Taste of the Caribbean Competition Crowns First Ever Female Chef of the Year

Caribbean Chef of the Year presentation ceremony (l-r): Jeffrey S. Vasser, CEO of CHTA; head judge Peter Olsacher, Bahama Breeze; Caribbean Chef of the Year Rashindra Donge, Bonaire; and Emil Lee, President of CHTA.

Rashindra Donge of Bonaire has been crowned the first female Caribbean Chef of the Year in the 21-year history of Taste of the Caribbean, the Caribbean’s top culinary competition.

Puerto Rico won top honors for the third time in the event’s history as the Caribbean National Team of the Year, and individual honors were bestowed upon Brandon DeCloux, U.S. Virgin Islands, for Caribbean Bartender of the Year; three-time winner Sheldon Tracey Sweeting, Bahamas, for Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year; and Sanju Smit, Jamaica, for Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year.

Taste of the Caribbean featured head-to-head competitions between 10 Caribbean culinary teams from Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Suriname and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This year’s event was held at the Hyatt Regency Miami from June 28 – July 2, 2014.

“We are proud of the level of professionalism and skill demonstrated by all of this year’s Taste of the Caribbean participants,” said Jeffrey S. Vasser, CHA, director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, organizer of Taste of the Caribbean. “We thank all of the teams who competed in the competition as well as the hotel associations, sponsors, tourist bureaus, culinary professionals, students, judges and everyone who supported the teams on their quest to be named the best in the Caribbean food and beverage industry,” Vasser added.

One of the highlights of Taste of the Caribbean was the Taste of the Islands festival, which was open to the public and nearly 700 consumers who came to sample gourmet Caribbean appetizers, desserts and signature cocktails, gather information about their favorite Caribbean destinations, and listen to authentic Caribbean music.

The Taste of the Islands highlights the street foods that are common throughout the region. Each competing team was given a “protein mystery basket” with a large selection of ingredients in a common pantry. From these ingredients the teams created two savory dishes, one dessert item and one rum-based cocktail.

The U.S. Virgin Islands took home “Best Team for Taste of the Islands” while Puerto Rico won the “People’s Choice” award.

Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com

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