Taste of Jamaica-Fresh, Seasonal, Local
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Fresh, seasonal and local, are the words executive chef Dennis McIntosh is hoping will inspire the country's younger chefs in using what is available to them creatively.
McIntosh's emphasis is the catalyst going into the Best Dressed Chicken: Taste of Jamaica Culinary Competition, which kicks off the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Saturday, October 12.
Twenty competitions ranging from ice and fruit carving through to the best use of chicken, pork and beef, will be on show over the two-day event.
On Monday, Food received exclusive attention from the executive chef, who is also president of the Culinary Federation of Jamaica; Coyaba Beach Resort's executive chef Ainsley Lambie, and pastry chef Alecia Woodbine James of Signature Kingston Desserts, at the Montego Bay hotel in Mahoe Bay.
McIntosh gave a sneak preview of what food lovers should expect at the culinary affair. In his presentation, he displayed multiple dishes in small portions. "You enjoy each course for what it represents", said McIntosh.
It was a colourful and vibrant presentation, garnished with great flavour profiles, as the culinary expert utilised the food of the land. "We are not averse to food that comes from overseas, but I think it is very important that we celebrate and highlight the Jamaican products in creative ways and, if we have to incorporate some imported beef or lamb or whatever the case might be, we are still doing that with a strong influence of Jamaica behind it," he said.
It was obvious that like the other chefs, in the country, aspects of his meals were directed into health and wellness.
Admitting that many of the country's chefs were starting to recognise the benefits of health and wellness, he said they were cognisant that their customers wanted alternatives.
He pointed out that many of the island's chefs were incorporating a lot of the salads on their menus and over the last year, he and his colleagues have been able to find farmers who specialise in producing herbs that the country would normally import.
"It very important that we continue to support the farming community because our health is really in their hands, and it's good to know that if you're eating fruits or vegetables, that you have a good sense of where they come from," he cautioned.
Celebrating all that's Jamaican, McIntosh prepared an oven roasted tomato and basil soup as a starter. The tomato is oven roasted, then blended and pureed, seasoned and garnished with basil. He accompanied this tasty cold soup with twice fried plantains (plantain cut in rounds about an inch thick, which are fried then they are mashed and fried again).
The plantains are left to soak in a little salt water (the salt water breaks it down a little making it nice, smooth and crunchy). A salsa completed this meal.
McIntosh notes that it is very important for vegetarian food to look sexy and attractive, so he prepared wonton skins and nicely seasoned vegetables-pumpkin, onion, scallion and garlic and placed them in the wanton skins. These came out looking like dumplings.
Executive chef, Ainsley Lambie of Coyaba, complemented his colleague, utilising breadfruit, creating a red curry breadfruit Au gratin' served with pan seared local red snapper.
He used a June plum shrimp salad with June plum chutney and wilted callaloo, and a guava barbeque glaze to heighten the taste.
For his second dish, Lambie introduced a peppermint crusted lamb loins with pumpkin, mashed sweet potato and jerked mango glaze, infused with peppers, onion and bacon, served with white wine.
To sweeten the tooth, pastry chef, Alecia Woodbine James creating two very wild and decadent desserts, incorporated local ingredients.
Her first was a chocolate beet, with a mango jelly balled on top, resulting in a kind-of funky topsy-turvy kind of effect. For the sauce she used Blue Mountain Coffee, to balance the sweetness.
The pastry chef completed her presentation with a pineapple jelly embedded on a Florentine, separated by a chocolate disk. She then used a papaya gelato, separated by another chocolate disk. This fabulous dessert was finished with coconut whipped cream, and a chocolate garnish.