Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Giving into Your Culinary Desires

Published:Thursday | June 11, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Contributed Photo Sewell's s sizzling pan seared scotch Bonnett chicken
Contributed Photo CB Chicken Food Stylist Competition Winner Andre Sewell (left) with fellow finalists from left: Steven Charoo, Chantay Campbell and John Comrie.
Sewell adding the final touches to his dish.
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When you think about information technology, you never think about the kitchen - mixing flavours and seducing the senses with heavenly aromas.

Information technologist and graphic designer AndrÈ Sewell learnt that creating takes a certain chemistry, but the palate and a dish take some physics and that has real technical skills are best showcased in the kitchen.

Sewell won the recent CB Food Styling Competition, something he never expected. This was the first staging of a new take on food competitions, where the winner was chosen by both judges and social-media fans. Each accounted for 50 per cent of the votes, so contestants had to ensure that the presentation of the food attracted viewers to the point that it has them salivating just by looking at the dish.

Sewell currently runs techshopja.com, but his parents had long owned and operated a restaurant, so his mother taught him how to prepare the basics when he was only 12 years old. From then, he realised he liked cooking, but never thought of it as a career. Over the years, he has refined his skills trying his hand at different dishes and different cuisines. Some he learnt from the Food Network, others from YouTube videos. Though he loved it, he never truly considered it as a primary career until now.

Competing against a seasoned chef and a food blogger, he never thought he had a chance and it became more like a brotherhood than a competition.

"It never truly felt like a competition. Everyone was cheering each other on. We all just wanted the other to do their best," he told Food.

For the competition, he had plans of preparing a delectable Italian dish - chicken caprese to try and blow the judges mind. But this plan was soon abandoned when he learnt his dish had to have a Jamaican element.

His Plan B was a Scotch bonnet and coconut cream platter which included pan-seared Scotch bonnet chicken and coconut creamed potatoes.

With this victory under his belt, Sewell is now motivated to consider formal training in the culinary field. While he had always liked cooking, he never though of food styling - concentrating more on the flavour of his dishes.

"Now, when I prepare dishes for my wife and parents, I will ensure that the look matches the flavour, and I am considering formal training and maybe getting a mentor who can help me hone my skills," Sewell told Food.

A career change is inevitable for him as he feels ready to take up the mantle that his parents will soon lay down - taking over their restaurant.

Here is how you can prepare the winning dish on your own:

Pan Seared Scotch Bonnet Chicken

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless CB Chicken breasts (preferably brined to retain moisture)

1 large scotch Bonnet pepper (finely chopped)

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp crushed thyme leaves

1tsp crushed pimento berries

2tbsp olive oil (depending on the size of the breasts)

2tsp ground coriander

2 pinches of onion and garlic powder

Method

1. In a bowl, mix olive oil, coriander, pimento, thyme leaves, salt, onion and garlic powder and scotch bonnet pepper; to form a marinade.

2. Ensure chicken breasts are completely dry and then toss around in the marinade, to fully coat as much of the chicken as possible - including any crevices. Leave chicken covered on the counter, to marinate for 30 minutes.

3. When ready to cook, ensure chicken is at room temperature and heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Brown chicken for approximately 2 minutes on each side.

4. Then either place chicken in a preheated oven at 350? or reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, cover the skillet and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked all the way through- approximately 10 minutes.

5. Rest chicken breast for at least 5 minutes for the juices in the breast to redistribute and remain in the chicken, after it's cut.

Coconut Creamed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 very large or 2 medium peeled potatoes

1/4 cup coconut cream or 3 tbsp coconut milk powder, mixed with 1/4 cup heavy cream (less or more depending on the size of the potatoes)

Salt & black pepper to taste

1tbsp butter

Pinch of crushed thyme leaves and ground coriander

2 pinches of onion and garlic powder

Method

Peel, wash, dice and boil potatoes until very tender. Drain, pour in a large enough bowl and begin the mashing process. When all cubes have been broken, add all the ingredients and continue to mash until very creamy. Pour the cream a little at a time, so as to not use too much.

Coconut Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut cream or 4-5 tbsp coconut milk powder, mixed with 1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp crushed thyme leaves

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

2 crushed pimento berries

5 whole coriander seeds

1 tbsp butter

2 pinches of onion and garlic powder

Method

Add all ingredients to pan on medium low heat. Let simmer until butter is melted and all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.