Sunset Grill Tops Taste of Belize
The Belize Tourism Board held its 8th Annual Taste of Belize Culinary Competition on Saturday, August 29, at the Old Belize Adventure which attracted the participation of 12 professional chefs, five young professional chefs, nine bartenders, five cake decorators and an audience of over 700 attendees.
San Pedro has had its fair share of winners at the “Taste of Belize” competitions in previous years a total of seven winnings. And this year was no exception as Victor Nal, Chef of Sunset Grill won the Professional Chef of the Year and Teresita Choco of Casa Pan Dulce won Best Cake Decorator.
“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 10:00a.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.
* Professional Chef of the year 2009 – Victor Nal, Sunset Grill San Pedro - Tower of Seared Coffee and Spice Rubbed Beef Medallions layered with a Jalapeño and Cheese Malanga Papooce, smothered in a fine 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.)
* 2nd place winner, Franciso Cano of Hopkins Bay Resort - received a trophy and $800.00 cash prize.
* 3rd place winner, Marcia Nunez of Hamanasi Resort in Hopkins Village - received a trophy and $500.00 cash prize.
Young Professional Category:
* Young Professional Chef of the Year 2009 - Ernest Bradley, Coconut Cilantro Chicken, Garlicky Mashed Potatoes and Sauté Vegetables. (Received a trophy and a $800.00 cash prize).
* 2nd place winner, Mateo Villanueva of Mr. Greedy’s Pizzeria, (received a trophy and a $500.00 cash prize.)
* 3rd place winner - Rueben Cano, student – (received a trophy and a $300.00 cash prize.)
Bartender of the Year Category:
* Bartender of the Year 2009 - Mariano Coc, bartender at Belizean Dreams in Hopkins Village - winning drink “Traveller’s Juice” was dubbed as “Belize’s best new signature drink for 2009.” (awarded a trophy and a $1,200.00 cash prize.)
* 2nd place winner - Liberto Fermin Cho of Radisson Fort George - awarded a trophy and $800.00 cash prize
* 3rd place winner - Oscar Guerra of Cahal Pech Village - awarded a trophy and cash prize of $500.00
* Cake Decorator of the year 2009 - Teresita Choco of Casa Pan Dulce Bakery in San Pedro - The theme for this year’s Cake Decorating Competition was “A Belizean Wedding”. , captured the title of “Cake Decorator of the Year 2009” for her “Vanilla Yellow Cake” (received a trophy and $800.00 cash prize.)
* 2nd 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.”
* 3rd 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 Nuñez 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 include 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.