Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sous ready for Mexico


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by Natanga Smith HurdleKirk Ruck says he never wanted to be anything else other than a chef, and for the past 15 years he has been in different kitchens – from his grandmother’s where he learned the basics to various professional restaurants where he worked.  Now, that love of cooking will take the chef de partie (junior sous-chef) at Treasure Beach Hotel to Mexico City, from August 10 to 13, where he will be the only Barbadian competing in a United States-sponsored culinary cook-off against 24 other chefs – nine from the Caribbean and 15 from Mexico.Kirk has little formal training, having done a one-year certified course at the PomMarine Institute, Barbados Community College, in basic trade cookery, international cuisine and food art presentation.
“I learnt to cook at my grandmother’s knee. I said I wanted to be a chef and that was my only career choice. I worked as a cook at various places, and was at Treasure Beach for the past 11 years – the last two I moved up the ranks to junior sous-chef.”  The competition is the Ninth International Culinary Challenge sponsored by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The competition required chefs in the Caribbean to prove (with purchase invoices) that meat used on their menus had its origins in the United States. Each chef received points based on the amount of United States meat appearing on the menu.
The more variety of meat from the United States used on the menu, the higher the total points.  “I don’t plan on coming last. The top six advance to another competition in October in California. I will be one of them,” Kirk said confidently.  He has sent down all his recipes and is assured that all the equipment will be there. So he will be travelling light to the Le Cordon Bleu School – with just his utility and paring knife. “I don’t know what dish I will be preparing yet. When I get there I will be told,” he said. And the dishes have to be pork or beef. “I have been fine-tuning my dishes every day with my head chef Kirk Kirton. There is room for error and room for improvement.”
Kirk has two hours to prepare a dish and present to four judges. He has a Molasses Marinated Beef Top Sirloin Butt With Cheesy Yam With Pawpaw And Coffee Barbeque Sauce dish and a Marinated Pork Loin With A Tamarind Ginger Glaze With Curried Plantain And Pineapple Salsa.The dishes are all Caribbean contemporary style but easy and versatile for home cooking – a requirement also for the contest.  The 35-year-old dad [a daughter, 12] wants one day to be an executive chef . . . and is showing no signs of nervousness. He says he is a really down-to-earth person and doesn’t get flustered easily.  What does he hope to execute in Mexico?   “The judges do taste first then look at presentation. I hope that they like my dishes.”


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