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MoBay Convention Centre's Culinary Melting Pot

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The more than 15,000 sq ft kitchen at the SMG Montego Bay Convention Centre served as the melting pot where culinary worlds met in order to curate gastronomic delights for a president's club banquet with over 1,500 guests.

The glitzy affair, which unfolded three weekends ago, attracted members from across the United States of America. Savor, the food and beverage arm of SMG Worldwide, the management company for the Montego Bay Convention Centre (MBCC), teamed four chefs from sister properties in the USA to collaborate with local talent to create the culinary experience for the group.

At the helm was SMG/MBCC's culinary director and executive chef Randie Anderson (featured earlier this year by the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards committee in the category Chefs to Watch), who matched influences and styles to create a four-course dining experience for one of the largest and haute culinary gastronomical undertakings on The Rock.

One of the visiting chef to Jamaican shores was Jamie Parks, director of food and beverage at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center in Georgia. Parks, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has more than 38 years' experience as a chef and manager, including stints as executive chef for the prestigious Governors' Club of Palm Beaches and The Bankers Club in Miami. Another chef, Kasey Thexton, currently serves as the executive chef at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Prior to this role in Savannah, he was the executive chef at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, and executive chef at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia. His culinary forte includes using local and sustainable Colorado-grown produce and experimenting with traditional and new cuisines.

The team also included Tony Donnelly, director of food and beverage, Osceola Heritage Park in Florida and an honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, who is the food and beverage executive at the Walt Disney Co. His experience spans several keystone property openings such as Euro Disney, Disney's California Adventure and the MS Disney Magic cruise ship along with several hotel openings and resort restaurant reconceptualisations. Rounding out the team was Sergio Pineda, executive chef at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.

Pineda works with different ingredients and has acquired a variety of cooking techniques and cuisine knowledge over the years. His culinary stints include P F Changs, where he was able to gain experience in Asian cuisine. He was, too, the chef at The Spanish Room at the Hotel Casa de Palmas in Texas, which focused on Mediterranean cuisine. His resume also includes tours at Los Portales Mexican Restaurant also in Texas and La Recova Fine Dining Argentinian and Contemporary Cuisine.

The evening's menu included crab cakes with lemon oil drizzle, mango crostini, caprece brochette, or cherry tomato with mozzarella cubes, sundried tomato or basil leaf as appetisers. Caesar salad created with hearts of Romaine lettuce, Kalamata olives, dusted with Parmesan cheese, Parmesan cheese gaufre and garlic crouton, while the entrée consisted of succulent short rib of beef topped with braised red onions, ginger — mirin sauce, horseradish, mashed potatoes and Cajun-style grilled prawns (dusted with Jamaican spices) and carrot and zucchini spears. The beef, marinated for six hours, was then braised on the bone to boost flavour. Chocolate and coconut mousse and berry cups brought the meal to a delicious close.

Executive chef Randie Anderson shared with Thursday Food his appreciation of the experience and how interesting it was for him to have the tables turned.

“Normally, I would go to sister properties and assist when they are having large banquets, so it was nice to have the reverse. I have been to McCormick Place in Chicago for a banquet for over 24,000 guests and I brought the Jamaican influence and my passion for Jamaica as a culinary destination. The chefs that visited got a chance to work in Jamaica, try our local cuisine and got a few patois lessons from me too,” explained a smiling Anderson.

— Aceion Cunningham