The Cayman Islands participated in three consecutive events in Miami, hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and departed with added tourism knowledge, a coveted culinary award and several medals.
Attending at varying intervals earlier this month were representatives from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Cayman’s Culinary Team and Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
The events were Caribbean Hotel Industry Exchange Forum, Caribbean305 and Taste of the Caribbean, hosted by CHTA, of which the CITA is a member.
The conference was presented under the theme connect, learn and lead the way and the keynote speaker for the opening was Sir Royston Hopkin, Chairman of Spice Island Beach Resort.
CHIEF awards were presented to various finalists based on their contributions and successes in the tourism and hospitality fields.
Caribbean305 was an indoor culinary tapestry where 1,000 patrons gathered to sample the offerings of each Caribbean team. This was followed by a series of Taste of the Caribbean competition segments with participants honing their culinary skills.
Supported by Chef Vidyadhara Shetty, President of Cayman Culinary Society, and assisted by Brittanni Seymour, Cayman Islands Culinary team members included chef Joshua Saldanha, chef Raiesh Govindasamy, junior chef Brittney Bodden, pastry chef Melissa Logan, bartender Angel Robledo, and manager Keith Griffin.
This team of dedicated ambassadors represented the Cayman Islands superbly. The gold medal contenders in the pastry division were Barbados, Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks & Caicos. Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year went to Melissa Logan of the Cayman Islands.
The Cayman Islands culinary team also boasted gold level placement for other categories: National Team; Bartender of the Year (Angel Robledo); Junior Chef of the Year (Brittney Bodden); and silver medals were received for the Beef competition (Raiesh Govindasamy) and Seafood competition (Jordy Rankine).
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism had an information booth during the Caribbean305 display. Minister Moses Kirkconnell said: “On behalf of the Ministry and Department of Tourism, I am pleased to extend sincere congratulations to the Cayman Islands Culinary Team for winning five gold and two silver medals at the Taste of the Caribbean Culinary competition in Florida.
“Such stellar performances, particularly against the region’s most elite chefs and bartenders takes a great deal of hard work, expertise and persistence and attests to the incredible culinary talent that exists here in the Cayman Islands.
“Having co-sponsored this national team with Progressive Distributors, to enable their participation in this contest, the Ministry could not be more proud of their unprecedented result.
“We applaud the achievements of each member of the team and also recognise and thank chefs Vidyadhara Shetty and Keith Griffin for their exemplary management and contribution to this endeavour.”
Ms. Logon, who also works with the Ritz-Carlton, said: “It was an honour to be able to represent the Cayman Islands in this way. I feel that in all of our restaurants and resort kitchens we strive to challenge ourselves here Cayman to stay on top of trends and maintain a higher level of culinary expertise.
“With this opportunity, I feel we have truly shown the other 14 countries we competed against what the Cayman food scene is all about. It was truly overwhelming to be named with a top honour of Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.”
Ms. Logan was really appreciative of the support received throughout and added: “My biggest gratitude goes to Brittanni Seymour who went as an apprentice this year to watch the competition, so she will be better prepared to compete next year as Cayman’s pastry chef.
“None of us could have accomplished what we did without her support, encouragement and Cayman pride and spirit. The atmosphere during competition was intense, very competitive and very stressful but we all did the best we could and I feel that everyone is proud of what we have been able to accomplish as a team and also as individuals.”
Chef Shetty, noting that it has been more than a decade since the Cayman Islands participated in this culinary competition, said: “Chef Keith and I have been planning for Taste of The Caribbean for last two years. Even with the business of daily life, we still enjoy training, competing and hosting competitions. The judges and organisers were very excited to have us back.”
On the accomplishments, this year he added: “Cayman is known for being the culinary capital of the Caribbean and after this achievement we have raised the bar even higher. The entire culinary team and the judges loved Melissa’s dessert.
“Junior chef Brittney Bodden also rocked the floor with being a gold medal placer and had honed in on coaching from Joshua Saldanha of Cracked Conch.
“Chef Jordy Rankine who won silver for his fish dish kept the team entertained. We have learnt a lot from this year’s Taste of the Caribbean and competition and are already planning for next year.”
Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks, CITA executive director, said that in addition to being very engaging, CHIEF in particular facilitated networking among the some of the region’s movers and shakers.