Women triumph at PAN 2016 regionals
IT’S OFTEN said that women are the backbone of our society. Recently, they have become the backbone of pan chicken.
Wrapping up Regional two of PAN 2016 at Folly Oval on September 24, four women secured their places in the grand finals. And while each has a unique story about their journey to PAN, at the centre of them all is perseverance and love for their family.
Nicole Smith, who won for the parish of St Mary, and Vanessa Williams, who took second place for St Catherine, are both from humble beginnings and share an undeniable passion for food. Their dreams go beyond the traditional roadside jerk, and they hope to one day have their own restaurant or cookshop. And they are well on their way with PAN.
“I have been jerking chicken for four years, and so far, it has been a good experience for me. This is something I want to pursue professionally and have my own business one day,” shared 24-yearold Smith.
PATH TO HER DREAMS
With the help of the prize money and the training she will receive at the upcoming workshop for finalists, it’s safe to say that Smith is on course to fulfilling her dreams.
Smith entered PAN 2016 based on the encouragement she received from her mother, Claudia Mitchell. Mitchell participated in the competition in 2009, taking the top spot for St Mary, and later that year was named grand champion. It appears to be fate.
As the competition has matured, the stakes have become higher. The prizes and incentives are greater, including a business development grant, courtesy of Jamaica National Small Business Loans, in addition to prize money from CB Foods.
Smith recounts her journey, stating, “My mother encouraged me to enter because we both have been doing pan chicken. I am always helping her when she is preparing chicken, and even throughout the competition, she
guided me and gave me a lot of advice.”
Smith has been jerking chicken at functions in and around her parish. “I’ve been jerking chicken on a small scale on weekends and mostly at church functions. But I really want to do this as a profession, so I am working towards that,” she explained.
A member of the New Testament Church of God in Port Maria, Smith could hardly contain her excitement after her win.
“I feel so wonderful! I was very excited when my name was announced because I really wasn’t looking to win. I couldn’t believe it and I just have to thank God for this,” she added.
Her stepfather, Devon Sinclair, also entered the competition in 2012.
Williams, who is the mother of a three-year-old daughter, said she also entered the competition for financial reasons.
“I realise that it’s a good thing for young chefs like myself. I want to win the money, most of all, to prepare for my daughter’s education and to finish up my CXC, because I didn’t get to finish high school. I also want to do a professional course to gain more knowledge about being a chef,” she explained.
The 22-year-old, who once resided in Portmore and attended the Bridgeport High School, now resides in Kitson Town, St Catherine.
She attributes her advancement to the finals to her love and passion for the craft. “It’s not just the seasoning, but the love I put into the jerk. I do it because I love it. I think you are supposed to prepare food with love so that others can really enjoy it,” Williams shared.
She admitted that upon realising that a number of professional chefs were participants in the competition, she did not expect to be among the winners.
“I was a bit intimidated because I saw these professional people setting up their booths and I was like, I have no chance of winning. But I am happy the way things turned out,” she said.
Upon hearing her name, Williams could not contain her emotion and burst into tears onstage.
“So many things were going on in my mind. I did this for my daughter, and to see that after everything I came second, it just became emotional for me.”
More determined than ever to win, she is already in preparation mode for PAN 2016 grand final, which takes place on October 30 at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre.
“I am preparing for the finals. My birthday is October 27, so if I win, that would be a very good birthday present for me,” she added.
There were two other female winners at PAN 2016 Regional two. Terry Ann Davidson, secondplace winner for St Ann, also emerged winner of the Miracle Tomato Ketchup Tallawah Sauce competition, and Charlette Nelson walked away winner for the parish of Trelawny.
‘I was a bit intimidated because I saw these professional people setting up their booths and I was like, I have no chance of winning. But I am happy the way things turned out.’
Claudia Mitchell, 2009 PAN champion.
Vanessa Williams, second-place winner for the parish of St Catherine.
Charlette Nelson, first-place winner for the parish of Trelawny.