U.S. Virgin Islands Culinary Team Wins Silver at Taste of Caribbean Competition

The silver award winning V.I. Culinary Team smiles for the camera.

The Hotel and Tourism Associations’ V.I. Culinary Team left for last week’s Taste of the Caribbean Competition with one thing on their mind — winning gold.

This year’s competition was hosted in Miami, Florida and featured a new format, separating food categories — seafood, beef, cheese, pastry — allowing for more individual recognition. Teams were still presented with a mystery basket of ingredients to use in creating their dishes in the respective categories.

The Virgin Islands Team had a stellar showing, proving that months of practice and experience can place one center stage and, in the eyes of the judges, top of the game.

One of the most impressive showings was that of pastry chef Kunal Chakrabarti of The Ritz Carlton. Chakrabarti’s impressive “A play of chocolate and island fruits” won him the Albert Uster Imports Pastry Chef of the Year Award and a place in the Hall of Fame. The creative dessert included chocolate scotch bonnet spirals, mango sorbet, guavaberry, and speculooss cookies.

Kunal Chakrabarti’s award winning dessert.

Overall, the team won silver but individual chefs came home with the following medals:
David Benjamin (The Ritz Carlton) – Silver in the seafood category
Negust Kaza (Tutu Bene-St. Croix) – Gold in the Certified Angus Beef category, Best use of Cheese
Dennis Vanterpool – Chef of the Year – Silver
Afiya Augustus (St. Croix Complex graduate, Johnson & Wales student) – Bronze Junior Chef
Al Boston (The Ritz Carlton) – Bronze in the rum category, Bronze overall

“I am beaming with pride for this team,” said Lisa Hamiton, President of the Hotel and Tourism Association. “They have worked so hard since last year’s competition and now have proven themselves to be talented, creative and skilled chefs.”

The success of the team would not be possible without the support of the following sponsors: The Department of Tourism, Frenchman’s Reef Marriott, Innovative, International Capital & Management Corporation, Merchants Market, Premier Wines & Spirits/Cruzan Rum, The Ritz Carlton, St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association, Taste of St. Croix, and the West Indian Company Limited.