Feeling the kitchen heat

Six aspiring junior chefs will get an excellent chance to put their skills to the test and show Cayman what they are made of as they attend the week long Sizzling Summer Series Cook-off at the Ritz-Carlton. The campers will get first hand experience of the fast paced, high octane environment that chefs have to work in. 

The six campers include Jade Pope, Chelsea Pierson, Leslie Anderson, Hollie Fenton, Amber Myrie and Ahmed Myles. The six junior chefs will be supported by a team of reserves including Tayvis Walters, Nikita Hydes and Shemar Hydes, all of whom are studying either food and nutrition or catering. 

There is one reserve for each team. The reserves will be assigned to their teams in camp and they will assist their team with raw materials and other tasks that their team might need done during the challenges. 

The campers will experience a competition similar to that of Food Network’s television series, Chopped. “The six campers will compete each day by preparing meals from a surprise basket of goods. The campers will have 1.5 hours to complete their daily challenge and must use each item in the basket in some way. Just like the Food Network’s Chopped. They must also present a printed menu of what they have prepared for the judges,” said James Myles, youth service coordinator at The Youth Services Unit. 

The campers will be supported by an assortment of chefs from the Ritz-Carlton, lead by Chef Guntomi of the Banquet Kitchen. “Chef Guntomi will arrange for various Chefs from Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman restaurants to coach each team each day. Each team will have their own coach to help with suggestions on what to create and how to present it on the plate, but the coach cannot cook or plate the meals for the team,” said Myles. 

Each camper was selected based upon the skill and aptitude that they showed in previous years at culinary camp. “The six campers were a part of the culinary camp for at least three years and they have all progressed through each camping experience with a desire to persevere to a higher level. Each summer the Unit has tried to meet their expectations and challenge them and we think it cannot get much higher than this, “Surprise Basket, No-Holds-Barred Cook-Off” every day of camp. Any thing higher would have to include a cash prize and television series which is presently out of our reach,” said Myles. 

Chef Guntomi is of the belief that the camp will certainly meet the campers expectations and challenge their skill. “You need to be passionate about food and about the work behind it; it’s a lot of discipline, long hours and often a great demand for high quality on short notice. You must be dedicated to your guests and meeting their needs at any cost. A great meal will enhance your experience and ensure you have fabulous memories, that’s what we do here every day,” he said. 

“Discipline, creative input and a love for what they are doing right now, cooking. Those rules are necessary to drive someone to be successful in the kitchen,” Chef Guntomi said in regards to what he hopes to see out of the campers. 

Some of the aims of the summer culinary camp are, “To prepare young Caymanians to become prominent contributors in the Food industry to ensure that the culture and cuisine that is uniquely Caymanian can endure the test of time from one generation to the next and to prepare a complete Culinary Team of Cayman born talent to represent the Cayman Islands internationally,” said Myles. 

Chef Guntomi also said that this summer camp is not only a great experience for the campers, but for the culinary staff at the Ritz-Calrton as well. “There are so many things they – and I – can learn through this experience and they introduced me to a lot of Caribbean Cuisine in last year’s summer camp. Some of them have inspired me and we have added items on the Banquet menu here because of that,” said Chef Guntomi. 

“Next summer the Unit hopes to start the cycle over by using the cooking classrooms at the Clifton Hunter campus to offer cooking lessons to teenagers with a hope to inspire the next cohort of Caymanian chefs from high school to tertiary studies as done with this summer’s campers,” said Myles. 

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