For the past eight weeks, eight chefs and one bartender have been team-building, menu planning, practicing recipes and refining their battle plan for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Taste of the Caribbean 2014 Culinary Competition to take place in Miami from June 28 until July 02.
At the five day event, ten teams from the Caribbean will compete in a hot food team competition, bartender competition and pastry competition, with medals and overall titles to be won in several categories. This year, countries participating are Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, USVI and Saint Lucia. Each team is composed of two senior chefs, a junior chef, a pastry chef, a bartender, and the team manager; the local team is being led by Chef Eike Lauffe, Executive Chef at the Royal St Lucia by rex resorts.
In an interview with Chef Eike before his departure in advance of the rest of the team, it was more than obvious that this year, perhaps more than others, the Saint Lucia Culinary Team are ready to take on the best in the Caribbean, and the regional competition is happy to have them back after an absence last year. The team manager was impressed with the work ethic and commitment shown during the short preparation time, and complimented the members, who hail from some of Saint Lucia’s top resorts, on their creativity and passion for the event.
“When we started out there was a politeness among the team, with the junior members being reluctant to critique the more senior chefs ideas and work; in a culinary team we must be able to give honest feedback to each other, accept constructive criticism from the practice dinners and play to our strengths. Right now we have the entire team on a Whatsapp chat group, and there are comments and suggestions flying amongst the members at all times of the day and night! We’re ready, and we’re going to bring home the titles.”
And imagine the luggage, as Team St Lucia packs up forty tiny coalpots for soup and forty smooth black stones from Cas En Bas beach on which to serve perfectly cooked fish. Certainly the appreciative foodies who attended the June 16 final rehearsal dinner and raved about the quality, flavor and visual appeal of the locally-inspired menu. Indigenous ingredients are featured throughout the courses, although this ain’t your mother’s Lucian cooking! From beef to fish to insanely artistic desserts, the local culinary team is ready to rock the tastebuds of the judges in Miami, and confident that they can win.
Also battle-ready is Saint Lucia’s number one bartender, Alva Preville from Delirius, whose artistry in mixology has been a winner at the competition in the past. Alva won this year’s Chairman’s Challenge with Lucian Spiced Iced Tea, which he will present in one of five individual cocktail competitions.
Using indigenous ingred-ients is a passion for the Delirius General Manager, so as well as the Chairman’s Spice concoction, Alva’s competing creations will include a unique and delicious mamie-apple cocktail with a fragrant lavender foam, a non-alcoholic smoked colada which features coconut water, fresh pineapple and jelly coconut and a “street-food” blend involving bois-den, and other fragrant herbs.
The competition starts on Sunday with the team menu, and continues until Wednesday when the awards will be given out. Saint Lucia’s Culinary Ambassador, Chef Nina Compton, is standing by to assist with preparations as the team arrive in Miami, and Team Manager Chef Eike has called her their ‘ secret weapon’!
With the SLHTA’s 50th year in full swing, there’s no doubt that bringing home the bacon fom this competition would be quite the culinary coup.
The STAR wishes the Saint Lucia Culinary Team good luck and good food! Look out for more in Wednesday’s STAR.