Hoping To Medal After Challenges From Hurricane Matthew

Chefs Sheldon ‘Tracey’ Sweeting and Ron Johnson are accustomed to challenges.

Both men, who are very well known chefs, have competed in numerous international competitions throughout the last decade.

But when Hurricane Matthew stormed through The Bahamas on October 5, the men who are headed to compete against the world on October 17 faced a challenge like no other.

The chefs are heading to Erfurt, Germany for the much-anticipated 2016 Culinary Olympics on October 17-22.

In 18 glass kitchens, more than 2,000 chefs from over 50 countries will prepare more than 7,000 fresh menus and turn the Erfurt exhibition halls into the world’s largest restaurant.

Johnson and Sweeting, who are sponsored by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, will be competing separately in two individual all-day culinary showdowns.

But after New Providence was hit with the category four storm, the chefs were forced to throw away months of prep work and hundreds of dollars worth of food.

Without proper refrigeration and scanty selections from local grocery stores, the odds are against the chefs.

However, Chef Sweeting, who has been competing in the competition since 2004, said it allows the men to explore their individual creativity.

“It is the most difficult culinary competition in the world. The cuisine that we are doing this year is totally different. A lot of the things that I am doing, I am surprising myself. We have the talent and the capability but putting it on plate is something totally different,” he said.

“It’s a huge challenge now to get all of the items needed to start prepping to be ready for Monday. Because many of the flights have been cancelled, we had stuff coming in and we haven’t received everything we have ordered as yet. We are a bit antsy. The challenge is huge but we are up for the challenge. I believe in God and I believe that I can conquer anything and that is my mindset and I am not letting the situation beat me or get the better of me.”

Chef Johnson is usually a coach rather than a competitor.

In 2012, he assisted Chef Sweeting in the Culinary Olympics and was also one of the Team Captains for the 2016 Bahamas Culinary Team in the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) annual Taste of The Caribbean competition, which is held in Miami, Florida.

Johnson said that he’s excited about the international competition ahead.

“I feel very confident in what my display is going to be. You have to present your meal in a clean and artistic way and I feel that I am going to do so. We are going to have a flexible menu so we have to bring a printer just in case we have to bring things because we just don’t know,” he said.

The chefs will both have the task of turning hot meals into cold, delectable dishes. This will have to be executed into five course meals.

The judges are looking for innovation, creativity as well as taste, according to officials.

The Culinary Olympics draws over 20,000 people from all over the world to Germany for the culinary explosion of flavours.

Chef Sweeting said he and Johnson are confident that they will medal.

“This has been a long time coming. Many people say, ‘You are a good chef and you are ready.’ But when you go against the world, it is a whole different scenario. Like athletes, we expect them to go into the world and medal but it doesn’t work like that. It takes time and experience. This journey started in 2004 and it’s 2016. I’m sure that we are going to do much better than we ever did,” he said. 

Media Contact: Kendea Smith | ksmith@bahamas.com | 242-397-2786