Chefs to watch for 2017 - The Knutsford Court Hotel

Counting Down To The 19th Staging Of The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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Thursday Food highlights five more chefs who are charged with introducing visitors and locals to the best culinary offerings in Jamaica.

This week’s featured chefs are from The Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston.

Jamique Mair

Junior Chef, The Knutsford Court Hotel

I think there was no way around it, cooking chose me!

Whilst growing up I always knew I was destined to become a chef. My first love was pastry, so my dream was to be a pastry chef. I loved sweets and pastries, so what’s better than making your own desserts? I’ll tell you... eating it!

Saturday morning market runs with Grandma were the highlight of my week as a child. Walking through the market with her and seeing all the freshly harvested produce made my imagination and my belly go wild.

It was as though I was attached to my grandma’s hips once she was in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I watched and recorded her every move. She was never too busy to answer any of my many questions. I still am very grateful to her for all the family secrets she passed on to me.

High school is where the flower started to bloom. Cooking was now natural. After finishing school, I signed up with the Boulevard Baptist Skills and Training Centre to do commercial food preparation. During my time there I entered the JCDC culinary competition and was awarded two gold medals.

In 2012, I started my first professional chef job with the Knutsford Court Hotel team.

Here, I continue to grow both in career and professionalism. I was offered the opportunity to enter the Taste of Jamaica Culinary Competition to represent the Knutsford Court Hotel in 2015 and 2016. I was successful in winning two gold and two silver medals in each year at these competitions.

I am now pursuing my CIA Pro Chef course at the Runaway Bay HEART Academy, St Ann in my quest to become an executive chef.

Rohan Dixon

Junior Chef, Knutsford Court Hotel

I grew up in Melbrook Heights, a small community in Harbour View.

In early 2014 I found myself working as a waiter at Pollyanna’s Caterers. I started out making cocktail

sandwiches and plating for large functions. I didn’t really commit myself to any profession seriously at this time but gradually I excelled in plating, table setting and decorating rooms for wedding and banquets.

I recall our culinary team receiving a standing ovation at a wedding for the efforts put out to ensure a memorable day. This gesture sent chills through every fibre of my body and opened my eyes to the public’s appreciation of this skill. Within 24 hours I was registered full time at the Professional Development Institute off Maxfield Avenue for Level 1 Food Preparation. I worked part-time at the Flour Mill while attending classes full-time.

After the completion of my course, I got the opportunity to work at the Knutsford Court Hotel as a waiter. This wasn’t what I desired but waitering was the area in which I had vast experience. I didn’t let it bother me too much, as I knew my ultimate aim was to work as a chef at this establishment.

While working as a waiter, I asked the head chef if I could work in the kitchen on my days off. With permission granted I spent many hours in the kitchen learning as much as I could. Shortly thereafter I transferred from being a waiter to a full-time junior chef. This was the beginning of my fantastic journey. I was still young in the industry but the Knutsford Court team moulded and developed me into a professional chef. I continued my studies with the intention of reaching heights beyond my wildest dreams.

I think it is important to stay grounded, work hard and never forget where we started. All chefs must reach down and help other young chefs. To our executive chef Louis Matthews, I say thank you for believing in me. The Professional Development Institute family, keep looking up as I am a reflection of your dedication to "Chef on the Rise".

Vincent McDonald

Junior Chef, Knutsford Court Hotel

The question I struggle with is: cooking an art or a science?

My pull to cooking is within that one question. Which is better? The styling of meals on a plate or the flavours when tiny pieces of each ingredient combine in your mouth?

As early as I can recall, I always knew that both are equally important. I was always drawn to the creation and combination of foods. Cooking gives me a chance to show the world the creative and versatile side of me.

Ever since I was in high school, home economics was my favourite class. I have over the past 13 years worked at quite a few large hotels and restaurants across the island and have gained vast experience and knowledge. I have managed to master the art of plating as well as combining flavours that tantalise the taste buds.

I am now a part of the team at the Knutsford Court that manages and operates a very busy banqueting facility. This is very rewarding as our ultimate goal is guest satisfaction. My organisational and management skills have to be at its best each day.

Akai Lindsay

Junior Chef, Knutsford Court Hotel

Food has always been something I loved. My first cooking experience was when I attempted to prepare dinner for my grandmother at 11 years old.

Dinner didn’t turn out as expected as it all went up in smoke. This slight setback made me even more determined to become the best chef I could be.

Excelsior High School was where I fostered my culinary ambition through Food and Nutrition classes. It was there I made my first white chocolate cheesecake which turned out very well. There’d be no turning back.

I rushed home that very evening to inform my mother of my decision to become a chef. She in turn pushed me every step of the way. At age 15, I worked for some of the island’s most recognised caterers. Shortly thereafter, I became a member of the Jamaica Culinary Federation.

In 2015 I enrolled at Boys’ Town HEART Academy. I graduated as a certified Chef de Partie with the award of prestigious Spirit of HEART honour. This award was a huge motivation for me to push harder in my skill area.

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt along the way is "as a chef, you’re only as good as the last dish you prepared". So I strive for excellence at all times.

I recently ventured into a whole new world when I was employed within the hotel industry. The Melting Pot Restaurant at the Knutsford Court Hotel is where I learned the art of plating and operating in a busy a la carte kitchen.

Nothing can replace the buzz of completing a busy service period then walking through the restaurant to interact with guests. Their comments and feedback are more valuable to me and my direction.

Always in pursuit of knowledge, I have enrolled at the HEART College of Hospitality, Runaway Bay where I am pursuing the Culinary Institute of America course for my Chef de Cuisine qualifications.

Carlos Alphanso Vincent

Junior Chef, Knutsford Court Hotel

What excites me most about cooking is the chemistry of it - the marriage of flavours never fails to excite me. Indeed, I get goosebumps when I see the perfect dish!

As a young lad growing up, I spent most of my time in the street markets in Brooklyn, New York.

I was particularly fascinated with the variety of fruits and vegetables, things I had never seen back home. I gravitated to making unique juices and sauces. I had the pleasure of combining fruits and vegetables such as Dragon Fruit, Kumquats, Mooli and Galangal. All were my secret ingredients for adding flavour to my Jamaican cuisine.

My love for food was passed down through my family. My mom was an excellent cook but my grandma was even better (we can’t let mom know this though). She motivated me in whatever challenges I took on.

Once I became of age, I begged my family for a job in the family-owned restaurant. With everyone being aware of my love for food, and always spending so much time in the kitchen, the answer was very simple...yes! This is where my journey really began. My daily special out-sold most of the restaurant’s top-selling dishes. This made my mother very proud.

When I came back to Jamaica in 2011, I signed up with Caribbean Institute of Hospitality. This was my first professional chef course, however, I had years of experience under my belt or rather in the pot.

Presently, I am with the Knutsford Court hotel as a restaurant chef and it’s a fantastic experience. Our team works closely with each other. There is a Melting Pot of knowledge and culinary experience from which we all feed.

I am currently enrolled to do my CIA in September of 2017 at Runaway Bay HEART.




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