Mkiva Theophilus is Cap Maison Junior Iron Chef!

Wednesday morning found three young, aspiring chefs in competition mode at the deluxe Cap Maison hotel as they cooked it out to become Junior Iron Chef for 2012. On April 11, three students Mkiva Theophilus from St Joseph’s Convent, Topinka Henry representing Corinth Secondary and Nahoma Jn Baptiste from Sir Ira Simmons participated in Cap Maison’s initiative that’s meant to give students a taste of what it’s really like to work in the culinary field. The competition was part of a Cap Maison program to help “awaken dreams of young Saint Lucians aspiring to become a part of the culinary world.”
From the onset with their parents and in some cases food and nutrition teachers and competition judges looking on, it was clear nerves would make things more difficult for some. Fortunately the young chefs managed to focus on their individual tasks at hand, all finishing within the stipulated one and a half hours.
Speaking to Nahoma Jn Baptiste’s mother as she studied her daughter’s movements in the kitchen Lucia Jn Baptiste proudly revealed that her daughter had taken after her in the cooking aspect.
“I taught her and even learnt a few recipes from her,” the teen’s mother told the STAR. “I didn’t even have to teach her; she just watched what I did and came back and did it on her own. Without me being there, she just followed up on her own. I’ve been very surprised by her many times. She started cooking when she was eight-years-old. I feel great about her taking part in this competition.”
Cap Maison’s Food and Beverage manager Matthew Hartman, also a competition judge, gave insight on the competition’s format. It was the second annual Junior Iron Chef competition staged by the hotel, and Hartman said it was one where up and coming chefs could compete in a professional setting.
“The winner of this event goes on to cook at another one of our events, ‘Savour the Taste’ next week, where three of the islands best chefs come together and we do a night like that. I think this competition went very well. The standards have improved and I was impressed to see the work ethic of the students. Theirs was overall a great effort. I think this has the potential to grow bigger and bigger each year. The idea is to sensitize people on what being a chef is all about.”
Each junior chef chose the ingredients they would be required to cook with by dipping into a mystery basket on competition day. Students were given ten minutes to put their menus together before the competition got underway.
“They could use other things as well, but had to use the ingredients we gave them,” Cap Maison’s Food and Beverage manager explained. “Everyone had chicken and fish it was actually the starches and vegetables that were different this year.”
“It’s always a subjective experience, what some people like other people don’t,” Hartman continued. “Competition format forces you to be creative and have a work ethic.”
Competition winner Mkiva Theophilus’ completed dish consisted of sweet potato mash, with carrots and fish, layered into a tower, pumpkin and sweet pepper puree with a cold slaw and sautéed chicken breast, marinated in yogurt. Mkiva has aspirations of one day becoming and executive chef and the 14-year-old shared her love for cooking with the STAR:
“When I found out about the competition through my food and nutrition teacher I knew I wanted to take part right away,” she says. “We had to write an essay to enter the competition. I did that, submitted it and when they called me I was very excited. I couldn’t wait to come. Coming into the competition I wasn’t nervous, but when I got into the kitchen I started to get a little nervous. I channelled my nerves into cooking, focused on that and getting everything done in time!”
Look out for Mkiva Theophilus at Cap Maison’s upcoming ‘Savour the Taste’ competition!

Judges taste test dishes that were also judged on other merits. (Photos by Jessica Aysha Kelly)

Mkiva presents her winning dish.

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