Food

Thursday Reduction with Ashleigh Samuels

Managing Director/Executive Chef PanAsh Catering

Thursday, June 08, 2017

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I come from a family of “foodies”, so my love for food started at a very young age. My grandmother was a caterer and, growing up, I would always find myself interested in what she was making. What started off as me licking the spoon after she was done with whatever delicious dessert she was making turned into me measuring ingredients and adding garnishes to the dishes she would create. Eventually, my interest developed into a hobby; from helping my parents in the kitchen with family meals to creating some of my own recipes and cooking meals independently. I found myself to be completely engrossed in the multiple cookbooks and food magazines. I would receive from family and friends for birthdays, Christmases, etc, and spend the majority of my free time watching the Food Network and trying to learn different techniques. It was then I realised that I actually wanted to pursue a career in culinary arts.

After spending the majority of my time in the food and nutrition lab and graduating from the St Andrew High School for Girls in 2012, I started attending Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. While there, I received my Associate's in Culinary Arts (2014), and in 2016 I graduated with my Bachelor's in Science, majoring in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management with a concentration in Culinary Capstone and Sports Entertainment and Event Management.

 

I entered the culinary world because... of my passion for taste. Learning how various cultures influence flavours on universally common ingredients.

 

My larder must-haves are... Scotch bonnet pepper sauce, coconut milk, Himalayan Pink Salt, black peppercorns and brown sugar.

 

My favourite foods are... any form of seafood.

 

I am back in Jamaica because... I want to put us on the culinary map. I feel as if Jamaica has so much to offer, not only with our local ingredients but also with some of our cooking techniques. I want to assist in the movement to maximise on our resources and influence the culinary industry worldwide.

 

With my culinary training I plan to... develop the fine dining market in Jamaica. Introduce our food on a scale where the best ingredients can be presented in the finest atmosphere with exceptional service.

 

My local culinary heroine is... Lorraine Fung. Her ability to produce and maintain amazing quality food on such a large scale is impressive.

 

My international culinary hero is... Chef Thomas Keller. His exceptional skills and high standards have allowed him to own multiple Michelin Star restaurants and garner many awards.

 

The local ingredient that inspires me the most is... Scotch bonnet pepper. It not only adds heat but flavour and can completely transform any dish, both savoury and sweet.

 

The local ingredient that tantalises the palate the most is... jerk seasoning, with its combination of herbs and spices.

 

I would describe our food to a class of culinary students... as a “melting pot”... like its culture — blending influences from various countries worldwide while maintaining its uniqueness. Our use of vibrant colours, flavours and spices can transform any ingredient.

 

Appetisers: Ackee dip topped with caramelised onions and bacon served with fried plantain strips

— Marinated smoked salmon with brunoise roasted beets and bell peppers

 

Entrées: Pan-seared scallops served with deep-fried parmesan polenta, wilted greens and topped with a Scotch bonnet coconut sauce

— Jerk lamb loin chops served with a sweet potato puree and a guava sherry sauce

 

Dessert: Coconut coffee bread pudding with a pineapple-cherry compote

— Mojito cheesecake mousse with a shortbread cookie crumble

 

Ashleigh Samuels, managing director/executive chef, PanAsh Catering, shares two recipes for our Thursday Food readers

 

Bon Appétit!

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