Taking A Taste Of The Bahamas To Miami

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Stern words, and a warning to keep their egos in check, was the first sage advice given to the eight-member team that will represent The Bahamas at the Taste of the Caribbean competition in approximately seven weeks.

“The only thing that I expect and that the Bahamas Hotel Association expects is that you do your best and that you work as a team,” said Frank Comito, executive vice president of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA).”

He told hot food chefs Richmond Fowler, Shanique Bodie, Mychal Harris, Charon McKenzie and Jamal Small; Pastry Chef Charlicia Green; Junior Chef Kevyn Pratt and Bartender Hugh Jones that the gelling of the team was probably the most important aspect of the Taste of the Caribbean competition they are preparing, for which takes place June 22-26 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami.
Last year at the Puerto Rican Taste of the Caribbean competition, the Bahamian squad took team gold, but due to ‘egos’, according to Comito, when the team members had to cook individually, the breakdown in the team showed through.  The chefs went back to their old habits and did what they shouldn’t have done.

“[Last year], there were some dynamics there... egos got in the way.  Some people just couldn’t let go and it showed in the product,” said Comito.  He doesn’t want that for this year’s squad.  He told the team members that he loves the team to come home with team gold as well as individual gold medals, but said that as long as the team gives 150 percent and works well together, even if they return with a silver medal he would still feel proud.

The team was reminded that there was no “I” in team, and that together everyone achieved more.

They were also told team work makes the dream work, and too many cooks without synergy spoiled the broth.  They were also told that in the weeks leading up to the competition in their practice sessions they would be working on that synergy and gelling together as a team.

They were told that individual commitment to a team is what makes a team successful or strong, which meant that egos had to be put aside, and that things some individuals consider their great skills and competencies should also be put aside so that the team shines.  They were told there was no need to try to outshine each other.

The members of the Taste of the Caribbean team were encouraged to attend all practice sessions, and told if they didn’t they would be hurting the team.  A member of last year’s squad to Puerto Rico was dropped from the team at the last hour because he did not attend practice sessions.  The alternates were also told that they should always need to be on top of things because they would never know when they could be called upon.

Bahamas Culinary Association President Michael Adderley Team Bahamas that the more they worked together, the more cohesive they would be.  He sid the more cohesive they were, the better their chance of getting into the final where he expects them to get.  Chef Adderley, who has represented the country on numerous national teams, encouraged the team members to always give their teammates a boosting comment.

Team manager Jason McBride, said in the few short weeks they have to prepare for competition, they will notice that someone is always better in other areas than someone else, but they have to use that to their advantage.

He further told the team members, some of whom are new to the competition .that it’s all fun and glory when they’re in the kitchen, but he said they will find it totally different when someone is watching them and judging them to see what they’re doing.

The judges will look into garbage bins to see what the chefs get rid of, because that comes into play as well. Cleanliness and hygiene also play a major part in the competition.

Chef McBride encouraged the chefs to use the competition to their advantage to increase their skills and knowledge.

For the first time, Team Bahamas also has a coach in Chef Devin Johnson who will assist Chef McBride in taking them to the final.

“Last competition we had a lot of pitfalls which caused us to be behind, but this year with a new dynamic team, I don’t see it occurring,” said Chef Johnson. “We had a lot of egos and a lot of fires to out, so we spent a lot of time doing a lot of unnecessary things related to the competition.  I want you to stay focused.”

Chef Johnson warned the young team members that he is a drill sergeant when it comes to the kitchen, and that he would be putting them through their paces in the upcoming weeks.  At the end of it, he says they probably won’t like him very much because of the amount of assignments, projects and research he would have them do in the next few weeks, but at the end of it he says they will be the best chefs they can be heading into the competition.

“It’s not for you to like me.  It’s us doing what we have to do to accomplish what we have to accomplish for The Bahamas.  So you’re going to get assignments, you’re going to get projects, you’re going to get research, you’re going to get a lot of work to do, and there’s a time frame that we have to stick to.  If we want to get that top overall gold, all I ask for is your full participation.

“The two senior persons on the team I know their strengths and weaknesses already.  I worked with Richmond — Jamal works with me at the hotel, so I know their strengths and weaknesses.  First thing we’re going to do is determine the strengths and weaknesses of the other persons.  What we want to do is put you in your comfort zone and not give you something that’s too hard or that you can’t accomplish or that will give you trouble.  So when we give you the menu, it’s going to be based around you and what you can accomplish as an individual.”

The two alternates on the squad will have more responsibility than just pot washing, running and observing.  DeAnne Gibon, the team administrator, said they will get an opportunity to cook in the individual seafood, beef and chicken competitions.  She told the alternates that they are critical to the squad, even though they are limited to what they can do cooking wise, but they will determine whether their team makes it through sanitation, cleanliness and assistance.

THE SQUAD
HOT FOOD CHEFS
Richmond Fowler — Lyford Cay Club
Shanique Bodie — Old Ford Bay Club
Mychal Harris — Kerzner International
Charon McKenzie — Lyford Cay Club
Jamal Small — Albany

PASTRY CHEF
Charlicia Green — Sandals

JUNIOR CHEF
Kevyn Pratt — Anthony’s Grill

BARTENDER
Hugh Jones — Bimini Road, Atlantis
Chef Jason McBride — Team manager
Chef Devin Johnson — Team coach

By SHAVAUGHN MOSS
Lifestyles Editor
The Nassau Guardian