Taste of the Caribbean
By Leiselle Maraj Saturday, June 30 2012
Among all the accolades won by the Trinidad and Tobago National Culinary Team for their outstanding skills at the “Taste of the Caribbean” culinary competition held recently at the Miami Hyatt, the respect gained because of their teamwork was something that stood out. It may be the edge the team had over most in the competition and earned them the gold medal in the Team of the Year category.
According to the TT team captain, Raymond Joseph, it took the eight member team four months of practice to become the “well oiled machine” it was at the competition. This training included, for the first time, a visit to the Johnson and Wales University in Miami for more team building and training just before the competition.
“The team earned the respect of all the judges. We accomplished what we set out to do: form a tight, cohesive unit which performed to the best of our abilities,” he said.
Joseph and the other seven members of the team, who all received medals in their respective categories, were received by newly appointed Tourism Minister, Stephen Cadiz, officials from the ministry, family and friends last Tuesday at the Piarco International Airport VIP Lounge.
This year, Trinidad and Tobago medalled in two categories which they had never done in the past. Caribbean Chef of the Year and a gold medal in that category was won by Devon Joseph of Chaud Restaurant while Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year and a gold medal in that category was won by 18-year-old Isaiah Connell of Topper’s Restaurant. It is the first year in the competition that one country captured both titles at the same time.
Team bartender, Danyiel Jones of Martini Makers won gold medal in the Caribbean Bartender Competition and captured the titles of Best Rum Drink, Best Vodka Drink and Most Creative Drink. This continued his winning streak as he was part of the team chosen to represent Trinidad and Tobago last year. Pastry Chef, Kendell Mulzac of the Hyatt Regency Trinidad captured a silver medal in the Caribbean Party Chef Competition, silver medal in the Cheese competition went to Chef of the Year Joseph, Arnold Jupiter of DSM Cuisine earned a bronze medal in the Beef competition while Rajesh Goolcharan of Ramphal Caterers won a bronze medal in the Seafood competition. Alternate bartender, Carla Cupid rounded out the local team.
President of the Trinidad Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Association, Michelle Palmer-Keizer outlined the recipe followed to ensure the success of the team.
The team promotes young and upcoming talent so that they will receive experience and exposure on an international scale and the opportunity to interact with the Caribbean’s best. Participants are not allowed to participate on the team more than twice which would ensure a constant stream of young talent.
Hard work and a commitment to excellence and team work, discipline and good old “Trini” determination were the third and fourth elements of the success recipe.
“We left them asking, ‘What do those guys do down south?’,” she said while heaping praises on the team.
Even though some teams brought out their “big guns”, they could not beat Trinidad and Tobago, she said.
Palmer-Keizer said the team has been warned that others have been catching up and advised that it was time to raise the bar.
Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Hotel Association, Alec Sanguinette, who was at the welcome ceremony, was full of praises for the team and Trinidad and Tobago’s presence in the competition over the years. Over the years, this country has won the Team of the Year title five times, a feat yet to be equaled by any other country in the region.
The number of individual and team medals won this year, he said, must have taken serious work. Their team work was commendable, he said, but their co-operative spirit was what stood out to him.
He said this team offered to accommodate the Haitian team and train with them to ensure they were ready for the competition. “Be proud of what you have done. I only hope what you have achieved gets maximum publicity,” Sanguinette said. Tourism Minister Cadiz said the he looks forward to the ministry using this form of tourism to increase arrivals to this country.
He expects the tourism sector to grow to be a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
“They are always talking of oil and gas. We will give them oil and gas. Cooking oil and gas.”