Hippolite’s ceviche gets her the win

POSTED: 01/18/12 12:23 PM

St. Maarten – Samika Hippolite’s red snapper ceviche with sweet potato chips is the winning dish of the first St. Maarten Future Chef Culinary Competition, which was held at the Sundial School on Tuesday. The twenty year old SBO level two student’s coupled excellent cooking and presentation skills to achieve the victory in a tight but friendly competition. She walked away with an engraved Japanese knife and a gold medal as her prize.

Winner of the St. Maarten Future Chef Culinary Competition Samika Hipolite proudly poses with the engraved Japanese knife that was the competition’s top prize.

The competition initially had six students but two opted out at the last minute. The remaining four were handed red snapper, dark chocolate, orange and sweet potato and told to make a signature dish. The uncommon blend made Hippolite nervous, but she drew on memories of working with her mentor – Raymond Kaper – and ended up wowing the judges.

“Her dish would sell in any restaurant,” the judges stated.

The panel scored each participant on technique, presentation, portion size, following contest rules, use of ingredients, taste and the agility of the students in the kitchen. Each judge could give a total maximum score of 200 points. At end of the competition each was presented with a certificate of commendation and a dinner for two at Oyster Bay Beach Resort’s Infinity Restaurant.

Assorted dishes and backgrounds

Hippolite, who’s been waiting for yesterday’s victory for a long time, has been in job training at Holland House since last July but first started cooking at 13. Sometimes she worked at her family’s roadside bar-be-que business.

“When I attended high school I did administration but I did not like it, so while at home I would cook signature dishes for myself until I decided to further it professionally by joining this program,” Hippolite said.

In contrast to the winner Landy Bernabela, who got the silver medal for her Snam and Mer dish, said fate pushed her into the culinary profession. The mother of two whipped up a plateau red snapper, sweet potato brandada and m&m from the ingredients she’d been given.

“I wanted to do nursing but when I went to SBO and they told me that only cooking was available and that the nursing program was going to start in two years, so I decided to try cooking and now I love it,” she said as she also thanked her mother for motivating her.

“She is always there for me. Sometimes I work from seven until nine and I have no one to look after my kids, but she is very understanding,” Bernabela said.

Akeem Williams, who’s job training at Oyster Bay Beach Resort, and Cennick Issac, who’s working at Temptation and Rare shared the bronze medal.

Williams, who’s 19 years old, moved about the kitchen with ease as he whipped up pan fried red snapper with chocolate sauce and sweet potato cakes. The judges lauded him for perfectly cooking the fish’s skin. Williams is following in his mother’s footsteps and believes all men should learn to cook.

“You have to eat to survive, so learn to cook,” he said.

Issac, who’s inspired by his father – who works in a restaurant – and his mentor Dino Jagtiani – himself an award winning chef -, made light work of his fillet snapper ceviche with sweet potatoes by happily chopping the fish and vegetables with lightning speed. He’d be complimented later for his time management skills.

Bright future

The sponsors, judges and organizers for the event all believe that Tuesday’s competition is testament to a bright future for the country’s culinary industry.

General Manager of Oyster Bay Beach Resort Ricardo Perez, who served as a judge said, ““So far from what we’ve seen, they are fantastic students and we are very proud of what they have accomplished. It is good for the island to have this type of program. It is very important. It helps to develop local students for the industry but also keeps them here especially since we have over 200 restaurants on both sides of the island.”

General Manager of Divi Little Bay Cedric Pas believes that all four participants should feel honored to have been part of the competition.

“For a student to get a cooking competition this early in their career is a huge honor, because many chefs work for years and never have the opportunity to do this. It also brings out their creativity, their artistic side because you can cook but to be artistic at the same time just sets you apart,” the resort manager said.

Project Manager at the SBO Service Centre Saskia Kliphuis explained that more competitions of this nature in the future.

“We want to encourage SBO students to consider hospitality futures since it is the mainstay of our economy. We will also be extending this to PSVE as well,” Kliphuis said.

Tuesday’s competition was sponsored by St. Maarten Timeshare Association, Liccom N.V, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, Holland House Beach Hotel, SVOBE and the SBO Service Centre.


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