Women tri­umph at PAN 2016 re­gion­als

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH & FITNESS -

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.

Vanessa Wil­liams

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.’

FILE

Clau­dia Mitchell, 2009 PAN cham­pion.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

Vanessa Wil­liams, sec­ond-place win­ner for the parish of St Cather­ine.

Charlette Nel­son, first-place win­ner for the parish of Trelawny.

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