Cayes win big at "Taste of Belize" competition

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 20            May 29, 2003

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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 Restaurant.   

   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 2nd - 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 Airlines.

    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".
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