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St. Croix Men Chop, Stir and Marinate for Public Television

Oct. 29, 2006 — Ten male cooks tried to outdo each other in culinary skills Sunday as they whipped up delicious dishes at the first annual Modern Men Cook Contest, held at the Vincent Mason Swimming Pool in Frederiksted.
"Usually at events like this, it's just women and children who show up," said organizer Yvette deLaubanque. "We wanted something that would include the men. We wanted to showcase the men."
The contest was a fund-raiser to benefit deLaubanque's employer, local Public Broadcasting System (PBS) affiliate WTJX. Spectators attending the event bought tickets to sample the different dishes prepared by the cooks, smiling with pleasure as they tasted.
In addition to bringing out more men, the cooking contest also gave WTJX an opportunity to educate people on the stations purpose in the community, said deLaubanque, the station's development officer.
"Public television is not owned by the government," she said. "We want people to know that public television is owned by the people."
DeLaubanque and her staff picked out food judges at random from the crowd. The judges were given ballots and tasted all the entries. There were no categories, she said, and the cooks could create any dish they wanted. The winner received a WJTX hat and coat.
Besides the food, entertainment also came from the Music in Motion Dancers and the music of the V.I. Art Ensemble. Election season gave local candidates an excuse to come out and show the public that they are not just politicians, but can also cook.
"I dabble in it here and there," said Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, busy stirring up several dishes. He cooked up a pot of Puerto Rican pork with red beans, plus Puerto Rican beef and onions served over white rice.
Servilles father, Juan Figueroa Sr., stood by giving culinary advice to his son. The senator said his dad was the real cook in the family.
Over at a table underneath a tree, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and his assistant, Eustace James, kept busy chopping up vegetables and cubes of tofu and marinating grouper fillets. As an added attraction, they also concocted a dish of spicy shrimp stew.
"Its all in the flavor," Nelson said as he sprinkled different herbs and spices into a pan of tofu, adding that he does a lot of cooking for his family.
Senate candidate Jimi Weber said he was "fairly good" at cooking, but had what he called "cooking supporters" doing the heavy lifting. They stirred up two big pots of a special saltfish soup. Weber said he really came to show his support for WTJX, which he considers a great forum for public candidates. The station's recent broadcasts of candidate debates showed how it performed an important public service to the community, he said.
Another candidate for Senate, Gosnel Matthew, said he loves to cook, and does most of the cooking at his house. His talent and hard work paid off, because Matthews dish of fish and fungi was the favorite of the judges, and he walked off with first prize.
A non-political contestant, Devin Hennessey, also impressed the judges with his desert, a chocolate cake covered in frosting laced with — appropriately enough — Hennessy Cognac.
Hennessy said that he learned to cook at an early age. He described himself as a "latch-key cook," because when he came home from school in his youth, he would cook dinner for his brothers and sisters while his parents worked. The recipe for the cake was a last-minute inspiration.
"I just made it up last night," Hennessey said.
Most of the contestants challenged gender stereotypes about food preparation.
"My daughter would rather have me do the cooking than her mother," Matthews said. "Men are better cooks."
Serville didnt want to commit himself on the question because he said there are more women voters than men. "I will plead the Fifth on that one," he joked. Nelson, on the other hand, showed no such reservations.
"Men make better cooks," he said with confidence. "But I dont want the women to hold that against me in the election."
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