Bahamian Flavour Spices Up Chef Challenge In DC

WASHINTON, DC – On April 12, Bahamian Chef Michael Adderley will represent The Bahamas in the Embassy Chef Challenge in Washington DC, in what the 2011 Cacique Awards Chef of the Year has described as a perfect opportunity to spotlight the place of Bahamian cuisine in global gastronomy.

This is the first time The Bahamas is entering the competition, which has quickly become a highlight on the DC social scene, and buzz is building. Chef Adderley plans a flavour explosion with a luscious lobster concoction, and the Bahamas Hotel Association and Kerzner International (Atlantis) has kicked in a prize for one lucky winner on the night of the competition.

“It is a splendid idea for our country to compete, since it will give our cuisine an opportunity to shine on the world stage. Our cuisine can take its place along side the world’s great cuisines,” Chef Adderley said, anticipating a brilliant showing at the competition.

The first skirmish in this culinary battle came in the form of a preliminary competition, “Challenge Belgium, which was held on March 26. Similar in format to the popular Bravo Television programme “Top Chef,” the preliminary competition gave Chef Adderley and his competitors the opportunity to showcase their skills.

Each was given salmon and a basket of surprise ingredients, drawn from Belgian cuisine in honour of Embassy Chef Challenge 2010 Winner, Chef Jan Van Haute. The chefs were challenged to create a main course in two hours.

The scores of this cook-off, held in the kitchens of the World Bank, will be combined with the scores from the Embassy Chef Challenge to determine the Judge’s Choice Award winner.

Chef Adderley talked about the re-imagining of Bahamian cuisine; for example, he said the popular Bahamian staple ‘boil fish’ was akin to the classic French pot-au-feu, and viewed in that light, served to demonstrate the way in which Bahamian cuisine is as deep, complex and mature as any other world-respected gastronomy.

“I will use plantain and lobster in my competition dish,” he said, anticipating some of the innovations he intended to unveil. “I will use Bahamian flavours to create new dishes, like conch plantain balls with cassava added. I have also decided to use watermelon to make a jam which is quite tasty.”

He gave examples of some other exceptional Bahamian dishes he said were world-class. They include Curried Conch Chowder; Roasted Conch/Snapper with onions, peppers, cassava, lime, pumpkins and cilantro; Conch salad with mango, onion, green peppers, cilantro and Serrano peppers; Grouper on a bed of tomatoes, with roasted root vegetable and roasted pineapple salsa, and Plantain Chips with local roasted conch salsa topping.

“I am proud of the flavours we can develop. We need to promote Bahamian cuisine on a new level and write cookbooks of the new Bahamian Cuisine. Our Bahamian Cuisine can shine with any other.”

The Embassy Chef Challenge is a benefit for Cultural Tourism DC (CTDC), and is co-hosted by CTDC and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Centre. This year’s competition is the third in what has quickly become a fixture on the DC “scene.”

In addition to the Judge’s Choice Award, Chef Adderley and 14 other chefs, representing cuisines from around the world, will be competing for the People’s Choice Award.

A panel of celebrity judges (Judge’s Choice) and more than 400 guests (People’s Choice) will select the award-winning dishes. This year’s panel of judges includes food and travel editor at The Washington Post Joe Yonan, chef-in-residence at the Embassy of Belgium and winner of Embassy Chef Challenge 2010, Chef Spike Mendelsohn, owner of Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza, and Top Chef and Top Chef: All-Stars contestant and Chef Xavier Deshayes, Executive Chef of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Centre.

Guests of Embassy Chef Challenge will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite competitor for the People’s Choice Award.  Chef Adderley will be competing against chefs from Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Japan, Iraq, Norway and Venezuela, among others.

By K. Quincy Parker Press/Cultural Attaché
Embassy of The Bahamas