Barbadian chefs are no strangers to winning competitions. And after capturing the top spot in the biennial Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Taste of the Caribbean title in June this year, officials are seeking to do it again next year.
However, before that can take place, a new local team has to be selected. This year, they will come from a field of about 99 individuals.
As such, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) Barbados Culinary competition got underway at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Thursday. The 53 cuisine chefs were split into groups at that location as they whipped up a variety of dishes in just over two hours (including preparation time) to please the judges.
While that was taking place, eleven pastry chefs were doing what they do best at the Hilton Resort. The bartenders will showcase their skills on December 5 and 6.
The top ten will be selected from today’s cuisine competition and the top four for pastry. The top four will be selected from the mixology competition.
As manager of the Barbados Culinary team Henderson Butcher explained, the heat in the kitchen really starts when the team starts training in January for the June 2020 competition in Miami.
“So they will be going through rigorous training when it comes to plating, menu writing, making sure they understand the flow and making sure they pretty much understand competition. It is not going to be easy by any feat, but it is going to be exciting and rewarding,” said Butcher.
“After the training, we do what is called the ‘breaking’ where they come in and everybody who is adamant that they know how it is done, they are pleasantly surprised about the process,” he added.
When a Barbados TODAY team arrived at the Two Mile Hill location where the cuisine competition was taking place, the first team was racing against the clock to put together their tastiest and most eye-catching meals.
Butcher made it clear that to make the cut, the chefs not only had to be able to cook a tasty meal and present it, but they should also be a team player which is one of the winning strategies he was employing.
“We have a whole set of people. If you have a horrible attitude, that will break the team in two or five or ten. You need to have the correct disposition, the mindset to be humble, to be a team player, to understand that sometimes you may have a wonderful idea but it does not work for the competition or the team,” he warned.
“Then, you need to listen to the others. At the end of the day we try to get the team to gel in such a way that they flow. When you get that, you command the competition when you get to Miami. You are ready, your mind is in the right place, you are humble, you are focused and driven and the other team members can see that,” he said.
The award-winning executive chef said he heard some exciting concepts from the chefs, adding that the competition was a good tool to help them further develop their skills.
“I want to see the fresh talent, to see what the fresh talent will actually bring. I want to be excited and see what they have. I want to let Barbados know this is a process that helps the chef to develop,” he said.
Butcher explained that one of the toughest tasks for him was to get young chefs to understand that although they may learn something from an older colleague or someone who has been in the industry for years, it was important for them to build on it and continue to innovate.
“The important thing for a chef who wants to aspire to be great [is] they have to pretty much do the necessary training, get with the right people so that you can make the right noise. Everybody believes they are wonderful and they can do it, but at the end of the day sometimes you don’t even focus on the basics, but the foundation is important,” he advised.
“Without that foundation you then run into difficulties. I believe the young chefs need to understand that having the basics is important. I know people see a lot of chefs on television and it looks wonderful to them, what the chefs are doing. But how did these chefs get to that point? They had to go through the basics and build on something,” he added.
During the cuisine competition, the chefs created a variety of fish, pork, chicken and beef dishes, complemented by an array of locally grown vegetables which a number of people had the opportunity to then view and taste. (MM)