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Chefs take challenge to cook up Virgin fresh fare

Tortola, British Virgin Islands, May 12, 2009 – Chef Davide Pugliese joined six other chefs from the Virgin Islands in the first annual Virgin Islands Ultimate Chef Challenge. The event, which was part of the Cultural Fair featuring traditional food and crafts, took place on April 29th in Emancipation Gardens, St Thomas.

In a festival like atmosphere and cheered on by hundreds of spectators, Davide and his culinary peers had sixty minutes in which to create a  'Nouveau Caribbean' dish using ingredients from a mystery table. Two additional surprise ingredients of papaya and honey were sprung on the teams at the last minute.

Once the food items were revealed, Davide hastened to decide on a recipe that would please the palates of the panel of four judges.

Using the red snapper and chicken on offer, Davide concentrated on executing his dish of plantain crusted snapper with lemongrass-coconut milk poached chicken quenelle, Scotch Bonnet-honey pumpkin, kale tamales with a local tomato and green papaya spiced Balsamic glaze.

"It was fun to get involved with something close to home," said Davide. "Of course there's the time pressure when you have no previous information of the ingredients and then have to decide on something tasty and out of the ordinary, cook it and present it – but that's the challenge! We also got to taste each other's dish and I was very happy with the other chefs' complements on my creation. It was a great atmosphere and I enjoyed the camaraderie."

The theme was 'Virgin Fresh' and required the competing chefs to use the selection of mystery products, which were grown, raised or harvested in the Virgin Islands.

Each dish was evaluated and scored on visual appeal, taste, originality and best interpretation of the Virgin Fresh theme.

The panel of judges comprised Chef Carrie Freyn of Perky Provisioning, St Thomas, Antolin Velasco Velez, of event sponsor Banco Popular, Edward Sternberg of NACO Restaurant Supply, St Thomas and Chef Larry L. Nibbs of Cannel Bay, St John.  
      
The Finalist, Mathayvom Vacharat of St John Catering, received $1000 from Banco Popular and a gift basket from NACO Restaurant Supply.

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Other participating chefs were Brian Wisebaur, St. Croix, David Benjamin, St. Thomas, Dennis Vanterpool, St Thomas, Heidi Erwig, Water Island, and Jennifer Litwin, St. Thomas.

Davide Pugliese is the owner and executive chef of Brandywine Bay Restaurant and Capriccio di Mare in Tortola. He was assisted by Sous Chef Nick Matush.

More details of the event and on the chefs can be found on www.viultimatechefchallenge.com.

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