Taste of Belize Competition
Belize City, September 1, 2009 — The Belize Tourism Board held its 8th Annual Taste of Belize Culinary Competition on Saturday, August 29, at the Old Belize Adventure & Historical Centre which attracted the participation of twelve professional chefs, five young professional chefs, nine bartenders, five cake decorators and an audience of over 700 attendees.
“Taste of Belize” is Belize’s “signature culinary competition” geared at developing the Culinary Arts in Belize. Competitors in all categories were expected to create a unique dish using his/her choice of ingredients. This dish could have been an appetizer, main dish or dessert and should have reflected Belizean or regional cuisine. The day’s activities commenced at 10:00 a.m. with beach games where families had the opportunity to enjoy games such as relay race, mini cake decorating, tomato sauce balloon toss and sausage eating just to name a few. The culinary component of the “Taste” also began early on Saturday morning where the judges had the unwieldy task of short listing the number of competitors for each category.
Victor Nal of Sunset Grill Ltd. in San Pedro captured the title of “Professional Chef of the Year 2009” with his Tower of Seared Coffee and Spice Rubbed Beef Medallions layered with a Jalapeño and Cheese Malanga Papooce, Red Wine and Onion Sauce and served with sautéed Julian Vegetables. As a part of his winning package, he received a trophy, a cash prize of $1,200.00 and one week Culinary Scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. The second place winner, Franciso Cano of Hopkins Bay Resort received a trophy and $800.00 cash prize. Third place winner, Marcia Nunez of Hamanasi Resort in Hopkins Village, received a trophy and $500.00 cash prize.
Ernest Bradley was awarded the title of “Young Professional Chef of the Year” and received a trophy and an $800.00 cash prize for his Coconut Cilantro Chicken, Garlicky Mashed Potatoes and Sauté Vegetables. The second place winner, Mateo Villanueva of Mr. Greedy’s Pizzeria, received a trophy and a $500.00 cash prize. Third place winner, Rueben Cano, student, received a trophy and a $300.00 cash prize.
Participants, competing in the bartending category, were required to create a signature drink giving the audience and judges a sample of what was expected to meet with their stamp of approval. Mariano Coc, bartender at Belizean Dreams in Hopkins Village, won the prestigious title of “Bartender of the Year” and his winning drink “Traveller’s Juice” was dubbed as “Belize’s best new signature drink for 2009”. Additionally, Coc was awarded a trophy and a $1,200.00 cash prize. The second place winner, Liberto Fermin Cho of Radisson Fort George, was awarded a trophy and $800.00 cash prize and third place winner, Oscar Guerra of Cahal Pech Village in the Cayo District was awarded a trophy and cash prize of $500.00.
The theme for this year’s Cake Decorating Competition was “A Belizean Wedding”. Teresita Choco of Casa Pan Dulce Bakery in San Pedro captured the title of “Cake Decorator of the Year 2009” for her “Vanilla Yellow Cake.” As a part of her winning package, she received a trophy and an $800.00 cash prize. The second place winner, self-employed Diane Galvez was awarded a trophy and a $500.00 cash prize for her “Traditional Belizean Pound Cake with Pineapple Filling.” The third place winner, Tamara Tingling of Social Investment Fund was awarded a trophy and a cash prize of $300.00 for her “Tropical Paradise Cake.”
The Gala night included cultural entertainment from Kenny Gladden and the New Creation Band and MC’s were William Neal and Gwen Nunez Gonzalez. This year’s event also included displays from Grace Kennedy Belize Limited and Madisco.
The international judges for this year’s culinary competition included Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, Associate Professor at the Culinary Institute of America and Mr. Ovidio Diaz, of the Marketing Mixology Group. The local chefs included Ms. Amy Knox, Mr. Bernard Blades and Mr. Sean Beaton. Judges for the Cake Decorating Competition included Ms. Nicole Palacio, Ms. Beverly Coleman and Ms. Norma Bailey. Judges for the Bartending Competition were Mr. Mike Panton and Mr. Maito Perdomo.
“This event encourages hoteliers, restaurateurs and the local population to showcase and expand their interest in the culinary arts,” comments Director of Tourism, Tracy Panton. “Furthermore, this event promotes opportunities for stakeholders in the tourism industry to promote themselves and the Belize tourism experience by engaging the senses.”
Other participants in the professional and young professional chef categories included Jason Ocampo, Sheridan Polanco, Calbert Santiago, Elma Dominguez, Trinell Smith, Jennie Staines, Rudy Chulin, Aaron Mai, Carlos Garrido, Christopher Carriddi and Juan Pablo Gongora. Participants in the cake decorating category included Andrew Middleton and Raquel Centeno. The remaining competitors in the Bartending Category were Romeo Kotch, Joseph Bowden, Marcia Jones, Luis Velasquez, Enrique Alamilla and Erika Ruiz.
Beach Games Sponsors included Old Belize Adventure & Historical Centre, Ministry of Education, Victor L. Bryant, Celebrations, Wellworth, Publics and Running Brand Meats. Major sponsor for the Professional Chef Competition was Grace Kennedy Belize Ltd. and Traveller’s Liquor was the major sponsor for the Bartending Competition. Other sponsors included Karl H. Menzies who sponsored the Welcome Reception, First Caribbean International Bank, Atlantic Bank, Alliance Bank, Bowen & Bowen, Fresh Catch Belize Ltd., Belize Western Energy Ltd., and Southside Meats.