Foodie Seminar 2019: A Stellar Line-Up
Counting down to the 21st staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, distinguished guests, including the Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards 2019 scholarship recipients, sponsors and judges, attended the Jamaica Observer-hosted Foodie Seminar on Tuesday at The W, Spanish Court Hotel. With its philanthropic objective, the seminar acknowledged the achievements of the scholarship recipients, as well as provided a stellar line-up of presenters who expounded on various aspects of Jamaica's culinary experience.
Minister Bartlett in his welcome address congratulated the Food Awards team for single-handedly changing the country's culinary conversation by spotlighting the vibrant and unique Jamaican food culture. “These initiatives are delivering lasting benefits for the tourism industry as last week, Jamaica participated in the fourth Global Summit on Gastronomy in the mecca of foodies in San Sebastian in the vast culinary country of Spain,” he said. The minister acknowledged the importance of defining Jamaica as a premier gastronomy destination as it boosts the country's tourism. “Our outstanding food experiences are of the top three reasons people visit Jamaica as they seek true connections with our culture and people,” he added.
After the minister's remarks, Food Awards Chair Novia McDonald-Whyte invited the 2019 scholarship recipients to introduce themselves. This they did in spectacular style, prompting spontaneous applause. Indeed, Jamaica Observer Managing Director Julian Rogers opined that the scholarship recipients would, based on their interviews and presentations, be a force to be reckoned with and would serve as excellent ambassadors.
To begin the seminar, trade development manager at Select Brands Debra Taylor highlighted the importance of service, hospitality and the role of excellence in the food and service industry. “Feed your customers a good meal and they may not return, but serve them good food, good service and A+ hospitality and they'll be hooked,” she shared. Emphasising the role of good customer service, she urged stakeholders to endorse and support training efforts for everyone in the industry. She said, “Sustainable gastronomy can deliver what we want it to deliver but we have to conduct the necessary training and have it available to the stakeholders.”
Charging all guests to make food safety a habit, CEO of Vally Consulting Marshalee Valentine expounded on general food safety rules: clean, separate, cook and chill. Highlighting the roles everyone plays in food safety, she stated, “Food safety is sprung far — from the farmer right back to the householder who prepares their own food.” Sharing her rule of thumb, “when in doubt, throw it out”, she urged students to pay close attention to the science behind food.
Meanwhile, food blogger Jessica Hylton-Leckie focused on the top 10 lessons she's learned from crafting a successful and award-winning food blog. While deliberating lesson number 10 — failures — she said she viewed them as learning experiences rather than negative outcomes. She also promoted online food blogging as a viable career path for income generation. “I make income from ads, sponsored posts, e-book and affiliates, and there are a lot more ways to make income as well,” she informed.
Exploring the business side of food, CEO of Sagicor Bank Chorvelle Johnson presented on the ideal way for one's passion to pay them. Prioritising disciplined actions regarding capital and planning, she emphasised that “your business plan should be your Bible”. Johnson encouraged guests to always include an exit strategy in any business plan and to use tools to maximise their business. Her final words, “standard and service will be your differentiator for life” resonated with students on the cusp of entering the industry.
The day's final presenter Gary Matalon, CEO of Kingston Live Entertainment (KLE) Group, addressed the topic of balancing cultural culinary experiences in an international franchise. “Shaping new perceptions and brands in people's minds is very critical to your business,” he stated, using his experiences and the challenges faced by the Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records franchise in London, England, as touchpoints. He highlighted the importance of stepping away from clichés and going into business with people who will be good ambassadors for the brand. “Excellence is excellence,” he exhorted.
Each scholarship recipient walked away with WSET level one certification courtesy of Select Brands, My Cash Cards from Sagicor Bank and dinner for two at Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records.
The many students in attendance shared their appreciation for the wealth of knowledge made available to them and their optimism about their future culinary journeys.