The semifinals of the Bon Vivant Cook-Off were held in Bon Vivant’s professional kitchen Nov. 18-19.
Two teams went head-to-head, each with amateur “executive” and “sous” chefs vying for the chance to cook in front of celebrity chefs next January at the Cayman Cookout brunch.
This was the seventh annual cook-off, and for the first time the competition came down to points rather than automatic advancement for the team that won on each night. This meant that both teams from one semifinal evening could go through if their scores were the highest overall.
Travis Ritch and Emily Hunter from the Nov. 18 battle made it through to the final, where they will meet the team of Josh Wludyka and Ashley Stafford who emerged victorious from the Nov. 19 competition.
Judges for both nights were Alan Markoff from Pinnacle Media, executive chef Frederic Morineau from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and Cody Bush and Anthony Lawson of Smokin Bros, who themselves are past winners of the cook-off.
When asked what it was like to turn his cooking hobby into a business, Bush said with a smile, “It’s a lot of work. It’s fun, but wow, is it work!”
In fact, other winners have gone through to pursue a professional culinary career. Jolene Nelson was subsequently offered a position at The Ritz-Carlton, and has been working there with Chef Frederic for many years now.
Maureen Cubbon, winner of the 2013 Cook-Off, hosts and runs healthy cooking classes for corporate clients, and is the lead instructor for Budding Chef Cooking Club for Kids.
This year’s finalists will be honing their skills in the next month or so in order to be prepared for the ultimate test – cooking for kitchen heavyweights Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain and Jose Andres.
The Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-Off will be held in The Ritz-Carlton ballroom on Sunday, Jan. 17, from noon to 3 p.m.