March 8, 2021 is International Women’s Day (IWD) and it is being celebrated globally under the theme #choosetochallenge. WorldSkills International is celebrating IWD by highlighting its ongoing support for gender equality and the need for equal access by women to skills development. It’s against this background that young, aspiring chef Jessica Cummins shares how she will #choosetochallenge gender inequality.
For Jessica Cummins, indulging in a bowl of chow mein brings her back to the dawn of her passion for food. From her youth, the rising star chef cultivated her budding skills in the kitchen alongside her grandmother, whipping up everything from sweet breads and stews to her favourites, Asian style chow mein and cheesecake.
Since then, the second-year Culinary Arts student at the Barbados Community College’s Hospitality Institute, has been blazing a trail of her own in the industry, leading her to a gold medal win in Cooking at the WorldSkills Barbados (WSB) Competition last year and grabbing the Best Young Chef Ambassador and the Spirit of the Competition awards at the Young Chef Olympiad (YCO) 2021 in February.
The aspiring private chef and owner of ‘JC’s Perfect Treats’ says that putting smiles on her customers’ faces is at the heart of what keeps her cooking, along with a need to show the world that women can do just as much in the kitchen as men.
“I would like to challenge the idea of there being more male executive chefs … or chefs in general because the females can do just as much as the males,” Jessica says.
While men still make up the majority of those working in the culinary industry today, Jessica sees this as a chance to outshine her competition and motivation to leave her mark on the world.
To become an award-winning chef didn’t come easy for Jessica. She says that it took weeks of gruelling preparation with her mentor and teacher, Chef Tremaine Reece. Each week they practised recipes and timed her down to the last minute, to perfect her winning dishes, like her aubergine and tofu milfoy with a coconut curry sauce. But as Chef Reece says, it’s her “raw talent and exceptional skills” shown throughout her school days that prepared her for this challenge.
Though Jessica says that she doubted herself at times, her dedication to her craft and hard work led her to vanquishing the stiff competition at the YCO 2021 and ultimately becoming a better-rounded chef in the end. When asked what advice she would give to those following in her footsteps, she says that lots of research, practice and developing your skills can help you to showcase who you are on the plate and show those around you, that you are capable of everything.