YouthZone: Nourishing benefits of the culinary arts

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Who will walk away with $10,000 on December 4? Will it be Sir McChesney George Secondary School, St Joseph’s Academy, Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School, or the Antigua State College? We are days away from the finale of the Taste of Wadadli Junior Chef Cook-Off Competition, which will take place at the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute.

As we anticipate the culinary showdown, we are also looking forward to the announcement of the top student. That individual will represent Team Antigua and Barbuda at the Taste of Caribbean event in Miami 2024. Meanwhile, let’s continue to focus on food—the universal language that transcends barriers of nationality, language, and ideology.

One of the junior head chefs in the Cook-off Competition, Ashauny Rattary, told YouthZone that he developed a passion for cooking at a young age when his mother would allow him to enter the kitchen.

Cooking together is an opportunity for families to spend quality time and bond. It’s also a chance for intergenerational knowledge transfer, as cooking traditions and family recipes can be passed down from one generation to another. Eighteen-year-old Ashauny cherished those engaging moments with his mom.

He later pursued Home Economics at the secondary and tertiary levels. The Antigua State College student said he became captivated with “the chemical properties or science behind the preparation of food”.

This is crucial for ensuring food safety, optimising flavour and texture, as well as preserving nutrients and managing allergens. Understanding the science provides a foundation for informed decision-making in the kitchen and supports the development of successful recipes and cooking techniques.

Ashauny described cooking as an essential life skill that everyone should possess. By involving children in food preparation, they learn to measure ingredients, follow recipes, use kitchen tools, and understand basic cooking techniques.

And if that’s not enough to motivate you, Ashauny said, “A lot of ladies would love a guy who can cook.” He internalised his mother’s words of wisdom that reverberated throughout his home in Bolans Village: “Learn how to fend for yourself so that you don’t have to be dependent on your wife in the future.”

It’s also important to note that when youth prepare their own meals, they become more invested in the food they eat. They gain a deeper understanding of the ingredients used and the effort required to create a meal. This engagement can positively influence their food choices, leading to a greater willingness to try new foods and make healthier choices.

Overall, early exposure to food preparation can bolster cognitive and problem-solving skills. It’s a creative outlet for young people to experiment with flavours, textures, and ingredients. They can create their own recipes or modify existing ones as they develop a sense of confidence and independence in the kitchen.

And if it’s one person who can identify with the benefits of cooking, it’s got to be the CEO of Success Culinary International Inc, Melvin Myers. This son of the soil, who hails from Buckleys Village, recognises that cooking is not just a practical skill, but a creative endeavour that requires expertise, imagination, and a keen eye for aesthetics. Just take a look at his artwork. Using ingredients as his medium and the plate as his canvas, Myers creates memorable dining experiences.

Like Ashauny, Myers enjoys the smile that’s plastered over the faces of his customers. When people enjoy food, it validates the chef’s skill, creativity, and culinary expertise.

For many chefs, “Cooking is an art form,” said Myers. It nourishes personal fulfillment and provides powerful motivation for chefs who create dishes that are not only visually appealing but also deliciously satisfying. So don’t forget to show appreciation for good food.

The culinary arts can be a profitable and sustainable avenue for young people who want to open their own restaurant, operate food trucks and pop-ups, offer catering or private chef services, or create and sell specialised food products.

However, Myers reminded us that profitability in this field requires a combination of culinary skills, business acumen, and effective marketing. So what does this mean for aspiring and current youth entrepreneurs? You also have to adapt to changing consumer preferences and position the right people on the job to deliver high-quality products or services consistently.

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