Monday, June 17, 2024

Southern Belize shines at Taste of Belize


The 10th annual Taste of Belize, Belize Tourism Board’s (BTB) signature culinary event, took place in the beautiful town of San Ignacio, Cayo. The two-day event took place on December 1st and 2nd, with the first day showcasing the beverage and final round of the food competitions. The event ran simultaneously with the gala event while day two saw grilling connoisseurs compete for the title of Grill Master of Belize on the grounds of the San Ignacio Visitor Welcome Center.

On the night of the Gala Event on December 1st, the San Ignacio Resort sparkled and came to life with a Maya theme. Models were covered in body paint, some holding exotic Belizean animals as they stood posed in strategic spots throughout the entertainment area. Minister of Tourism and Culture Hon Manuel Heredia declared the event open following his brief remarks. In his address Heredia said that the Taste of Belize is geared to highlights the culinary aspect of Belize. “The event was created to fulfill two major goals; one to build interest for local Belizeans to enter into the culinary field and two to create an event that can build our local tourism. It was also envisioned that the event would have a sell-over effect in assisting to boost tourism arrivals…We are also proud to boast that that the skills of our Belizean chefs, bartenders and cake decorators have been greatly enhanced…in particular, the Master Chef Competition has become more difficult over the few years, moving from cooking one meal with one mystery meat ingredient in one hour to cooking three meals with four mystery basket ingredients in one hour. The event has also grown from being a one day event to a two-day event,” said Heredia.

The event kicked off with the beverage competition featuring three bartenders competing for the title of Belize’s Top Bartender. The local “mixologists” consisted of Joseph Bodden of Coco Beach Resort of Ambergris Caye, Mark Jacobs of Hamanasi Resort and Fermin Coc of The Placencia Hotel and Residencies. At the end of the event, a panel of four judges selected the 2009 second place competitor Fermin Coc as the Belize’s Top Bartender 2012 taking away the bragging rights, trophy and $1500 in cash. Speaking exclusively to The San Pedro Sun, Coc said, “After taking a break, I came back with some new concoctions and I impressed the judges. I feel great,” said Coc. The beverages that Coc managed to impress the judges with included “Old San Ignacio-Ade” made of Vodka, coconut, honey, vanilla, lime juice, pineapple juice, topped with coconut flakes, a small piece of pineapple and a dash of cranberry syrup. Another of Coc’s drink was “Amigos del Mar” which consisted of white rum, chunks of lime and blue curacao, sugar and sprite. The third drink was “The Fish House Punch,” made of rumpope, bitters, white rum, gin, fresh banana, cantaloupe and nutmeg. “It means a lot to me…I have been working so hard and I wanted to prove that I could make the best concoctions,” said Coc.

Those in attendance also got to witness the final rounds of the 10th annual Belize’s Master Chef Competition. The judges for this year’s Pro Chef competition included Kim Simplis Barrow who has a wide experience in the tourism industry, internationally acclaimed Chef John Barone, Bernard Blades and Chef Rob Pronk. After preparing a full meal, which included appetizers, main entree and a dessert with mystery items, the panel of four judges chose Marcia Nuñez of Hamanasi as Belize’s Master Chef. Nunez walked away with well-deserved bragging rights, a trophy and $2,500 from the BTB. Other participants in the final round were Calbert Santiago of Hour Bar & Grill in Belize City, Rueben Cano of The Radisson Fort George also Belize City and Nolvin Catalan of Las Terrazas on Ambergris Caye. Speaking to The San Pedro Sun, Nuñez said that the secret to winning the competition was in the flavor of the food. “Actually it was the flavors; [I] made sure that all the ingredients that were given in the mystery basket were tasted in the food. It was really challenging for me because some of the stuff I never worked with. I feel great and it is a sense of accomplishment,” said Nuñez who had to properly blend sardines, zucchini and cheese for the appetizers which was one of the most challenging parts of the competition.

Southern Belize captured another prize as Hamanasi’s Sheridan Polanco was named Cake Decorator of the year. She won $1,000 and a plaque, while independent candidate Diane Galvez placed second.

Guests for the event were taken on a culinary journey through a five course meal prepared by Chef Sean Kuylen, which included Macal River Jute Snails, Lobster and Chayote Pot Pie, as well as Gibnut, Goat and Pork Skewers. Patrons were treated to free wines and beers for the cocktail hour; cultural entertainment from the Belize National Dance Company, along with Marimba music from Alma Beliceña; free photos, and complimentary gift bags. Those in attendance were entertained and inspired, and also educated through a special screening of a documentary entitled, ‘Taste of Belize,’ a video that traces the evolution of Belizean cuisine and explores the depth of the Belizean culture through food.

On day two, BTB’s 10th Taste of Belize also featured a BTB Grill Master 2012 showdown. The competition was sponsored by James Brodie & Company Limited and BTB, with the support of the San Ignacio Town Council. After sampling the grill food the judges awarded Nazim Juan of Maya Walk with the award of Grill Master 2012. Beside the title, Juan also took home a brand new grill courtesy of James Brodie & Company Limited, along with $1,000 courtesy of the BTB.

According to BTB, “the Taste of Belize is the BTB’s signature culinary competition geared at developing the Culinary Arts in the jewel. This annual event also serves as a platform for a celebration of Belizean cuisine and recognition of the some of the best talents in the industry. The BTB hopes that through this medium, the Belizean public will continue to appreciate and laud the efforts of those who continue to raise the bar through their services and products.” The event ended with a tree lighting ceremony and a street party in down town San Ignacio, sponsored by the San Ignacio Town Council.

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