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Tuesday 31st August 2010

With a goal to continuously raise the standards of Caribbean Food and Beverage excellence and professionalism in the region, a team comprising local culinary  experts, are set to represent Antigua & Barbuda, in this year's prestigious Taste of the Caribbean  Culinary Competition at the Wyndham Rio Mar Resort in Puerto Rico between September 9 -12.

This annual competition, organized by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is also geared towards the promotion of camaraderie and educational opportunities among food and beverage professionals.

Neil Forrester, General Manager of the Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association (AHTA), explained the competition's benefits of encouraging new and innovative styles of service and presentation as well as  showcasing individual skills, techniques and styles. 

He added, it is also an opportunity to shine professionally before a large audience of industry peers and consumer culinary enthusiasts. This year's, Taste of the Caribbean Food and Beverage festival, will form the back drop of the annual CHTA Small Hotel's Retreat.

So far, the chefs have begun their practice sessions for the three day's of food and beverage competition, and the AHTA general manager reports plans are progressing steadily.

He added that anticipation for this type of culinary activity is extremely high as it also provides education and inspiration through seminars, workshops, tastings and demonstrations, created to enhance performance and the participant's competitive stance.

Forrester noted, Taste of Caribbean fosters greater team bonding, providing inspiration for young and upcoming professionals in terms of recognition from fellow professionals.

"It is the most prestigious culinary face off in the Caribbean," Forrester exclaimed, adding that a total of 12 teams, from various islands, are gearing up to  battle for awards and top honors in the categories of Chef, National team, Bartender, Pastry Chef and Junior Chef of the year.  Other individual awards are the Hans Schank Commemorative Award for the Most Innovative Menu, the Most Creative Overall Drink, the Most Innovative Dish and The Spirit of the Competition.

Past winners for the last event held in 2009 were Glendon Carty of Anguilla, Chef of the Year, Paul Peterson of St Maarten, Bartender of the Year and Alberto Febo of Puerto Rico was Pastry Chef of the Year. Anguilla won the Culinary Team of the year.

Leading the charge, as team manger into Puerto Rico for the culinary show down is Andrew "Stan" Baxter (Executive Chef at Galley Bay), Baxter is an internationally renowned chef, who has received several medals, globally.  Andrew was recently named the AHTA Chef of the Year for 2010.

Graham Singer, Executive Chef at Blue Waters, is the lead chef on the team; Singer has competed with distinction at the highest level in international competitions representing Scotland and Great Britain at the culinary Olympics.

Meanwhile, Charlesworth Jeremy an Executive Sous Chef at Jumby Bay, and Christopher Terry from Sugar Ridge make up the other two chefs on the team. Christopher is the current AHTA Young Chef of the Year.  Maureen Bowers, Pastry Chef at Sandals, completes the requirements of the culinary team. Bowers is one of Antigua's brightest prospects in the field having previously worked at Carlisle Bay and Hermitage Bay, she has received several scholarships through the Caribbean Hotel Tourist Association Education Foundation.

This year the team is allowed to take along a junior chef to help the team during the competition and this privilege goes to a young student at the ABHTI Kevan Ho. A bright young talent, Kevan was the first student to compete at a professional level in the Magic Mango Culinary Competition, held on August 7th, at Dutchman's Bay, ABHTI. He will the opportunity of displaying his skills in a special Junior Chefs Competition the day prior the main competition.

Troy George of Sugar Ridge will be flying the flag for Antigua in the bartenders competition.

Forrester explained, that the esteemed Taste of the Caribbean competition requires that the national team prepare a three course meal for 40 persons, from a mystery basket. The team, he said, will be allowed four hours to prepare and an hour for service of their menu.

The local team is being supported and sponsored this year by one the island's major suppliers to the industry, Island Provisions.                                       

As it relates to the bartender competition, the AHTA boss added the bartender must present drinks in three categories, one to be rum based, one Vodka based and one non-alcoholic.   Premiere Beverages, is onboard with support for the local bartender, and for the rum based drink, five -year old English Harbour Rum will be used, whilst    Absolute Vodka is the base for the Vodka recipe drink.

Forrester said, each bartender will be given five minutes to prepare his/her drinks for the judges in each round before a live audience. Two glasses for cocktail and a maximum use of six ingredients, including dashes, drops and herbs may be used. The garnishes, he said, must be edible and should not be prepared in advanced.

For bartender of the year, of which George, is the contender for Antigua & Barbuda, the finalists, will be allowed twenty minutes to review the contents of a mystery bar, design a drink and write the recipe and ten minutes to produce the drink for the judges, including the garnish.

Taste of the Caribbean, was held last year at the Hilton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The national team in 2009 headed by Dezzie Banhan of Hermitage Bay  came home with a silver medal

The national team is endorsed and managed by the AHTA, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism.

Forrester is confident that the team will put on a good show. He also looks forward to series of culinary events in the coming months, which could become the springboard for an Antigua Culinary Festival. 

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