The 2019 National Culinary Team is set for the Taste of the Caribbean competition in Miami this Sunday. Led by captain Jeremy Lovell, who is also the chef at Courtyard by Marriott, the team comprises senior chefs Shonelle Greenidge and Gerard Cox, junior chef Jodi Eversley, pastry chef Keenan Lezama and bartender Isaiah Trumpet. all from the TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI).
At the farewell dinner at Residence, One Woodbrook Place on Monday night, Brian Frontin, CEO, Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association (THRTA) congratulated the team on being the first set of actual students to represent TT at the competition.
That decision was taken in February when records showed over 95 percent of former team members had graduated from TTHTI. So why not give the students an opportunity to represent TT for the first time in 22 years, asked Frontin.
Since 1997 TT has been sending a team of food and beverage professionals to compete at the Miami competition. To date the country has won 103 medals, which include Caribbean team of the year. TT is tthe only country to have won this title seven times, and on two occasions, Caribbean Bartender of the Year and Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year, as well as Caribbean Chef of the Year and Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year.
Frontin said: “If we’ve had this track record of success, why doesn’t the rest of the world know that this is the country you come to learn how to cook the best? Why not develop culinary tourism? Why not hospitality? We will be late to the game, when we clearly have the best talent for over two decades.”
It was at this time when Frontin announced that the organisers of Taste of the Caribbean in Miami have agreed to an inter-school regional competition, that could happen as early as September, 2020 in Trinidad, where international and regional culinary institutes will compete at Taste of the Caribbean Juniors Competition.
He wished the TT culinary team all success at Sunday’s competition, saying: “You have made us proud before you have even left our shores by proving that you have the discipline and you have the tenacity to want it. Congratulations!”
Taking up from where Frontin left off, Hassel Thom, president of the THRTA, said this year's contest, "Once it is possible is just the start of what this (new junior competition) can bring to our tourism landscape. We can practise culinary tourism or education tourism. Let’s practise how we can create that euphoria around every young person going into primary school thinking, 'Maybe I want to be like that.'”
To the team, he said: “Fly the flag. To me, the gold medal started from day one, with your right attitude coming into the competition. We are going to Miami and make TT, THRTA and TTHTI proud.”
The TT team has been practising its craft for the last six Mondays, churning out dishes for diners at Residence, in readiness for the competition. On the night, the team prepared the last dinner it will be taking to the competition and asked guests to keep it a secret so it won’t be copied.
Also on the night, mixologist Trumpet, who will be competing in the vodka, rum, non-alcoholic and mystery bar categories, was happy to serve guests his vodka and rum cocktails, a Tamarind Ball Tiki and Time to Lime respectively.