Radiance Modeste, of Virgin Gorda, is a student at the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies and a junior chef on the National Culinary Team. In June, she was the youngest competitor in the Taste of the Caribbean competition in Miami, where she took first prize in the seafood category. The following are her words, condensed and edited by Claire Shefchik.
I started cooking from a very young age. I started out watching my father, and then I went on watching YouTube and stuff, just teaching myself. Growing up, I wanted to be a dentist, but my passion is for cooking and baking. I love them both equally, so I feel that this is what I’m going to do for years to come.
[My father] just loves it. He’s more than happy about it. He always feels that he knows more than me even though he don’t know professional ways of doing stuff, so we go back and forth like, “I know this. No, I know this.”
I competed against 12 other chefs. I cooked a pan-seared snapper with a mango beurre blanc sauce, a sweet potato hash brown, scallop sausage, coconut curry sauce, and a tropical salsa.
I wasn’t nervous at all being the youngest chef in the competition, because I wasn’t thinking about some of these chefs that are more skilled.
I love to cook anything that comes across my plate. But I found that I might get more of a chance to win by doing the seafood [competition], and someone else — Ariq [Flax-Clarke, a teammate] — had already chosen the beef, because even though seafood is easier to cook, beef is more complete.
How it is is everyone gathers all the things that they want to carry in, and every ten minutes a head chef comes out and they call you by your name and your country and they assign you to a table where you will be.
I practised my dish and I found that I didn’t feel no kind of nervousness. I saw a chef that competed in the competition before: They were nervous. But I kept calm. I sang my songs: gospel songs.
I practised my dish using conch. Every year they use conch at the competition, but this year they did shrimp and scallops. It’s a mystery basket, so I got red snapper and scallops. I didn’t practise using the scallops, so it got a little tricky. That was the only mishap I had. The sausage came out soft, so I seared it, and it formed up a bit and that was the only thing.
I wouldn’t say I have a signature dish, but I love to cook lamb. I like to herb crust the lamb and make a wine reduction to pair with the lamb.
In 2015, I went to the Mid-Atlantic Food and Wine Festival [with the BVI Tourist Board]. It’s different chefs from all over the world coming together in Delaware, and they have different places, different restaurants and events, with the different chefs getting to cook and showcase their talents. There were wine pairings at every event.
I would like to attend college and get a job in the culinary industry. My long-term goal is to gain as much experience as I can and come back and own a five-star restaurant. I like Asian [cuisine], so I would do a combination, infusing the Virgin Islands flavours.