The Bahamas’ 10-man team to the June Taste of the Caribbean competition has a target on its back going into the region’s premier culinary competition as defending champions; but they are deep in the trenches training to mount that successful title defense.
Over 10 teams from the Caribbean will throw their culinary hats into the ring June 6-10 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami, Florida, to compete for the honor of becoming the best chef, culinary team, bartender and pastry chef in the Caribbean. Each team is composed of two senior chefs, one junior chef, one bartender, one pastry chef and one manager.
Junior chef Marvonne Thurston; “Marvelous” Marv Cunningham, mixologist; Ron Johnson, team manager and co-administrator; chef Richmond Fowler II; junior chef Savannah Adderley; team junior chef Leonardis Moss; chef Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, team co-manager; chef Charon McKenzie, chef Jamall Small and chef Shelby Coleby comprise the Bahamian national culinary team.
They will be mounting that defense with the return of Trinidad and Tobago, the “winningest” team in Taste of the Caribbean history. The five-time champions (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011) who have been absent since their last gold-medal win are rumored to be making their return to the competition this year.
Team Bahamas however, is just as eager to continue their reign and show the local, regional and international audience, judges and their fellow competitors, what hard work, talent, team spirit, perseverance and pride would bring to the table.
“While we are going for the gold in every sense of the word, our goal is to showcase Bahamian talent — to be the best Bahamian culinary ambassadors we can be,” said Chef Ron Johnson, team manager. “A befitting example to the young chefs who watch and learn from us as they try hard to follow their individual passion.”
Since 1993, Taste of the Caribbean has been the one Caribbean culinary competition not to be missed. The one annual opportunity to network, polish professional skills and cheer on colleagues in competition, before a large audience of industry peers and food and beverage veterans. The chefs and culinary teams unite to learn, demonstrate their skills and provide the general public with an exhibition of the most savory and delectable treats of the islands — a showcase of the hottest and most popular trends in Caribbean gastronomy.
Taste of the Caribbean which is put on by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), attracts the region’s top chefs and mixologists who showcase their skills in a variety of culinary and mixology competitions.
Competition is fierce as Caribbean nations invest time, energy, funding, and national pride to ensure that they represent their country to the very best of their ability.
The second “winningest” country in the competition’s history was Puerto Rico with three wins (1997, 2012 and 2014); with Barbados a two-time winner (2010 and 2013). The Bahamas, Aruba, Antigua, Anguilla, Bermuda, Curacao, and Jamaica have one win each to their credit.
Taste of the Caribbean is more than just a forum to compete. The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) in alliance with industry partners and sponsors, support the endeavor as a means to an end.
“The Taste Competition not only gives us the opportunity to herald The Bahamas as a premier culinary destination thereby showcasing the diverse and
distinctly unique aspects of our product offering, it provides us with a fantastic opportunity to train and heighten levels of exposure for our young chefs” said BHTA Executive Vice-president Suzanne Pattusch.
She said the Bahamian team’s composition this year hold true to that theme with seasoned chefs stepping aside in certain competitions, taking younger chefs under their wing and giving them the opportunity to soar.
Four-time pastry chef of the year (2006, 2013, 2014 and 2015) and hall of fame inductee Sheldon Tracey Sweeting will take the Taste competition by surprise when he shifts from the pastry competition to battle in his specialty — savory. He will be responsible for the entrée; and has taken Shelby Coleby under his tutelage to prepare her to represent The Bahamas in the pastry category.
“Everyone has this perception of Sheldon being a pastry chef, and it will be a surprise to many that he will only be dealing with hot foods,” said Johnson.
Leonardis Moss, last year’s alternate, steps into the junior chef’s role; and Richmond Fowler who was not on last year’s hot team, but competed in an individual competition, will do an appetizer portion of the hot team competition. Jamal Small and Charon McKenzie were essential parts of hot team last year. This year, McKenzie will focus on beef; Small is the alternate and slated to do a cheesecake if the category still exists this year.
The team that began practicing in early February with five-hour sessions every Tuesday at the Bahamas Food Services (BFS) kitchen.
“The camaraderie and support is one of the most memorable aspects of the competition,” said Marv Cunningham, who went from silver medalist in 2014 to gold medal winner, and hall of fame inductee in 2015 after only one year of competition. “Our team spirit … the way we look out for each other … support each other is the best thing about the competition. These are life lessons learned for all of us. The experience is invaluable.”
The BHTA, Ministry of Tourism, Cable Bahamas (Rev On), RBC Royal Bank, Bahamian Brewery (Sands Beer), John Watlings, Atlantis Paradise Island, One&Only Ocean Club, Albany Private Club, Lyford Cay Club, BFS, Bahamasair, Betty K Shipping, Savory Art, Le Sprouts Private Catering and the College of the Bahamas are sponsors of this year’s national culinary team.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: March 12, 2016
Caribbean National Team of the Year past winners
2015 — Bahamas
2014 — Puerto Rico
2013 — Barbados
2012 — Puerto Rico
2011 — Trinidad & Tobago
2010 — Barbados
2009 — Trinidad & Tobago
2007 — Trinidad & Tobago
2006 — Trinidad & Tobago
2005 — St. Maarten/St. Martin
2004 — Trinidad & Tobago
2003 — Jamaica
2000 — Bermuda
1999 — Curacao
1997 — Puerto Rico
1996 — Aruba
Caribbean Chef of the Year
2015 — Jonathan Hernandez, Puerto Rico
2014 — Rashindra Donge, Bonaire
2013 — Brian Lumley, Jamaica
2012 — Devon Joseph, Trinidad & Tobago
2011 — Mitchell Husbands, Barbados
2010 — Graham Singer, Antigua and Barbuda
2009 — Glendon Carty, Anguilla
2007 — Fernando Parrilla, Puerto Rico
2006 — Hans Van Triest, Curacao
2005 — Carlos Portela, Puerto Rico
2004 — John Hazzard, Barbados
2003 — Bobo Bergstom, St. Lucia
2000 — Mark French, Puerto Rico
1999 — Martin Maginley, Jamaica
1997 — Jermey Cruz, Puerto Rico
1996 — Michael Salmon, Aruba
Caribbean Bartender of the Year
2015 — Marv Cunningham, Bahamas
2014 — Brandon DeCloux, USVI
2013 — Roberto Rodriquez, Puerto Rico
2012 — Jamaal Bowen, Barbados
2011 — Humphrey Lew Jen Tai, Curacao
2010 — Alva Preville, St. Lucia
2009 — Paul Peterson, St. Maarten/St. Martin 2009
2007 — Raymond Edwards, Trinidad & Tobago
2006 — Paul Peterson, St. Maarten/St. Martin
2005 — Rakeesh Madoo, Trinidad & Tobago
2004 — Alexandra Ballin, Anguilla
2003 — Hiram Avila, Puerto Rico
2000 — Alexander Meyer, Aruba
1999 — Ron Webster, Anguilla
1997 — Lissette Rijna, Bonaire
1996 — Neil Felix, Grenada
Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year
2015 — Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, Bahamas
2014 — Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, Bahamas
2013 — Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, Bahamas
2012 — Pablo Colon, Puerto Rico
2011 — Kunal Chakrabarti, USVI
2010 — Maureen Bowers, Antigua and Barbuda
2009 — Alberto Febo, Puerto Rico
2007 — Rene Almeda, Puerto Rico
2006 — Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, Bahamas
2005 — Geert Maarten Van Mil, Aruba
2004 — Sally Gaskins, Bahamas
2003 — Jing Shi, Jamaica
2000 — Jing Shi, Jamaica
1999 — Linval Green, Jamaica
1997 — Pascal Barronier, Anguilla
1996 — Casten Flindt, Barbados
Junior Chef of the Year
2015 — Edna Butcher, St. Lucia
2014 — Sanju Smith, Jamaica
2013 — Naomi Lovell, Trinidad & Tobago
2012 — Isaiah Connel, Trinidad & Tobago
2011 — Mikhala Bagot, BVI
2010 — Osvaldo Ortega, Puerto Rico
Apprentice of the Year
2000 — Luis Alvarez, Puerto Rico
1997 — Michael Moncrieffe, Cayman Islands