Young chefs from the National Youth Culinary team worked through the night Friday and then rose before dawn Saturday to serve Caymanian home cooking to early birds at the Cricket Grounds farmers’ market.

For three weekends in a row, the team fried up fritters, plantains and omelets to raise funds to compete in the culinary challenge at this Thursday’s Caribbean arts festival, Carifesta, in Barbados.

James Myles, acting head of the Youth Services Unit, said the young people’s hard work appeared to be paying off. They passed their weekly fundraising goal of $1,000 each week and were on track Saturday to raise $2,000 in donations.

The team aims to raise $17,000 total to send a delegation of 12, including four students, to the annual, 10-day Carifesta event.

“I think if the efforts of the young people can do half, I’m sure others will come on board and match our efforts. So we’ll make sure the team is putting in the effort and showing the country that they are worth this investment. We’ll make the country proud,” Mr. Myles said.

“The team stayed up in the night. They are probably running on two winks. I managed to get two hours of sleep. They’re still here and we’ll be here until two o’clock – seven, eight hours of community service and fundraising.”

Student Ayanna Davis, 14, said the team added Cayman-style beef, stewed turtle and stewed conch to the menu due to popular demand.

“People seem to enjoy everything and come back for the omelets. Last week a lady came back and said that was the best omelet she ever had. They’ve loved the food. The turtle sold out really quick last week. I think it’s going really well,” Ms. Davis said.

At the culinary competition in Barbados, the student team will decide between preparing its signature dish, stewed conch, or its national dish, Cayman-style fish.

Members of the National Culinary Team pose, including Bradley McLaughlin, Ayanna Davis, Georganne Rankine, James Myles and Tarec Francis.

They will face off against 18 Caribbean countries to reach the final round.

“We can’t export turtle, so we decided our next bet would be stewed conch or Cayman-style fish. Both dishes the team does exceptionally well,” Mr. Myles said.

“But we aim to take it all and at least have gold medals in every round, because that’s something we can control. It’s up to them to select us to the top three, and we go on to win the trophy. That’s the plan.”

Student Bradley McLaughlin said the team has been training hard with practices two to three times a week. During these practices, students learn culinary techniques from coaches, tackle mystery basket challenges and are assessed by chefs from the island, including the team from Cracked Conch.

“I’m hoping to bring our Caymanian skills and to show them what Caymanians can do,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

“This is my first time representing my island and cooking is something I am passionate about and love to do. I love competing. I think it is going to be fun, not just seeing the island but competing as well.”

Teammate Tarec Francis, 15, said he is excited and ready to face the competition. He said the team has put in the effort and is ready to take on any challenge.

After the competition, culinary coach Georganne Rankine expected the students to begin holding monthly fundraisers.

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