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The Belize Tourism Board held its 9th Annual Taste of Belize Competition on Saturday, October 16th, at the ITVET Compound in Belize City. This year’s event featured nine professional chefs, six bartenders, six cake decorators and for the first time ever, seven destinations represented with food menus from their specific localities.

“Taste of Belize” is Belize’s ‘signature culinary competition,’ geared at developing the Culinary Arts in Belize. Competitors, in all categories, were expected to create unique dishes using a wide selection of local produce and products. The “Taste” commenced early on Saturday morning and the judges had the unwieldy task of short listing from nine to six professional chefs.  

Mr. Calbert Santiago of D’ Deck Restaurant in Belize City’s Fort Street Plaza, captured the title of “Professional Chef of the Year 2010”. As a part of his winning package, he received a trophy and cash prize of $1,200.00.  The second place winner, Jason de O’Campo of Global Spice Restaurant at the PGIA, received a trophy and $800.00 cash prize. The third place winner, Luis Cawich of the Villas @ Banyan Bay in San Pedro received a trophy and $500 cash prize. 

In addition to the day-long cook-off and elimination rounds, the Best of Belize competition provided a variety of Belizean favorites from around the country for patrons to choose from.

Orange Walk, San Pedro, Toledo, Dangriga, Belize Rural, Cayo and Hopkins Village all presented an array of Belizean delicacies displayed under their beautifully decorated booths. After patrons voted and judges tallied, Orange Walk’s Team, lead by Nahil Mayab Restaurant came out on top, receiving a trophy and $4,000.00 in cash. Their ‘Maya Mestizo Special,’ consisted of Tacos de Relleno, Pipian de Gallo and Poc Choc. Dangriga won the second place trophy and $2,500 in cash while Hopkins was determined third place, receiving a trophy and $1,000.00 in cash.

Participants competing in the bartending category were required to create a signature drink, giving the audience and judge a sample of what was expected to meet with their stamp of approval. Kendra Timmons, bartender at the Radisson, won the prestigious title of “Bartender of the Year 2010.” Ms. Timmons was awarded a trophy and a $1200 cash prize. The second place winner, Marvin Argueta of the Riverside Tavern in Belize City, was awarded a trophy and $800.00 in cash. The third place winner, Mariano Coc of San Ignacio Resort Hotel in Cayo was awarded a trophy and $500 cash prize.

Tamara Tingling of SIF, captured the title of “Cake Decorator of the Year 2010” for her depiction of the theme ‘I AM Belize’ on her Coconut Cake with Coconut Custard Filling. As a part of her winning package, she received a trophy and an $800.00 cash prize. The second place winner, Diane Galvez, Self Employed, was awarded a trophy and a $500.00 cash prize. The third place winner, Sharon McKay of Nazarene High School, was awarded a trophy and a cash prize of $300.

The Gala night included cultural entertainment from Harrison ‘Doggie’ King and the Brukdown Band and Youth Connection Band. This year’s event also included a Gallery comprised of business places from the local community, namely Bowen & Bowen; featuring Gallon Jug Products, Madisco, BWEL and CPBL. The “Taste of Belize” attracted approximately 1,000 attendees. 

The judges for this year’s culinary competition included Executive Chef Bryan Fordham – Culinary Institute of America, Chef Rob Pronk and Chef Bernard Blades for the Professional Category. Other judges included, Jodie Ebanks - ITVET Belize City, Dillon Jones - Universal Radio, Orange Walk, Clarence Jones – Local Celebrity Guest Judge for the Best of Belize Competition. Keith Flowers – Travelers Liquors, Monica Bodden – Channel 7 News and Michael Panton for the Bartending Competition. Yolanda Anderson, Nicole Palacio and Norma Bailey judged the Cake Decorating Competition.

“This event highlights local expertise and creativity in the culinary arts, with an emphasis placed on raising the standards of Belizean cooking,” comments Tourism Director, Seleni Matus. “The competitions encourage food connoisseurs to take an active role in developing and sharpening their skills, as well as giving unique definition to cuisine that is definitely Belizean.”

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Dorian Nuñez

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