Chefs gather for Ultimate Flavors of the Islands tonight


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ST. THOMAS - Mouths are going to be watering tonight at the third annual Ultimate Flavors of the Islands.

Eight guest celebrity chefs and a half-dozen chefs from the territory will be cooking up an assortment of dishes for the Banco Popular event held at the Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. The main event starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are available for $55 at Banco Popular branches and at ticketpop.com, or $65 at the door.

Additionally, the Ultimate Flavors Chef's Challenge will begin at 6 p.m. The challenge allows local chefs to compete for cash prizes and a trip to participate in a culinary challenge in Puerto Rico. The grand tasting and the guest celebrity chefs' demo kitchens will begin thereafter.

"We've had some amazing dishes. We can't wait to see what the chefs have in store this year," said Oran Bowry, regional vice president for Banco Popular. "To have them surprise the palate this year, we're so excited."

Guest celebrity chefs this year include Efrain Cruz, Jose Enrique, Elizabeth Falkner, Brad Farmerie, Matthew Gennuso, Paulette Goto and Rachel Pol. The chefs, who have been featured on multiple Food Network programs and have been recognized by a myriad of culinary publications and organizations, hail from California, New York, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Panama and Russia.

"We found that all of the chefs are so giving of themselves," Bowry said.

The event is a fundraiser for the V.I. Department of Education's culinary arts programs, which funds courses for students at Charlotte Amalie High School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and students in the department's adult education program.

"The facilities are kind of old, but we make do with what we can," said Linda Sibilly, supervisor for the Raphael O. Wheatley Skill Center, under the V.I. Education Department.

Prior to tonight's activities, the event kicked off Thursday with a workshop held for about 50 students from St. Thomas and St. Croix high schools, the department's adult education program and from a community college on Tortola.

The workshop, entitled "New Tendencies in Culinary Arts by the International Culinary Center, New York," allowed students to learn and ask about modern cooking methods.

"What you have basically is a face-to-face with chefs. Sometimes kids today have the wrong impression of chefs," said August Schreiner, one of the chefs who will be judging tonight's challenge.

While the guest celebrity chefs have reached success in their careers, it is not easy to get to that point, said Schreiner, who is from Austria but now is based in Puerto Rico.

"They think every chef becomes a millionaire," Schreiner said, noting that the media features only the most prominent and successful chefs, though there are many more that are not nearly as successful, though they may be talented.

"These are the chefs that made it," he said.

The guest celebrity chefs whipped up a French-themed "Vive le France" dinner for 100 VIP guests Thursday evening.

The proceeds earned from Thursday and this evening mostly will go toward purchasing new equipment and textbooks, items not covered by federal funding, for students enrolled in a culinary arts program under the V.I. Department of Education.

"The culinary arts is such a big part of our culture, our tradition and our tourism product," Bowry said.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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