This week’s Taste of the Caribbean competition in Miami will test some of the best chefs in the Caribbean, including a team from growing culinary power Anguilla.
That squad will be led by veteran chef Dean Samuel, who began his career at a local bakery, the moved to study in Antigua and then at restaurants in Louisiana and Florida.
Today, he’s the executive sous chef at the Cap Juluca Hotel in Anguilla, from which he hopes to bring Anguilla’s diverse cuisine to Miami.
“I must say that cuisine in Anguilla has really developed,” he says. “There is some Indian heritage here, some European heritage here, some French heritage, because over the years, all these people have migrated to the island.”
It means that Anguilla has everything from high-end to ceviche to barbecue chicken comfort food, he says.
But for him, it’s all about the fish.
“You do stuff like working with fruits and vegetables and fresh fish — 90 percent of my fish is local fish and lobster,” he says. “But I tend to love fresh seafood, Caribbean vegetables.”
A veteran of several Taste of the Caribbean competitions, Samuel believes he has developed a strategy for success in Miami.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that the judges are looking for more Caribbean-oriented dishes,” he says. “You can add the flair to it, you can add the basic techniques, but it has to be oriented in the Caribbean. And your island is what they look for — that’s something that we have to really understand.”
While he hopes to win, the event is really an opportunity to learn about trends in regional food, he says.
“I’ve become very interested in other islands and their cuisines — because we’re a nation — all the islands are a nation, and we have to work in that vein,” he says. “There are some things where you may not like how they do it, but you can work it and make it your own — it’s our world.”