It was an extra-special win for team Bodden Town as the teen culinary duo clinched the top prize in their home district at this year’s National Youth Cook-Off finals.

Team Bradley, consisting of Clifton Hunter High School students Bradley McLaughlin and Tarec Francis, both 15, were crowned the National Youth Cook-Off Champions 2017 on Wednesday, March 1, at the 50th annual Agricultural Show at the Stacy Watler Pavilion in Lower Valley, a press release states. In the weeks leading up to the event, the team trained under chef Thomas Tennant of the Brasserie.

As well as placing first overall and winner of the Best Chili, Team Bradley also received the Tanya Foster Trophy for winning the title of Best Young Chefs.

The exciting contest was the culmination of a year-long quest to find the best district youth culinary team, with young chefs competing in district cook-offs to determine who would advance to the finals.

Starting at 1 p.m., the district champions received the prizes from their winning rounds before a large crowd of spectators. The six teams each had the support of a master-chef trainer before heading to the finals. They had to prepare an appetizer, main dish, dessert and drink using a number of required ingredients, as well as a chili dish, to be evaluated by a panel of five judges.

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For the big win, Bradley and Tarec prepared a homemade chili with crispy bottler chips and shredded cheese for their appetizer, pan-seared lionfish with mango salsa and white rice for their entrée, “Tropical Delight” mini cassava cake with strawberries and pineapple for their dessert, and homemade tamarind nectar for their drink.

“The final of the National Cook-Off Competition 2017 was a thrilling end to a very competitive contest. Each team that got to the final certainly earned their spot and pulled out all the stops to try and win the title,” said the acting head of the Youth Services Unit, James Myles.

Winners Bradley McLaughlin and Tarec Francis of Team Bradley make some final preparations.

“This event is attracting ever-increasing crowds, and participation is keener each year. Its popularity is also evident from the number of sponsors who signed up.”

Kerry Forbes-Akinnibosun of the Cayman Islands Agricultural Society was pleased by the level of commitment shown at the final.

“It was highly gratifying to see the contestants being put through their paces, yet working so well in their respective teams. Everything went smoothly, which is a true testament to the hard work put in by the Youth Services Unit in organizing the event,” she said.

While the five judges deliberated, chef Elardo McDonald from the Wyndham Reef Resort wowed spectators by creating an angelfish ice carving.

The top three teams were then announced by head judge, president of the Cayman Culinary Society and executive chef of Blue Cilantro, chef Vidyadhara Shetty. Hot on the heels of Team Bradley’s top spot were Team Straight Outta Spot Bay representing Cayman Brac, made up of Eugenio Myles and Ronaldinho Vassel in second, and Team Girl Power, representing George Town, made up of Ayanna Davis-Eden and Tya Bovell in third place.

“This year the competitors have taken the food one step up. The dishes were tasty, the presentation was wonderful and the competition only continues to grow and become better each year,” said chef Shetty.

“The cooking skills have improved and we would like to see even more students and kids get involved in the competition. We would especially like to see more young students enrolling in culinary studies, including the UCCI culinary program and receiving training from our wonderful restaurants and hotels.”

Youth Cook-Off finalists:

George Town: Team Girl Power – Ayanna Davis-Eden and Tya Bovell (Triple C School), trained by master chef Maureen Cubbon (Food Revolution)

Bodden Town: Team Bradley – Bradley McLaughlin and Tarec Francis (Clifton Hunter High School), trained by chef Thomas Tennant (The Brasserie);

North Side: Team Mo – Mohyndra Brown and Amber McLaughlin (Clifton Hunter High School), trained by chef Jennifer Dodd (The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman)

East End: Team Jaeda – Jaeda Kirchman and Kristin Kirchman (Clifton Hunter High School), trained by chef Elardo McDonald (Wyndham Reef Resort)

Cayman Brac: Team Straight Outta Spot Bay – Eugenio Myles and Ronaldinho Vassel (Layman E. Scott High School), trained by chef Thushara Jayalath Siriwardana (Grand Old House)

UCCI School of Hospitality Management: Team UCCI – Henricho Swaby and Mikayla Hydes trained by chef Narayan Thapaliya (Grand Old House).

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