Heated mixology at TOJ with JWN Academy
While the culinary contenders were busily working their magic in the kitchen, blades were drawn and the battle of the bartenders was on as they mixed things up in the mocktail to cocktail categories. As promised, Food trekked with the talented trio from the J. Wray and Nephew Academy last weekend to the island's Second City at the Montego Bay Convention Centre for this year's staging of the highly anticipated Taste of Jamaica (TOJ) competition. And they did not disappoint in delivering showmanship at its finest while dripping in flavourful finesse.
The contest was off to an extremely late start, and those participating grew restless as they awaited their big break. First up from the JWN Academy assassins for the vodka category was Milton Wisdom. Wisdom, the Jack of his trade, was no stranger to the competition. He remained cool, calm, collected, and confident as he freshly prepared his Vodka Smoke Salmon Fromage. He applied the heat and flambÈed his way into the big leagues as he surprised palates with his distinctively delicious drink.
Next up was the queen of the pack, ReneÈ Watt. She kept the fire going by creating The Journey: a bacon and June plum-infused vodka mix that had food and drink lovers satisfied as she presented her one-of-a-kind cocktail with a million-dollar smile.
She gave way to mixing king, Randeen Thomas, who entertained the crowd, blazing fire and making wow moments one to remember with his sweetly enchanting rendition of Stew Peas Martini.
Camaraderie amid rivalry
The beauty of it all was witnessing the camaraderie between the three firsthand, as they cheered and encouraged each other to keep their eyes on the prize and go for the gold.
Hours passed and it was time for the rum category. The mixing team regrouped and geared up for round two. Thomas got the intoxicating ball rolling with his juicy Jerk Pork Daiquiri.
Wisdom followed suit, making a meaty mix with Di Bacon Reserve, while Watt shook up her male counterparts with Kurry Tiki, a twist on a classic daiquiri. It was smooth sailing into day two as the JWN Academy trifecta tackled the categories of mystery basket, non-alcoholic mix and mocktail. In the end, the mixing mission was accomplished as the team walked away with 12 medals, collectively.
Wisdom took home a silver medal in the vodka category, a bronze medal in the rum category and a bronze medal in the non-alcoholic category for his mix: The Sweet Berry. Thomas received a silver medal in the vodka category, a bronze medal in the rum category, a bronze for his drink, Big Stinking Foot, in the mocktail category, and a bronze medal for his mystery basket mix, Caribbean Fusion. All hail the queen, who walked away with a bronze medal in the Vodka category, a silver medal in the rum category, a bronze medal in the non-alcoholic category for her 360 degree Punch, a gold medal in the mystery basket category for her mystery flavour (Shh! It's still a secret), and a gold medal for bartender of the year, which placed her second overall in the mixology competition. She will be representing Jamaica at the annual Taste of the Caribbean Competition, usually held in Miami, Florida.