Boys and girls from all over Trinidad and Tobago went head to head in a culinary challenge to see who has what it takes to be the next Junior Chef Champion.
Showcasing tremendous creativity and skill, some competitors were able to fight off the nerves and present dishes that could probably grace the cover of any popular food magazine while others buckled under the pressure. For one competitor the competition almost proved to be too much as she fought her way through the tears to present an incomplete dish to the judges.
Hosted by Courtyard Marriott Hotel, the competitors came out as early as 9 a.m. last Saturday. They were given one hour to come up with a dish with ingredients from a mystery basket. The mystery ingredients included: chicken/fish, potatoes, parsley and pineapple. The pantry was also open to the challengers to get additional ingredients if they needed; to help compose their dish.
John Paul Grimes seemed quite relaxed as he prepared his dish comprising a fritta muffin, pan-seared chicken served with mashed potatoes and chick peas sauce.
He said, “I always had a passion for cooking. I felt pretty confident with my dish and I think it turned out great.”
Eleven year old, Alysa-Marie Hepburn another competitor in the competition also seemed to be having fun in the kitchen and did not mind sharing with the Express her reason for entering the competition.
She said, “I have been cooking since the age of five. I wanted to enter this competition for the experience and the training. I hope one day to be a chef and I also wanted to see if I was able to do it and see what the lifestyle of a chef is like.”
The competitors were judged on presentation, portion size and nutritional balance, menu accuracy, creativity, taste, texture and flavour balance.
The finalists for the competition were selected via a video cooking demo. Children age ten-12 were invited to participate in a culinary video competition. From there the top ten were selected and invited to participate in a week of culinary training under the guidance of captain of the Trinidad and Tobago Culinary team and Marriott’s head chef, Raymond Joseph.
For one week, the finalists were trained in technique, preparation and presentation. Touching on several areas in culinary management, the children learnt safety and sanitation, culinary terms, knife techniques and types of cuts, preparing pasta and rice and cooking methods to name a few.
Finalists for the competition included: Chaela Wooding, Jessica Aguilera, John Paul Grimes, Shaniah Rudden, Jadden James, Alysa-Marie Hepburn, Mekhai Small, Johnathan Ward, Zaria Ramatally and Azizah Rivers.
This is the third annual Junior Chef competition and the winner will be announced Monday at 5 p.m. at Courtyard by Marriott, Port of Spain. Judges for the competition: Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI) lecturer/former pastry chef for the national culinary team, Cheryl Ann Short-Charles; assistant chef, Courtyard by Marriott and former member of the national culinary team, Jeremy Lovell; and Melva Issac-Gonsalves from Courtyard by Marriott.
The ten finalists battled for the grand prize of two tickets to Orlando and three-night accommodation courtesy Marriott.