The National Senior Young Chef title returns to Grand Bahama after 10 years and to the hands of the same school that won the senior division on that last occasion, Jack Hayward Senior High (JHSHS).
The 25th National Young Chef title was presented to JHSHS student Dedra Williams by the Governor General, Dame Marguerite Pindling during a special 25th Anniversary celebration of the competition at Government House Friday evening.
The eleventh grader won the competition in grand style, securing the Overall Best Flour and Best Rice dishes among the 12 other high school competitors from around the country, who were vying for the prestigious title of Senior National Young Chef on Thursday (March 16) in New Providence.
Williams won the local title, during the competition at Jack Hayward High School on February 21, making her eligible to compete in the national event.
Under the theme, ‘Celebrating 25 years of Public Private Partnerships: Fostering Passion and Promoting Excellence in Culinary Arts’ the competitors and coaches were invited to Government House for the award presentations for both Junior and Senior Divisions of the annual competition.
The competition includes two dishes prepared, cooked and presented by the students, which have to include Mahatma Rice, Robin Hood Flour and indigenous ingredients. Robin Hood and Mahatma have been the sponsors since the competition started 25 years ago.
Williams admitted to The Freeport News upon her return to school Monday that after her last practice, she was left feeling nervous. “I panicked right after my last practice and just turned to God and prayed a lot,” Williams shared.
The Sr. National Young Chef said of her experience this past week, “It was great. I had a wonderful time, especially as I was able to network with students from all of the other islands.”
Williams added that it was nerve-racking waiting for the results as they were read from ninth place up and with 12 other aspiring chefs, all of whom she felt had done well, she felt her name was not going to be called.
“When they read off second place and I had still not heard my name, I was thinking I had not placed. Then they said and all the way from Grand Bahama … well that’s when I knew I had won, but at the same time thought I was dreaming,” Williams stated.
The eleventh grader noted that it was a privilege to have been presented with her award by the Governor General.
After crediting parents and her coach/teacher Greer Marshall, Williams also sent out a huge thanks to the other teachers who have assisted her along the way to her victory. “So many of the teachers have helped and critiqued my recipes – Mrs. Forbes-Dean, Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Brown from Hospitality and Tourism Studies Department and many other teachers.
“This assistance helped me change both my dishes slightly after the competition here. I added lionfish with the lobster and called my new dish ‘Down Home Seafood Surprise’ and added mint to my sour sop along with smoked pineapple. Initially, my flour dish was a short crust pastry with lobster cream cheese filling and my rice dish a desert with guava and sour sop layers. The critiques I was given in the local competition gave rise to the slight improvements,” Williams noted.
The aspiring restaurant owner said, she was thrilled to have been presented with an overall certificate, a trip to Johnson and Wales University for a culinary conference in the summer as well as $1,500 cash prize.
After the Grand Bahama competition, Williams had shared her passion for the profession with The Freeport News. “I have been in the kitchen since I was very young as my father is a chef and I have been fortunate to work alongside him.”
The young chef added that although often frustrated with the constant preparation leading up to the competition on Grand Bahama, it was just that training that allowed her to be calm and thorough during the competition while her competitors were obviously nervous.
“I had to change up my dishes a lot as the teachers in the kitchen at school gave ideas of how to improve the dishes. Over the months I practiced, Ms. Marshall helped me keep to the schedule and make my dishes even more delicious,” Williams said.
Greer Marshall, Williams’ Young Chef Coach and Tourism and Hospitality Teacher at JHSHS said she was thrilled, but not surprised by her student’s success. “It is very exciting, especially as I have just been teaching three years and it was my first time coaching someone for the competition,” Marshall shared.
Williams’ coach went on to say that she was nervous as she saw the other dishes that had been prepared as they all looked very good. “I was comfortable with Dedra, because I knew she had loads of confidence and her execution is always spot on,” Marshall added.
“I humbly thank everyone who assisted, for every opinion that was given as it was a huge learning experience for both Dedra and I,” Marshall stated.
Janet Forbes-Dean, Subject Coordinator for the Hospitality and Tourism Studies Department said, “We are all so happy with Dedra being the Sr. National Young Chef winner. It was not an easy road. Dedra was dedicated, persistent and hard working from start to finish.”
Forbes-Dean acknowledged the JHSHS Administration, staff and students all celebrated the win during a special assembly at the school Monday morning.
In 2007 and 2008, JHSHS students Mervalette Dean and Simone Bethel respectively won the Sr. National Young Chef competition and 2008 was the last time Grand Bahama won the title.
In 2011 Joel Prenelus of Eight Mile Rock High School won the Junior National Young Chef title as the most recent winner from the island of Grand Bahama prior to William’s success last week.
Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017