US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association
Though the USVI did not send a full team this year, we were honored to collaborate with other island nations severely impacted by the September 2017 hurricanes to compete under the banner of Team Caribbean Strong. The team, comprised of culinary talent from Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, won the Tony Mack Spirit of the Competition Award.
Team Caribbean Strong featured the following talent: Chef Ralph Motta from the USVI, Chef Tonya Malone from the BVI, a junior chef from the BVI, Chef Elvin Rosado from Puerto Rico, Chef Lester Gumbs from Anguilla, Chef Leontes Richardson from Anguilla and Bartender Jamal Hodge from Anguilla.
“Our islands were devastated by IrMaria and we were unable to send individual teams to the Taste of the Caribbean event this year, so we decided in January to create Team Caribbean Strong. Team members had never met before, but they came together seamlessly to compete in the Caribbean305 event. They worked closely to create the Johnny cake & salt fish slider, majarete dessert and rum mash up cocktail named, of course, IrMaria! Jamal used rums and juices from each of our islands, making his drink the crowd favorite. I am so proud of our team and the new friendships that were formed. We are truly One Caribbean,” said President of the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association Lisa Hamilton.
Competing for the USVI was Chef Ralph Motta who participated in the individual Seafood Competition and brought home silver. The USVI Department of Tourism sponsored Motta, covering travel expenses. The association is thankful for the department’s support as attending these regional events gives the territory much needed exposure as it continues to recover.
“When approached by the DOT, I was both honored and excited to be the sole representative from the USVI attending Taste this year. As the culinary ambassador, I saw this as an opportunity to shed light on the resilience of our culinary scene in the territory,” said Motta. “Team Caribbean Strong did not practice together, but the joy of cooking at the event created a true sense of community with our group. Its’s that same spirit and love for my craft that drove me to silver in the individual seafood competition.”
President of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association Clarisa Jimenez also shared her thoughts on the competition.
“Something great always comes out of difficult situations. Out of Irma and Maria came the ‘Caribbean Strong Team.’ I’m honored to be part of this team. They put together a fantastic menu and a delicious rum drink in no time. Not only did we have very talented chefs and [a] bartender doing what they know best, but the spirit and fellowship among our team was inspiring. Thank you Caribbean Strong Team!” Jimenez said.
To view the complete list of all of the 2018 competing national culinary teams and the winners of Taste of the Caribbean in all categories, click here.