Over 60 up and coming chefs from all over the Islands of The Bahamas got the chance to go head to head from March 12-15 at the 26th annual Bahamas Young Chef Culinary Competition.

The event gives the young prodigies an opportunity to show off their culinary prowess using ingredients indigenous to the archipelago as well as Mahatma rice and Robin Hood flour.

Innovative dishes usually emerge from this competition and this year was no exception.

Rice dishes like seafire rice made with jalapenos and crawfish, banana and pineapple fried rice and deserts like pina colada and passion fruit pudding, and sapodilla cake were just some of the delectable dishes that came out of this year’s fierce competition.

The competition, produced by the Ministry of Education, was divided into four categories: Cupcake Challenge, Signature Pastry, Mystery Basket with hot food and the overall Junior Young Chef and Senior Young Chef.

The team winners of the Junior Cupcake competition was Camaule Coakley and Noelle Symonette of Anatol Rodgers Senior High School in New Providence followed by McKell Saunders and Glen Rolle of Old Bight School in Cat Island and Micquel Cartwright and Kristen Ingraham of Preston Albury in Eleuthera.

In the senior division of the Cupcake Competition Broneka Williams and Kendonae Brown of C.C. Sweeting in New Providence were victorious followed by Shaelyn Sands and Ranad Davis of Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School in Spanish Wells and Antonesha Thompson and Atvia Collie of C.R. Walker in New Providence.

Avery Hall and Joshua Claridge of Preston Albury High in Eleuthera won the young chef signature pastry competition and was followed by Deltinique Greene and Kajah Pinder of Patrick J. Bethell High of Abaco and Harvey Pratt and Jasmine Burrows of Old Bight High of Cat Island.

Denae Clarke and Gabriel Williams of L.N. Coakley in Exuma took home the top prize in the mystery basket competition followed by Shealyn Sands and Ranad Davis of Samuel Guy Pinder in Spanish Wells and Andrea Greene and Shandena Dawkins in Arthur’s Town in Cat Island.  

At the end of the clash, Alyssa Neely of Samuel Pinder All Age School won the Junior Chef of the year, while Avery Hall of Preston Albury won the senior division.

Neely, who prepared a stuffed jalepeno with double peas and grits, said this was her second year in the competition.

“My teacher pushed me and said I could do it,” she said. “As I was preparing it, I started to give up but my mind said ‘keep going’ and so I just did it. This has been a great experience and it makes you feel free to do whatever you want to do. It inspires you to be a great person in life,” she said.

Hall, who is a 12th grade student, prepared a wild rice with red snapper with a pumpkin spice soup topped with a mango salsa and a avocado cake with a lemon filling.

“I just thought out of the box and I knew my presentation had to be on key. Preparing for this competition took many days and nights,” he said.

Both winners took home $650 and the opportunity for visit to Johnson and Wales University this summer.

As one of the key sponsors of the event, the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s (MOTA) Culinary Department is a part of the organizing committee.

MOTA’s Culinary Manager DeAnne Gibson said the competition is vital to the tourism industry.

“We look at who is up and coming. We have opportunities to showcase our chefs in various mediums. So our portion is to come and see what is happening here and see how we can take this to the next level and to ensure that our students are staying at the level that is currently in the nation and worldwide,” she said.

“Most of the chefs that have competed at the national level go on to be chefs in the industry and so we are delighted to be a part of this. So this is only the beginning and the building block of that is to come.”

Mahatma’s  Manager of Publicity and Test Kitchen Debbie Wheeler couldn’t agree more.

She said while Mahatma is based in Houston, Texas, many of the recipes that make it to the company’s test kitchen come from The Islands of The Bahamas.    

What is so impressive is that the students are so fearless. I take a copy of all the recipes from the students and the winners of course and I take them to the kitchen and I rework them. We have put some of the student’s recipes online and we would like to do a cookbook,” she said.

Education Officer for Family and Consumer Science Education, Ministry of Education Raquel Turnquest said she believes the competition will continue to inspire many more culinary prodigies.

“These chefs go on to be major chefs around the islands and around the world. We have some chefs that have become private chefs working for millionaires. Johnson and Wales that partners with the Ministry of Education are scouting our young chefs  and the students are offered a lot of opportunities,” she said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kendea Smith | ksmith@bahamas.com | 242-397-2786