Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
It was Ainsley Lambie who copped the top award in the JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotions) Great Jamaican Cook-Off competition at the Montego Bay Convention Centre last week. His appetiser of jerked sausage, smoked chicken and lobster with avocado salsa served with mango coulis, and his entrée of rosti plantain with lobster and smoked pork loin, beat out the creations by some of the top chefs of the west.
Lambie, who has been the executive chef at Montego Bay's Coyaba Resort for more than two years, came out ahead of executive chef at Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, Omar Gordon; sous chef at Sunset Jamaica Grande, Demor Walters; and chef de cuisine at Half Moon, Christopher Golding.
"I feel great winning this competition. The appetiser I prepared was a combination of pork chicken and lobster. It was supposed to be done with mayonnaise, but I didn't have any, so I made my own from scratch, so that really helped," notes Lambie, who was trained at the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and the Culinary Institute of America.
The competition was judged by a panel of four expert chefs which included president of the Culinary Federation of Jamaica, Dennis McIntosh; Stephen Sowa, Daniel Schweizer of Goddard Catering Group Jamaica, and the lone female - former Grace Kitchens demonstrator, Paulette A. Rhoden.
"It was very good what the chefs did, because remember, it's spontaneous," Rhoden told Food. "You have to create your menu and everything from the moment they present you with your mystery basket. It was when we all sat as judges that each chef got two containers with the meat, that we opened the tables of Jamaica-grown products and the product lines from the various sponsors."
She emphasised that all the products used were local. "They (chefs) were very creative, and this also let them think outside the box and they really came up with some innovative dishes. There is no turning back once you start preparing the dishes, because the menu is written and given to someone to be printed and given to the judges," she added.
Here are the delicious highlights.