef thought you had some potential, you might have been given the opportunity to prep and peel vegetables or be assigned other minor jobs in the preparation kitchen. From there, if that interest was maintained, or potential fully exercised, you could work your way through to becoming a lead person in the kitchen.
Many of our present day culinary exponents would have taken that route and there really is nothing wrong with it, once you are prepared to accept that in this day and age much more will be required of you if you want to demand what should be rightfully yours or even have an opportunity to make an impact when the day arises for an interview to fill senior positions in this all important industry.
It must start with us, the bold and brave people who dared to venture into this most demanding field – this field which demands so much time, study and research; this field which requires that you have a vast knowledge of so many disciplines; this field which requires that you are fully aware and have total control of your five senses, taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing. It is the only field, I might add, in which you are required to be in control of every one of these senses and, as I always tell my students, this field also requires a sixth sense. It is one not listed in the traditional five but which still remains, to me, the most important – good old Bajan common sense.
Around this time, the formal ceremony was about to begin, so I was quickly snapped out of my almost daydream-like mode, back to the reality of the moment.
Next time, I will tell you a bit more about my more sober feelings, not induced by the pomp and pageantry of the occasion or the company by whom I was surrounded.
The following recipe is inspired by one of the cocktail items served at the event.
SAVOURY BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING INGREDIENTS
4 slices of bread spread with margarine
6 ozs Grated Cheddar cheese
1 pint milk
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Grease pie dish
2. Slice bread in half diagonally
3. Arrange the slices of bread neatly in pie dish
4. Sprinkle in the grated cheese
5. Mix milk with eggs, season and whisk
6. Pour this mixture onto the bread and cheese
7. Bake in pre-heated oven at 300 for approximately 30 minutes or until set
(Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer [email protected])