No deals were closed but there were expressions of interest galore last week Friday afternoon as 11 students — VMBS scholarship awardees and the children of staff members — joined Devon Barrett, general manager of VM Wealth Management, and Jamaica Observer Managing Director Danville Walker in The Jamaica Observer's 2014 celebration of Salut! Applaud It! at the Half-Way-Tree corporate offices of Victoria Mutual.
Applaud It! is a week-long initiative that provides a unique opportunity for the country's power players to meet the youth exactly where they are and guide them through a formidable dining experience. Indeed, lunch facilitated an unbridled flow of conversation, with each present learning and sharing valuable experiences.
Devon Barrett, general manager of VM Wealth Management; Danville Walker, Jamaica Observer managing director; and event conceptualiser Novia McDonald-Whyte, Jamaica Observer senior associate editor-lifestyle and social content, provided the opening remarks.
"Over the last three years VMBS has changed the way financial institutions operate. Salut! takes this to a new level for 2014 as the focus is on young people," Barrett said.
Walker, who later pointed out that formal dining was part of his military training, indicated his hope that this opportunity would be fully understood and appreciated by the young.
"We hope that Salut! introduced young people to the wonders of gourmet food," he explained.
McDonald-Whyte echoed the sentiment but added a secondary goal.
"Through this exchange and fine dining, all will walk away refreshed and renewed, knowing each has impacted the other."
That was in fact the end of formalities as guests readied to savour Chef Brian Lumley's four-course meal.
"I opted to inject a Caribbean element into each meal, whether an ingredient or using a local technique," Lumley explained. And this he did by starting with smoked marlin salad with pickled purple onions, capers and drizzled with a honey vinaigrette as the appetiser. There were mixed reviews as for several of the students this was their first time sampling what McDonald-Whyte dubbed Jamaica's sushi.
The marlin got rave reviews from 19-year-old University of the West Indies (UWI) student Arielle Oliver.
"This was the best smoked marlin I'd ever had and it paired well with the vegetables," she exclaimed.
However, Campion College's Justin Kidd was not too impressed with his first experience of the seafood delicacy.
"It was good, but tasted kinda raw."
The fish course — breast grilled salmon topped with caramelised cheese -- was well-received by all, gaining praise from the older students, such as 19-year-old University College of the Caribbean (UCC) student Kyle Thwaites, who rated it highly over the first course, and Dwayne White, 25-year-old UWI fourth-year medical student.
"The salmon was very sumptuous. The caramelised cheese was awesome," White raved.
"It was beautifully cooked and I loved the contrasting flavours," Anjuli Barrett, the self-admitted Campion College fast-food junkie, chimed in.
Lumley presented course three — callaloo-stuffed chicken roulade, with cherry tomatoes and a carrot/potato purée. Kingston College student Akil Parchment's words summarised the general opinion of the dish.
"I loved the meal. It was fabulous!" he said.
Dessert was, for many, the pièce de résistance with Lumley knocking it out of the park with a tasty duo of Oreo cheesecake and chocolate brownie crowned with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was enough to solicit comment from the quietest guest, 14-year-old Alpha Convent of Mercy Academy student Danniel Rose.
"Best meal so far," she declared. Rose would have the last word as guests gave Lumley and his team a resounding round of applause.