Culinary competition to encourage local chefs

| 26/10/2011

(CNS): Events such as this week’s Out of the Kitchen gala charity dinner go a long way in raising the profile of chefs in Cayman, encouraging young Caymanians to enter a career traditionally dominated by professionals from overseas, say organisers. Out of the Kitchen brings this week’s Cayman Culinary Society’s competition to a close, when winners will be announced at the event on Thursday night, with chefs from restaurants all over Cayman cooking dinner for tables of up to twelve guests, right at the table. Joey Hew of Hews Supplies, a sponsor of the competition and trade show said Cayman still has a long way to go before young people are properly enticed into the industry.

“We still need better promotion about the culinary arts in schools and we need to see stronger participation by the private sector to get young Caymanians into the profession,” he stated.

The competition which is taking place at the Ritz-Carlton received a boost of energy three years agowhen Culinary Society President Vidyadhara Shetty and Chef Keith Griffin joined forces with The Ritz-Carlton and Hews to see how the event’s status could be raised and made more worthwhile. Out of the Kitchen was introduced last year to raise the profile of chefs and raise money for sponsorship of young Caymanians at the same time. Around half of the proceeds raised from the Out of the Kitchen event go towards providing a culinary scholarship for a Caymanian to Johnson & Wales University in the US, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the country.

Three judges for the culinary competition, in which Cayman chefs do battle with each other in a number of rounds vying for the ultimate title of Chef of the Year, have been flown in from the US and Puerto Rico.

Chris Wagner, Director of Culinary Operations at Johnson & Wales in Miami is a judge who attended Monday’s opening night celebration to kick off the culinary competition. He said that there was a number of Caymanians studying across the university’s four campuses, in Miami, Rhode Island, Denver and North Carolina.

“I have come to realise that what sets Caymanian students apart from others is that they all know what they want to do – open a restaurant back home in the Cayman Islands,” he noted.

Ariel Rodriguez, chef/owner of Augusto’s in Puerto Rico is another judge at the Cayman competition and said that his home country saw a renaissance of local chefs in the late Nineties, where overseas chefs had once been. Now, around fifteen to twenty of the top twenty five restaurants in Puerto Rico have locals as their executive chefs, he confirmed.
“There is a lot going on in the Caribbean right now. There is great hope for the industry,” he said.

Food & Beverage Director at the Westin Casuarina Carl Goldner warns that the profession is tough and not for the faint-hearted: “People in the profession have to be prepared to work very hard. In the first ten years or so you will barely survive on what you make; after that it gets better. The profession needs a huge commitment. There are certainly easier ways to make a living!”

The Ritz-Carlton’s Executive Chef Frederic Morineau says they have increased the table size this year to allow for more diners, so they anticipate that this year’s Out of the Kitchen event will raise even more funds than last year. By promoting the culinary arts in this way, Chef Frederic says they hope to show young Caymanians that there are many more career opportunities for them than the traditional lawyer/accountant/banker route.

Out of the Kitchen participating restaurants include: Abacus, Aqua, Blue, the Brasserie, Casa Havana, Cracked Conch, Deckers, Osetra Bay, Hemingways, Karoo, the Lighthouse, the Lobster Pot, Luca, Michaels, Ortanique, Prime, Rum Point, Solana and the Wharf.Bernard Guillas, Maitre Cuisinier De France, Executive Chef of La Jollia Shores Hotel, California and Author of the Flying Pans Cookbook 2011 will be the event’s keynote speaker.


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