MONTEGO BAY, St James – Young baker Davio Henry is hoping to make Jamaica proud by taking home an award from the inaugural Caribbean Baking Awards Competition to be held in the British Virgin Islands February 16-17, 2024.
As the sole Jamaican vying for a title, the 24-year-old baker told the Jamaica Observer that she was surprised to be nominated for four awards as she had only started baking professionally when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. She now operates a small business called Magical Cakes Jamaica.
A product of Fustic Road in Montego Bay, Henry was nominated in the categories Best Buttercream Cake, Rising Star, Cake Hero, and Best Cupcakes Design.
In addition to being the only Jamaican nominated, Henry is the youngest person in the competition and she told the Sunday Observer that this is a very proud moment for her.
“It feels good because even though I am just coming into the business, people have seen my work and nominated me for this big award competition in the Caribbean, so I am feeling proud of myself. This shows that I am making big strides and I am putting myself out there so people can see me more and push others who are interested in the industry. I literally just started baking,” said an ecstatic Henry.
With preliminary voting in the competition out of the way, Henry said she is focused on delivering a delicious cake in the finals. The competition will be judged by award-winning cake artist Yolanda Gampp and contestants are challenged to design and bake a cake under the theme ‘Caribbean Vibes’.
According to the Caribbean Baking Awards’ website, “They will have to use the colours or depict their island culture and give a history of their island through their two- or three-tiered cake.”
Henry is all fired up for this aspect of the competition.
“In the finals we have to portray something that is native to our island. I will be choosing the category of hyper-realistic and I think anybody who watches Netflix or [social media] would have seen videos with some items that people put beside cakes to see which of them is the real cake. That is what I plan to do,” she explained.
Henry is no stranger to baking competitions as she was the winner of the Montego Bay Community College’s Culinary Arts Club’s inaugural Bakers’ Cup competition in 2021; however, she told the Sunday Observer that preparing to represent Jamaica on the big stage is even more pressure.
“The preparation has been very hectic and because it is a Caribbean thing, the organiser wanted to get in touch with [Culture] Minister Olivia Grange. So right now I am being assisted by our culture minister and she has been doing an exceptional job so far,” said Henry.
She is grateful for the support she has been receiving since she began baking professionally some four years ago.
The young baker stated that she was first introduced to the culinary arts when she enrolled in the Hospitality and Tourism Management course offered at the Montego Bay Community College.
Encouraged by friends, she baked her first cake for sale, and while some of her friends could not afford to purchase, Henry said they have supported her passion wholeheartedly.
“I thank my friends from high school and my teachers from Montego Bay Community College and Mount Alvernia for pushing me, because, during the pandemic, even if they could not purchase a cake, they would post my work on their WhatsApp statuses for others to see. They were advertising really hard throughout the pandemic, so I got a lot of [customers] at that time,” said Henry.
She pointed out that the customers that she got were also pleased with her products and they, too, helped to build her brand and business.
Henry had encouraging words for youngsters who want to enter the culinary arts field, as she acknowledged how it has changed her life for the better.
“There are a lot of people baking, but you have to find your market and sometimes create your niche to bring customers in. I started baking when the pandemic hit in 2020 and it feels good because people reach out to me to ask how I started and how I boosted myself more so customers could recognise my work, even though I am a newcomer,” Henry said.