And The Winners Are...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

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The fragrant aroma of pimento wood wafted through the air as the 20th staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards welcomed thousands of guests to the lawns of Devon House on Thursday, May 31.

The Devon House Mansion, washed in red lighting and seeming to rise out of the earth, offered a mesmeric backdrop to the awards ceremony portion of the evening's proceedings. Gracious white-gloved butlers and servers from Sandals Resorts passed delicious finger foods around while VIP guests settled into their seats.

“This is definitely going to be the best year ever!” said one guest who seemed to be teeming with umami-induced giddiness. “They thought of every single detail ­— you saw the WATA kiosks?” asked another. Everyone was in high spirits.

Well-dressed guests embraced each other, the clink of ice cubes in glasses echoed across the east lawn and, for a moment, it was as if one was transported from Kingston onto the set of a Baz Luhrmann film. The skies were clear and the weather was hot. And, as the awards ceremony got underway, a gentle breeze seemed to have been 'switched on' as if the heavens were on retainer.

The evening's emcees were the notable Jamaican actor and businessman Winston Stona and the Jamaica Observer's Senior Associate Editor - Lifestyle & Social Content Novia McDonald-Whyte, whose respective silvery and plummy voices were the perfect complement to the olfactory calypso that was the evening.

The Observer's Managing Director Danville Walker gave the opening remarks. “Twenty-five years ago in March the Observer got started and for 20 of those 25 years, we've been doing the Table Talk Food Awards. Almost from the inception of the Observer, we have realised that food is not only a business but also an art. And it's at the Food Awards where we see the coming together of the art of business and the art of food.”

He thanked guests for their continued support and reminded them that by attending the event they supported the Table Talk Food Awards Scholarship programme that, this year, assisted six impressive third-year students enrolled in the School of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). Fun fact: almost an entire cohort of hospitality students worked the event and were given a stipend for their time and effort. He told the audience with certainty that these students will be the next crop of great executive chefs and ambassadors for the Observer.

The awards ceremony also included a tender moment where Walker called McDonald-Whyte the “star of the show” and his “conscience” at the Observer. He was proud as he praised her indefatigable spirit, work ethic and the fact that she herself is a brand.

The word extraordinary is oftentimes bandied about; however, this year's nominees not only displayed but also embodied sheer perfection. There were 21 categories and seven special awards.

The Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards served as a reminder that Jamaicans are fortunate enough to call home a place where others pay a lot of money to visit, in order to escape their lives for a few days.

 

— Vaughn Stafford Gray

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