Amateur chefs prove equally good

Brandi Holston, left, and Stanny Park, third from left, react at the announcement of the winners in the Cayman Cookout amatuer chef competition. They were co-winners with Zoe Wall, right, and Chris Wall, second from right. - Photo: Stephen Clarke

Cayman’s Zoe Wall made her first venture into competitive cooking and came away a champion on Sunday at Cayman Cookout’s Bon Vivant Amateur Chef Competition Brunch.

Ms. Wall faced Stanny Park of Orlando in the kitchen duel. In a first for the event, the panel of judges – including Eric Ripert, Emeril Lagasse and Andrew Zimmern – gave the winning nod to both chefs, declaring the contest a tie.

Both winners will be flown to New York and be treated to dinner at Mr. Ripert’s Le Bernardin restaurant. They also received $500 gift certificates to Kirk Market, a co-sponsor of the event, Japanese caviar and other prizes.

Ms. Wall said she saw information about the contest on a Facebook post.

“I thought, ‘That’s right up my street,’” she said. “But I didn’t expect it to happen.”

Both chefs had 30 minutes to complete their creations, working on a stage in front of brunch attendees, who feasted on such things as fresh sushi, spicy shrimp and grilled steak and eggs. Ms. Wall prepared jerk chicken kabobs, while Ms. Park fixed rundown snapper. They each said they spent hours practicing their dishes in order to meet the time limit.

Ms. Wall said after weeks of cooking the same dish, she told her husband and assistant in the competition, Chris Wall, “If we don’t win, I never want to see a jerk chicken kabob again.”

At least Ms. Wall had the use of both of her hands during the cook-off. Ms. Park fell and broke her arm shortly after arriving on Cayman, so her right forearm was in a cast.

An admitted chef stalker and longtime cooking devotee, Ms. Park said cooking with one arm was not going to slow her down.

“I’m in it to win it,” she said.

A regular visitor to Cayman, Ms. Park said she chose to prepare snapper, knowing it was Mr. Ripert’s favorite.

“I did design my dish for Eric,” she said.

That paid off, as did having the assistance of her friend, Brandi Holston, also of Orlando. Ms. Holston, who bounced up and down on stage as Ms. Park stood open-mouthed when the co-winners were announced, said she learned how to cut fish properly as she was pressed into action not only in the kitchen but with daily tasks Ms. Park could not perform.

“I had to be more than sous chef,” Ms. Holston said, smiling. “I had to wash her hair.”

She said the win “means I’m going to have to become a foodie.”

For Ms. Park, it meant validation.

“I am a chef,” she said. “It is my life.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to provide the correct name of Zoe Wall’s husband, Chris Wall.

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