Tuesday, April 16, 2024

United to cook


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MAYBE IT’S NOT ACCURATE to call them two peas in a pod, but one thing is certain: when there’s something cooking in the kitchen, Stephen Small and Javon Cummins are sure to be there.
Both aged 20, these two award-winning chefs continue to create exotic dishes, earning for themselves a place among top chefs in Barbados, the Caribbean and farther afield.
 When they represented Barbados at the Nations Cup Culinary Competition in Michigan last year – competing against chefs from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Scotland, and Puerto Rico – they walked away with the Best Of Show Award-Winning Dish, two gold, two silver and three bronze medals. From their mystery basket of products, which comprised avocado, mango and ahi tuna, they created pan-seared ahi tuna on a bed of avocado pickle, served with a citrus mango sauce – their gold award-winning dish.
Cummins went on to represent Barbados at this year’s Taste Of The Caribbean culinary competition in Miami, where he copped the Junior Chef Of The Year title.
Both graduates of the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute at PomMarine Hotel, Small and Cummins began their culinary journey while still very young.
According to Small, who now whips up tasty Japanese cuisine at Zen Restaurant, The Crane Resort and Residences, in St Philip, it all started when he was approached by his school’s home economics’ teacher Shernell Forde to compete in the local Junior Duelling Challenge Competition in 2008.
“I guess she saw the potential in me, based on my practical work in class,” Small reasoned.
“I entered the competition just for the fun of it, but as it progressed I discovered I was enjoying what I was doing,” the former student of Westbury Primary School, Windsor High School and St Leonard’s Boys’ Secondary School admitted.
He added: “I went on to win this competition together with Kyle Chandler, and from there we proceeded to the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute.”
Small and Chandler later represented Barbados at the Regional Junior Duelling Competition in 2009, placing second, behind St Lucia.
On completion of his associate degree in culinary arts and an internship at Sandy Lane Hotel, Small, who hails from Lakes Folly, St Michael, was hired as a waiter at Turtle Beach Resort. However, preparing and serving up tasty, mouth-watering food was in his blood.
That’s why he is now quick to point out, “I am now pursuing my real love, which is cooking at The Crane.”
Small is keen on exposing himself to other culinary cultures. Meanwhile, he credits his exposure abroad with his growing confidence in his much beloved field.
Cummins possessed dreams of being a chef from the time he was seven years old.
 “From the time I was seven I knew I wanted to be a chef. I started experimenting with flour, sugar and water, and by the age of 12, I had mastered the craft,” the Sargeant Village, Christ Church resident disclosed.
For him, the experience of being left alone and hungry was unknown. He prepared his first dish – macaroni pie and baked chicken – when he was 11 years old. At that time he was a pupil at the Luther Thorne Memorial Primary School.
At Deighton Griffith Secondary School, he continued to hone his culinary skills with the support of home economics teacher Bernadine Lowe. Like Small, Cummins entered the Junior Duelling Challenge Competition, in which the two competed against each other. Small emerged as the winner, but it was not the end of the road for these two aspiring chefs.
According to Cummins, “We ended up together at the Barbados Community College Hospitality Institute, and two years later we entered the institute’s culinary com-petition.”
It was their high grades, practical culinary skills and aptitude that earned them airline tickets to their first international culinary competition in Michigan.
 “But it was not an easy road,” confessed Cummins.
“When we went to Michigan with our mentor, chef George Vaughan of the institute, we had to make it comfortable for us to work together. We had always competed against each other but in Michigan we had to work as a team; and we were the youngest team. Despite this, we were both confident we would do well,” he said.
They did.
Cummins has big dreams for the future. He wants to complete a Bachelor’s degree in culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York and later open his own restaurant.
“If I continue to live in Barbados I would want to specialize in cuisine with an international flair. On the other hand, if I relocate overseas, I would want to specialize in cuisine with a Bajan flair.”
There is no telling where the culinary journeys of these two friends will take them, but whenever they are around, no one has to ask the question “Who’s cooking?”


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