On Sunday, July 2nd, 10 professional chefs, 6 amateur chefs and 7 bartenders competed in the ‘Taste of Belize’ competition for the title of best chef and best bartender in the country. The Radisson Fort George in Belize City was ‘cooking’ as the preparations for the judging of the cuisines got underway. At the entrance, the aroma of food filled the air with spices, condiments and herbs that could truly be smelled at least from a block away. The gala night was hosted by William Neal and Gwen Gonzalez. The function was well attended, over 750 people attended the days events.
The ‘Taste of Belize’ is a signature competition aimed at developing the Culinary Arts in Belize where contestants must create a unique dish using his or her choice of ingredients. The rules of the competition is that the dish would be either a dessert, appetizer or a main dish that reveals any Belizean or regional cuisine. The competition consisted of three parts; the professional culinary competition, the amateur culinary competition and the bartending competition.
Things kicked off on Saturday morning, where the judges had the arduous task of choosing six out of the ten chefs to move to the next round. In order to qualify for this division the contestants had to be employed as chef’s in the Belize’s Food and Beverage Industry. At the end of the night, the big winners were announced for the professional chef’s competition and no other than Amy Knox took the crown and trophy, along with cash prize. Her dish choice was a Pan Seared Tilapia with curry jerk shrimp, Caribbean rapatouille, green onions arepas and ginger gastrique, it had the judges’ taste buds skyrocketing and they decided on giving her the “Best Chef of The Year 2005”. Amy represented the Victoria House and explains to The Sun that “I was surprised because the competition was tough and we were given an opportunity to choose from a mystery basket and decided on doing this dish.” Not only did Amy win the big title, but also did her teammate, Enrique Luna took the Bartending competition and ran with it. He was crowned the best bartender of the year 2005.In an interview with The Sun, they both stated that they would like to thank the Belize Tourism Board and everybody that supported them throughout this competition.”
In the amateur competition, it consisted of caterers, public cooks and kitchen apprentices. In the end of the judging round, the winners were announced and Corrie Pronk took the title of “Amateur Chef of the year” with her Caribbean Hot Shrimp. Corrie walked away with a cash prize, a certificate and a trophy. Second place winner was Henry Jex, who is a banker at the Belize Bank, he also took home a cash prize and a trophy. For their efforts, the other contestants were awarded prizes for their impressive presentations. After that, the bartending competition was underway and it required the contestants to create a signature drink. As mentioned before, Enrique Luna took the “Bartender of the year 2005” title with his winning drink called “Caipirinha”. Second place winner was Marcia Jones of the Radisson Fort George Hotel, she walked away with a trophy and a cash prize. Third place went to Kenny Wilshire of the Victoria House, he received a trophy and a Belize tour package. Other contestants that participated in the professional and amateur competition are Calbert Santiago, Ainsley Castro, Luis Cawich, Victor Nal, Carlos Jacol, Manuel Contijoch, and Mario Carlino. The other bartending contestants were Jose Alvarez, Deshawn Sosa, Charles Nunez, Sherlene Esrada and King Lewis.
During the day, entertainment was provided by the Paul Nabor and the Garifuna All Stars Band, Pantempers Steel Orchestra and the rock band Echoes. Tourism Director, Tracy Panton stated in a press release that, “Taste of Belize is a project geared at involving food connoisseurs to take an active role in developing and sharpening their skills.” She further stated, “this event highlights the proficiency and ingenuity of our culinary personnel in the tourism industry and provides them with an audience to showcase their talent, while concurrently learning new techniques and having fun.” Overall, the ‘Taste of Belize” was a huge success and it was well attended. On behalf of The San Pedro Sun and the community we congratulate Amy Knox, Enrique Luna, Kenny Wilshire, Patrick Haughton and the rest of the participating contestants for a job well done.