2016 Taste of Jamaica winner crowned
Portland chef Ricardo Allen was crowned 2016 Chef of the Year at the 6th staging of the HEART Trust/NTA Taste Of Jamaica Culinary Competition & Expo.
Held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on November 12 and 13, the Trident Hotel chef bested the competition ahead of first runner-up David Wellington from the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and second runner-up Michael Thomas of the Jamaica Pegasus to walk away with the coveted title, trophy and US$3,000 in scholarship from HEART Trust/NTA among other prizes.
His winning dish was a fusion of dasheen with fry plantain and tuna marinated in various sauces. This was complemented by a side of chicken stuffed with shrimp and salmon, finished off with sorrel sauce. "I am feeling great that my hard work paid off," said Allen. A chef for nine years, this was his first time entering the chef of the year category in the annual competition. "My next step is moving on to higher heights as well as furthering my education," Allen shared with Food.
The 2016 staging of the two-day expo, organised by Culinary Federation of Jamaica (CFJ), featured cook-offs in more than 18 categories.
These categories included: Pastry Junior Chef of the Year where Brittany Thompson of HEART College of Hospitality Services won first place and $30,000; Junior Chef of the Year won by Oshane Powell of Hedonism II; and Anchor Cream Cheese Competition, won by Amelia Baker-Buccas of the Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
"This event is very important to our young people who are going to seek a career in food, particularly beverage and hospitality," noted CFJ President Dennis McIntosh.
He encouraged young culinary professionals at the competition to seize the opportunities that the event offers. "There is tremendous market out there for highly skilled young professionals as most of you have a great opportunity to be almost anywhere in the world once you have the right skill set and attitude," McIntosh explained.
His sentiments were echoed by the HEART Trust's Collin Virgo, who charged participants to appreciate not just the competition, but also CFJ and its mission to develop Caribbean cuisine as an important part of the tourism product in Jamaica and throughout the region.