3rd Place Winners – St. John Waterfront Bistro Chef Erica Miner, left, and her Sous Chef Leslie Reska.
The Second Annual Banco Popular Ultimate Chef Challenge drew world accomplished chefs from St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Virgin Gorda who competed on Wednesday, April 28, extending the celebration of V.I. Carnival into the early evening.
The impressive list of chefs included: Erica Miner, Executive Chef, St. John Waterfront Bistro, St. John; Elvet Carty, Chef de Cuisine, Hervé Restaurant and Bar, St. Thomas; Vincent Russo, Executive Chef, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas; Ryan Burke, Sous Chef, Lobster Grille, St. Thomas; Negust Kaza, Executive Chef, Tutto Beni, St. Croix; and Hemant Dadlani, Executive Chef, Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda.
After the grueling and exciting competition, Dadlani of Little Dix Bay took top honors as the Grand Prize winner, walking away with $1,000 and an inscribed Versace platter from Banco Popular.
Ritz-Carlton Executive Chef Russo took second place and $750; and St. John Waterfront Bistro Executive Chef Miner took home $500 for her third place finish.
The event was so popular last year, a new venue was found on the lawn in front of Fort Christian to accommodate the crowds wanting a personal glimpse of top chefs in action.
The Ultimate Chef Challenge is the only event of its kind on St. Thomas featuring chefs from all the Virgin Islands. In the 60-minute challenge, chefs opened a mystery basket of ingredients that were required in each of their two competition dishes.
A community kitchen of “Virgin Fresh” ingredients provided by the USVI Department of Agriculture and the UVI Extension Service as well as other ingredients were available for the chefs. Each chef was also allowed to bring herbs, spices and garnishes that compliment their own style of cooking.
The dishes were scored by a panel of judges on visual appeal, taste, originality, nutritional balance and sanitation. The chef with the highest combined number of points was deemed the grand prize winner.
The judges were Antolin Velasco Velez of Banco Popular, Chef Larry Nibbs with Nibbs Catering and Patricia LaCorte, of Oceana and Grand Cru. The challenge was officiated by Oran Bowery, the 2009 Ultimate Chef Winner Mat Mathayom from St. John and Leslie Gumbs, of Theo’s Personal Chef Services.
The Department of Agriculture and UVI Extension Service promoted Virgin Fresh produce with a display of local produce and proteins grown in the Virgin Islands.
For more information check out the competition website www.popular.com/ultimatechef.