Cayman thrives in culinary competition

Team B, Mohyndra Brown, left, and Joshua McLean in action during the competition.

A taste of Cayman cooking was enough to bring home a special prize.

One of the two Cayman teams in the Junior Caribbean Duelling Challenge in Barbados over the weekend brought home the second-place trophy. Team A, Bradley McLaughlin, 16, and Ayanna Davis-Eden, 15, made it into the final round after acing the “mystery basket” round and finished just behind the ultimate winning team from St. Lucia.

“Honestly, I’m very proud of them,” said Chef Carlos Sierra, the coach for both Cayman teams. “For sure, they have a good future if they want to work as chefs at some point down the line.”

Bradley took second place in last year’s competition, alongside his former teammate Brittney Bodden, this year he repeated that ranking when he paired up with teammate Ayanna.

The other Cayman team, Mohnydra Brown, 15, and Joshua McLean, 15, earned vital experience in their first international competition.

The four budding chefs spent their first two days at the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference learning new cooking techniques, before taking their places for the competition on the third day.

All of the teams were to cook a signature dish, and the Cayman teams brought conch to the table. Team A made conch ceviche with a side of conch fritters, while Team B made a conch chowder.

The next day of the competition involved a mystery basket round. Team A brought its best performance on this day, winning the mystery basket judging and earning a place in the final round.

“It was a great experience and a great competition,” said Ayanna on Tuesday morning. “All the teams were great at what they do and going for the gold. We just did our best.”

The mystery basket forced the contestants to think quickly and on their feet. After their ingredients were revealed, they then had just five minutes to consult with their coach before beginning to cook.

Ayanna said that the competition was worthwhile because it allowed the young chefs to learn new techniques and to meet new people, which could ultimately open the next door in their career.

The event was televised, which added another element of difficulty. The chefs not only had to make their dishes and plate them correctly, but they had to do it in front of cameramen and a boisterous crowd.

“It was a little stressful with cameras in your face during cooking. It was a little nerve-racking because you had an audience,” Ayanna admitted.

But she added, “I knew with all the practice we had done that we’d be fine. My family was really excited because they knew how hard I had worked.”