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Aug. 2, 2003 — A gourmet's dream: a convention of chefs (executive and pastry) and bartenders, creating a meal that's their best effort, and the gourmet diner gets to consume it and talk to the chefs after dinner.
The Virgin Islands will be sending a team of culinary professionals to the 2003 "Taste of the Caribbean" Culinary Competition in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in October. And the "chef de chefs" for the V.I. team of five persons is Bob Makowski, executive chef stationed on St. Thomas with LSG Sky Chef, an airline catering firm.
Makowski is coach and manager of the team, and will probably become a competitor once they get to Jamaica, he said, at which point chef Fabian may become manager. The team includes a bartender and Phon-Tep Na Talang, executive pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton.
Both Makowski and Na Talang are veterans of the competition.
Right now the team is raising funds for the trip, and this is where the gourmet's dream becomes reality. Picture four chefs and a bartender creating and testing their best recipes for submission. Picture you, the hungry gourmet, sitting down to dinner Monday, Aug. 4, at the Westin Resort on St. John and being served their best efforts. Tickets are $60, with proceeds going to support the V.I. team and letting you be wined and dined in style.
After dinner, Makowski said, the chefs circulate and listen to comments from the diners, to help them determine what recipes need a final manipulation to ingredients. At that point, they still have a few days to alter recipes, but all recipes must be submitted to the competition by Aug. 15.
One more fund-raiser will follow: dinner Monday, Aug. 25, at the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort. Presumably that gives the team one last chance to practice and hear commentary from V.I. gourmets on the group efforts.
Although the initial dinner on July 21 at the Ritz Carlton was sold out, tickets are still available for the remaining two. All dinners begin at 7 p.m. For reservations contact the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association offices at 774-6835.
"Taste of the Caribbean" annual competition
The "annual celebration of contemporary Caribbean cuisine and culture," according to the "Taste of the Caribbean" section of the Caribbean Hotels Association (CHA) Web site, showcases diverse "culinary skills and styles found throughout the Caribbean. The event is sponsored jointly by CHA and the Caribbean Culinary Federation. A maximum of 12 national teams representing Caribbean countries, each with a chef, pastry chef and bartender will compete for medals in a variety of prize areas and for top honors as team of the year.
Teams compete against a list of criteria, not against one another, which allows for a standard of excellence. Judging, said Makowski, is on sanitation, use of Caribbean products, portion size, originality, and — of course — good taste.
For the first round of competition, explained Makowski, each of the 12 country teams gets a time slot, either morning or afternoon. Each team puts four chefs in the kitchen to prepare 40 meal portions. They're allowed three hours preparation time and one hour to serve. Four meals go to the judges, and the public — who also get to offer judgment — may buy and consume the other 36 meals.
The separate pastry chef competition is head-to-head, creating a "mystery basket," and earning points, which go to the pastry chef individually and also to the team's total. Bartenders also have a separate competition, and the mixologists are required to submit six recipes.
Team scores are tallied and the three highest teams go head-to-head in a "final" which determines the Caribbean Culinary Team of the Year.
Not all the hours at the four-day convention are devoted to cook-offs: there also are tastings, workshops, seminars and demonstrations for both professionals and food lovers.

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