Professional Culinary Classics 2010

Events such as these do our little islands proud by featuring the passion, skill and creativity Trinbagonians have for food.

Stuffed Chicken Breast presented by the team of Comedians
Hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Group of Professional Associations (TTGPA) and under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards, TC, CMT, Ph.D President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Professional Culinary Classics 2010 delivered outstanding food and a great time for participants and attendees alike.

Bar-B-Qued Pig Tails and Traditional Curried Duck
from the Safety Council Team
The Dapper Crowd filling all seats 
at this year's Event
Sixteen teams presented main dishes competing for Best Display, Chef of the Year, People's Choice and Overall Winners. Their chosen themes were resourcefully expressed in the titles and ingredients of their dishes like NIHERSTS' 'Science Makes it Delicious' with offerings of 'Atomic Duck', 'Galactic Fish' and 'Lamb Proton.' The 'Atomic Duck' was a flavorful curried duck with a kick.
Meat Stews, moist Fried Fish and Stuffed Pork Loin
from the School of Higher Education

The Caribbean Institute of Forensic Accounting with their theme of 'Curry Bobol' (Bobol is local parlance for scandal) with dishes like 'Stanforde Chicken,' 'Guanapo Pork' and 'Made-Off Goat' (hilarious) were popular that night. All rich local curries spiced just right.

Caribbean Institute of Forensic Accounting
with an All Curry Menu
Creative names and fun aside, this skillfully coordinated and well attended occasion (over 800 patrons) showcased culinary talent of an incredible calibre. Deserving mention; the Association of Doctors' 'Cosmetic Lamb' with its deep well balanced taste, the Association of Real Estate Agents with a Hawaiian theme and Guava Glazed Baby Back Ribs - the perfect balance of sweet and savory along with TRINRE's Mahi-Mahi, Salmon and Shrimp fare, all simply blissful.

TRINRE team's Amazing Salmon
It was difficult deciding what to eat that night, if you were smart, while sampling fine wine from the AMCO wine station, beer from the Heineken booth or having a premium drink from the bar, you ambled around and viewed the competitor's stations and had a look into the veggie, carbs and dessert booths located at either end of the auditorium. When time came to dine, you would have formulated a scrumptiously winning game plan for which of the three entrĂ©es you would sample and know where to acquire the veggies, carbs and desserts to tickle your fancy.

Did someone say Drinks? A great Bar all night

This annual affair was designed to strengthen the camaraderie among the professionals and their associations and as a fund raiser. The fundraising goal being to improve the capacity of the TTGPA to work with government, private and community based organizations towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty.

Juicy Guava Glazed Baby Back Ribs from the
Association of Real Estate Agents
Though many hours of strategizing and planning must have gone into the team's meat dishes, Dessert was no after thought, I had Ice Cream and Coffee from respective stations with Cakes and Pastries (courtesy the Hyatt Regency Trinidad) to savor while soaking in the live entertainment on stage.

Many colorful and flavorful
Salads to choose from

This deliciously successful affair held on November 13 at the Center of Excellence, Macoya Trinidad has undoubtedly helped the Professional Culinary Classics (PCC) earn a premium place in the Annual Culinary Calendar of Trinidad and Tobago. The TTGPA plans on hosting other food and drink related events during the year leading up to the PCC 2011, and I look forward in eager anticipation of their announcement.

His Excellency presenting the Overall Winner's
to the TRINRE Team

PCC 2010 Winners: 
  • Best Display - Association of Real Estate Agents "Real Hawaiian Delight"
  • Chef of the Year - NIHERST "Lamb Proton"
  • People's Choice - Association of Real Estate Agents
  • Overall Winners - TRINRE "When Sea Food Comes Sailing In"
More comprehensive Belly in Hand coverage here; I really had fun at this event :-) 



Food and the Festival of Light

Diwali excites me. Every year as members of the Hindu community rush around preparing for this important five day Festival, I, like many non Hindu Trinidadians prepare to take part in the cuisine and sharing that is the Festival of Light.

Curries of all kind, traditional Hindu breads and sweets and gatherings planned in intricate detail ensure this public holiday is marked in style and appetites, whetted in year long anticipation are satisfied.

Inside 'The Little Store' Pooja Shop, Curepe Trinidad
A few Bottled Curries from my Pantry

Around this time, I am reminded how lucky I am as a Trinidadian, to grow up with and share these customs and how easily available the rich flavors of India have become. Pooja shops abound all over this country and in the days leading up to Diwali, they are insanely busy. Filled with authentic items from all over India, many visit these shops year-round for kitchen and household goods, clothes, spices, food and prayer related items.

Painted Diyas on Sale in Curepe
Ornate Diyas at My Home

The traditional lighting of diyas remain a sight to behold; glowing clay bowls filled with coconut oil and cotton wicks, arranged in simple rows or elaborate designs on wire or bamboo frames. The lighting of diyas (plain or ornate) symbolizes the reign of light over darkness in commemoration of the return of the Hindu Lord Rama from a fourteen year exile and the vanquishing of the demon-king Ravana.

Steaming Hot Spinach in Coconut Milk
Yellow Split Pea Dhal

Cooking lunch on Diwali for friends and family brings me such joy every year, then later tasting Diwali delights someone else has prepared - even more so. This year my menu was Bodi and Pumpkin Korma, Spinach with coconut milk, Split Pea Dhal, Coconut Rice with Raisins and simple Cucumber Salad.

Slivers of Cucumber and Onion with
Salt, Lime, Crushed Garlic and Pepper
Bodi and Pumpkin Korma

I consider myself a true 'meat mouth' but for Diwali I keep it vegetarian and a few tricks ensure I am always satisfied. I include ingredients like imitation bacon bits (just a little) to cooked greens as I turn off the heat - my usual way to cook greens begins with rendering the fat from pancetta or bacon. I use coconut milk and wet curries so sauces are thick and gravy like. I deepen flavors by roasting cumin and grinding to add to Dhals along with pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg. Large golden raisins make a meaty addition to rice and help balance some sweet with the savory.

Coconut Jasmine Rice with Golden Raisin
Tonight, when I bask in the glow of diyas and the comfort of family, friends and Hindu tradition I will smile, grateful for the continued experience of living peacefully in a rich and diverse Nation, steeped in a food culture.

Shubh Diwali (Happy Diwali).