The country's "Connoisseurs of Cuisine" and "Masters
of Mixology" united in friendly competition last Saturday evening for the
second year of Belize Tourism Board's "Tastes of Belize" at the Radisson
Fort George Hotel in Belize City.A total of twelve chefs and five
bartenders competed for prizes, trophies and the honor of being "Belize's
best". Emerging victorious from the finest of Belize's dining
establishments were contestants representing opposite ends of Ambergris
Caye - Victoria House Resort and Rendezvous
Of the six final round participants, the two "caye" Culinary
Competition winners were also the only women to enter. Following a "very
close competition," first place was awarded to Amy Knox of Victoria
House. Dubbed Belize's "Best Chef of the Year" for 2003, she created a
Marinated Chili Seared Fish Filet Tower with Grilled Eggplant and Conch
Papaya Salsa for her winning entry. As part of her winnings, Chef Amy
Knox received cash and roundtrip airfare to compete in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
at "Tastes of the Caribbean" scheduled for October
6th. Commenting on her
award, Ms. Knox exclaimed, "I'm very excited, especially for another
opportunity to represent Victoria House and Belize."
An ecstatic Colleen Schwendinger of
Rendezvous Restaurant was awarded third place for her "Faux Pork Chop".
She described the competition as "Fantastic!" and expressed her desire
for more San Pedro chefs to enter next year's competition. "It's not
about winning; it's about camaraderie," claimed Ms. Schwendinger.
Second place went to Chef Jason DeCampo of Harbor View
Restaurant in Belize City. Judging the culinary delights were University
of Belize faculty member Beverly Brown, Chef Rob Pronk of the Radisson
Fort George Hotel, Owner/Chef Glen Schwendinger of Rendezvous Restaurant,
International Chef Jan Kuska of El Salvador and former Belize City
caterer Cordelia Raymond. As a matter of fair practice, it is noted that
Judge Glen Schwendinger did not participate in the judging process of his
wife Colleen's culinary entry.
In addition, five participants were judged in three
rounds of the bartending competition. The first round focused on
creativity and originality, and required contestants to create a
signature drink for the audience and the judges to sample. Winning
"Belize's Best New Signature Drink for 2003" was Mariano Coc of Chaa
Creek Resort. Bartending Competition Coordinator Matt Jones of Habaneros
Restaurant in Caye Caulker awarded Mr. Coc his trophy and $500 cash for
his signature drink, "Belizean Kriol Gial". Fashioned from the finest
ingredients, the drink included Sangre de Maya liqueur, another "winning"
creation from "La Isla Bonita" bottled in North Ambergris Caye by Dennis
and Judie Fisher. Mariano Coc also received the honors for the third
round, which featured the creation of a "Mystery Drink".
Speed and accuracy were the criteria for
the second round of competition. Winning this prize as well as the award
for Showmanship was Ricael Moran of Habaneros Restaurant in Caye Caulker.
The Belize Tourism Board organized the Gala night, in
conjunction with the Belize Hotel Association and American
Also taking part in the event were local sponsors such
as Northern Fishermen's Cooperative, Premium Wine & Spirits, James
Brodie & Company Ltd., Marie Sharp's Fine Foods, Belize Western
Energy Limited, Traveller's Ltd., Southside Meats, Charro's Vegetables,
Blancaneaux Lodge, Sangre de Maya Liqueurs and D & S Vegetables.
"This event highlights the skills and creativity of
our culinary personnel in the tourism industry and gives them, and the
audience, an opportunity to showcase both the art and talent in this
sector of the industry, while learning and having fun," commented Tourism
Minister Mark Espat."It also presents Belizeans with an opportunity to
enjoy more of what is available in Belize, and ideas for take-home
recipes," Espat continued.
The first Gala Night was held on May
12th, 2001.The "Chef
of the Year" award was presented to Saul Aguilar of Blancaneaux Lodge.
Jason DeCampo of the Princess Hotel and Casino won the "Bartender of the
Year" award for his Signature Drink called "The Blue Hole".