For five days in June chefs from 13 Caribbean countries turn up the heat in Miami, Florida at the Taste of the Caribbean culinary showcase and challenge.
Teams comprised of a pastry chef, junior chef, bartender and executive chef, compete in challenges and attend symposiums or workshops to elevate their game. The annual event is produced by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and hosted at Hyatt Regency Miami.
In the kitchen we found Team Puerto Rico frying “pumpkin fritters, we also call ‘Old Women Belly’ because it’s very fluffy in the middle.” Team Turks & Caicos employ seafood for their libation called Bloody Conch. And as soca streamed from Trinidad & Tobago’s station, we found Team Bonaire slow-roasting barbecue pork butt. Team manager Floris Van Loo with Rum Runners Bonaire, explains, “What they do in this competition is really good, they have us work with the lesser cuts. Originally, that’s a chicken dish in Bonaire.”
During the culinary showcase Adrian Cumberbatch of Trinidad shared, “We always bring chadon beni and pimento because that’s Trinidad heritage. We knew what we were doing two months ago. What is new is the curry crab and dumpling, geera pork and stew chicken.” But the most inventive item is the curry fudge.
Mixologist Clinton Ramdhan with Team Trinidad & Tobago, serves his spin on the classic Laurel by “including pineapple juice and black currant liqueur.” “It’s called Fire & Ice because Trinidad Puncheon is called fire water.”
When every country’s platters were emptied three commendations were awarded: Out of this World Drink >> Team Puerto Rico, Most Tasteful Bite >> Team Jamaica, and Best Representation of Caribbean Cuisine >> Team USVI. Pastry chef Natalie Buckner of Caneel Bay Resort created “a banana bread pudding with coco tea sauce; [from] cocoa grown in St Croix” for Team United States Virgin Islands. “The banana pudding has nice spice, because the chocolate isn’t overly sweet and has a coffee caramel kick in it. “It balances everything nicely,” she added. “The biggest takeaway is the educational sessions and learning about the flavors within our own islands, the indigenous ingredients, that’s what it’s about.”
“In Suriname we are working on our gastronomic development,” offers team captain Sherwin Alexander, an executive chef at Hotel Torarica. “We don’t have facilities for young students to improve culinary skills. For the past four years there has been one center organizing training for students. We bring youths out from the Caribbean to Miami to compete at these events, and bring back knowledge and share with others.”