When Fly Jamaica Airways offered five Guyanese Chefs and their assistants the opportunity to participate in the annual Epicurean Escape in Jamaica, many of them had never heard of the food festival and did not know what to expect.
But on the opening day of the festival on Saturday, the spice filled aroma of the Guyanese dishes filled the air at the Grizzly’s Plantation Cove and the patrons followed.
Oasis Café Manager and Chef Neesa Walker offered several Guyanese Indian dishes. Her booth was surrounded by patrons who wanted a taste of the Dhal and Rice and the rice pudding. Many of them were also interested in learning more about the menu. So Nisa and her assistants spent as much time-serving as they did explaining their menu and offering cooking tips. One of the other Guyanese chefs at the festival found himself also offering curry and dhal making tips.
For Ms. Walker the experience was one that she could not believe. She said “the response has been overwhelming, I am really humbled and I am really happy that we came and were given the opportunity thanks to Fly Jamaica and it has been fantastic”.
The Oasis Café Chef also said showcasing and offering more of its cuisine is something that Guyana should focus on more. She said some persons were so impressed with her offering at the Festival that she was being encouraged to open her next Oasis Café with a Creole twist, in Jamaica.
Just across from Neesa, Bettencourt Diner main chef John Reman and his assistants were busy preparing different curries. He preferred to do much of his preparation on the spot and explained that he had been up since early in the morning getting set for the opening day of the festival. When the Bettencourt team started to place large pieces of well seasoned fish on the grill, tropical food lovers gazed at what he was doing.
The charcoal grill appeared just the right temperature and the pieces of fish could be seen sizzling their way on the rising heat. But Chef Reman was not offering the regular grilled fish. His menu came with a curry twist.
After the fish was grilled, it was placed in a container to simmer in a spice filled curry mixture and then heat was further applied. For many, this was the first time that they had seen curried fish being prepared using the grill, so when it was time to taste, several persons flocked the booth. The taste did not disappoint. It was a curried fish with a big difference and you could taste that difference in every bite, as it was offered with white rice or pickled cabbage.
This was the first time that Reman had ever participated at such a festival and he was pleased. “This is a dream come through for me, because in Guyana we are somewhat deprived in the culinary arts but opportunities like this are just out of the world”, he said.
In the third booth, Dane Kennedy of the Carnegie School of Home Economics and Dustin Dalgetty of the Silhouette Restaurant in Georgetown were busy doing the first preparation for their dishes which will go on show on the second day of the festival. But with their booth already showcasing the cook up and salara menu, the two chefs spent most of their time explaining the difference of the Guyanese cook up and the Jamaican rice and peas to many of the Jamaican patrons.
Some patrons were also excited to learn how to make the Salara which is a coconut filled red cake made in bread dough. Several patrons promised to return on day two of the festival just so they could get the samples for the food they were hearing about. Chef Dalgetty said he was also happy to be given the opportunity to participate in the festival. He said as a young chef, the event was serving as an eye opener for him in several areas.
The Guyanese team of Chefs appeared proud of their offering at the Festival and explained that although they came from different restaurants, they bonded together in the kitchen and assisted each other when it was time to prepare the dishes. They said the Guyanese spirit went beyond just the food they were preparing, but it reached across to their own appreciation for each other’s work.
Fly Jamaica Director Roxanne Reece explained that her airline wanted to promote its destinations in more ways than one, and so when the opportunity presented itself to be part of the Epicurean Escape, they decided to whip up some of Guyana’s best chefs to offer the best mix of Guyanese cuisine.
Jamaicans, she said, are always interested in Guyanese food, so it was important for Guyana to participate in the festival.
And Fly Jamaica will also be keeping the chefs and their assistants in the land of reggae for an extra four days after the festival so that they can soak up all that Jamaica has to offer and get a chance to learn about and enjoy Jamaican cuisine while not in the kitchen.
Coverage compliments of FLY JAMAICA Airways. www.fly-jamaica.com
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