Oct. 13, 2003 – Five chefs and a mixologist representing the Virgin Islands came home with 12 individual medals and a bronze medal in the team competition in this year's "Taste of the Caribbean" competition sponsored by the Caribbean Hotel Association and the Caribbean Culinary Federation in Jamaica at the start of this month.
The V.I. culinary team comprised St. Thomas and St. John members — Jeremy Bender, Phontip Na Talang and Kenneth Stanley of the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas; Roth Jordan of the Stone Terrace Restaurant; Fabian E. Richardson of Renaissance Grand Beach Resort; and Robert Plouffe of Craig & Sally's restaurant.
The team earned a bronze medal for its three-course meal entry at the Caribbean Food and Beverage Awards of Excellence, which culminated the three-day event held at the Renaissance Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios on Oct. 2-5. Eleven national and territorial teams competed.
Five of the V.I. team members also took medals in individual competitions:
Bender won a gold medal in the lamb competition and a silver medal in the ice-carving judging.
Stanley, a bartender, received a gold medal and a silver one for his rum, vodka and non-alcoholic creations.
Plouffe received silver medals in the chicken, lamb and pork competitions, as well as a bronze in the beef category.
Jordan earned silver medals in the chicken and pork categories and a bronze in the lamb event.
Richardson won a silver medal in the chicken competition.
The competing teams won the right in local competitions to represent their nations and territories in the annual three-day event.
In qualifying rounds of "live kitchen" competition, each team prepared a three-course meal for 40 persons in less than four hours. Teams in the preliminaries and individuals from gold medal teams who advanced to the finals competed for point scores according to American Culinary Federation standards for professional competition. According to a CHA release, "the scoring system provides clear criteria for excellence and is unaffected by the relative levels of the competitors' skills."
Peter Rosseau, Caribbean Culinary Federation president, said at the end of the event: "The sense of camaraderie among the participants was outstanding. We demonstrated our personal best and exchanged skills and information with a network of professionals, members of the press and the public, all of whom share a common interest in the culture and cuisine of our region. It was an inspiring and educational experience."
The 2003 competition was hosted by Jamaica's Hotel and Tourist Association, Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, and the Renaissance Jamaica Grande. Judging was by an international panel of executives and experts from resorts, culinary arts and hospitality schools, and food and beverage purveyors and consultants.
The CHA release stated that "Taste of the Caribbean" seeks "to promote the development and refinement of contemporary Caribbean Cuisine, its signature food style, which rests firmly on the use of indigenous ingredients and the interpretation of Caribbean culture and traditions by food and beverage industry professionals … It also seeks to contribute to the promotion of tourism, and the region's overall economic growth, by enhancing the food and beverage experience offered to visitors by Caribbean resorts and restaurants."
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