"This is about livelihoods, being nominated, copping an award. Businesses flourish as a result of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards," said Sagicor Group Vice-President for Group Marketing Alysia Moulton White in her remarks at the launch of the 23rd annual Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, held Thursday last in the executive boardroom of the media group.
The statement came on the heels of Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) Executive Director Dr Carey Wallace declaring the awards "the most outstanding gastronomy event for the calendar, hands down", while underscoring the positive ripple economic effect of the event. "Restaurants get busier, the beauty and fashion industries benefit from the event as well, so that's how we see it all being bolstered, year after year, getting better and better. So while we have 4.2 million [people] coming for sun, sea, and sand, we'll have another 2 or 4 million coming for gastronomy... and so we invest heavily in the Food Awards," he commented.
These sentiments were echoed by event conceptualiser and chair Novia McDonald-Whyte, who officially opened the proceedings. "When we're sitting down and enjoying our Rolls Royce of fish: sea bass...we are beautifully dressed, sipping on Champagne... so it's a package, it's a business. Because once you lift the food industry, you lift everything else," she remarked.
McDonald-Whyte went on to welcome new sponsor Mastercard, while lauding TEF, Tourism Linkages Network, Sagicor, The Best Dressed Chicken, Johnnie Walker, Red Stripe, Heineken, Tastee, Brew'd Awakenings, Bounty, Main Event, Wata, Frigidaire, Digicel Business, Rainforest Caribbean, Aperol Spritz, and Island Car Rentals for their continued support of the region's most-anticipated annual culinary event.
"Last year was a challenge [the result of the novel coronavirus pandemic]. We managed, however, to continue our support of UTech students with scholarships... this year we continue," said McDonald-Whyte. Four full scholarships and two bursarsaries will be presented to six final-year UTech students of The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Meanwhile, the Food Awards chair will afford, for the second consecutive year a student the Novia McDonald-Whyte scholarship. At the same time Jamaica Observer Limited Deputy Managing Director Natalie Chin implored those at the table to follow suit and support the scholarship initiative. "I encourage your companies or individually, if you can, to help," she put forth.
The launch brunch culminated with a toast to the power of gastronomy and with the announcement of Debra Taylor-Smith, Select Brands Luxury Portfolio Manager and longtime supporter of the event, as the 2022 recipient of the Chairman's Award, while Cal's Manufacturing Ltd, represented at the event by director Lisa Watson, was named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Brunch duties were efficiently handled by culinary artist Oji Jaja and multi-award-winning pastry chef Nadine Burie. The brunch menu, a perfect complement to the affair, commenced with a seasonal marinated fruit bowl with Greek yogurt; and continued with slithers of chicken atop poached eggs and waffles, drizzled with Scotch Bonnet Rosemary syrup; Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee; assorted teas, and the quintessential brunch cocktail: Mimosa.
Nadine Burie's Citrus Lover Tart, made with hazelnut biscuit, passion fruit coulis with a duo of creams — lemon and lime mint-infused and tangerine/orange cream — topped with italienne meringue and grapefruits lived up to its billing while the Cavicchioli 1928 Prosecco-infused mimosa ensured a memorable launch.
The 23rd staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards takes place on Thursday, September 29 at the historical Devon House. Start time is 6:30pm