Chef Sherene Hutchinson’s Journey from the Island to the Farm
When a junior chef delivers a masterful performance, she is no less a master of her craft than the most seasoned professional. Just ask Chef Sherene Hutchinson.
Chef Sherene is Junior Sous Chef at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. She is also the winner of the 2018 Masters of the Craft competition, an annual showcase of more than two thousand of Marriott’s most talented chefs and bartenders from its locations across North, South and Central America.
After five rounds of competition over the course of six months, the Jamaican-born chef reigned supreme in the culinary category. Her winnings included an all-expenses-paid educational experience at The Chef’s Garden and Culinary Vegetable Institute to further foster her talent and passion. During her stay, she joined the CVI culinary team in preparing multiple courses spanning two nights of the Tomato Vegetable Showcase dinner.
“The tomato dinners were phenomenal,” she said. “I got to be a part of it from start to finish. There is something beautiful about a freshly picked tomato, but something magical about that same tomato on a plate, utilized to its full potential.”
Chef Sherene said she was particularly enamored with Chef’s Garden’s Huckleberry tomatoes, which she said would be a natural fit with the spicy flavors of her native Jamaica. “I was amazed by the flavor of it,” she said. “I had never had one before. It immediately brought me to a spiced tomato chutney with scotch bonnet.”
Fresh from the Farm
A tour of The Chef’s Garden was part of the chef’s stay, as well, where she had the opportunity to experience ingredients at the source, including fresh herbs and the CVI’s herd of hogs. “I walked through the farm, helping to pick basil blossoms, seeing where the produce and proteins were coming from,” she said.
“To have a chance to work with the ingredients fresh from the farm is not an opportunity you see very often in the Cayman Islands,” she said. “We always try to get the freshest ingredients locally, but it is still a work in progress.”
Sharing the kitchen with Chef Jamie Simpson and Chef Tristan Acevedo made an equally strong impression. “Chef Jamie and his team were very welcoming and open to sharing the ideas and process for the menu,” she said.
A unique, deconstructed dish featuring classic pizza flavors composed atop a slice-shaped “crust” of ricotta cheese was one of Chef Sherene’s favorites from the tomato menu. “That ‘This is Not a Pizza’ is still something I enjoy sharing with my team,” she said.
“To have a chance to work with the chefs was incredible,” she continued, “to share in their passion, not only for their job, but for the ingredients from the farm. I learned a lot from them. Hopefully I will be able to lend a helping hand in another event sometime in the future. The chance to work with the team and learn from the chefs at CVI was an opportunity that should never be missed. Thank you, Chef Jamie and your team, for having me.”
As one of the panelists judging the “Masters of the Craft” event, The Chef’s Garden’s Farmer Lee Jones said he was impressed with how Chef Sherene kept her cool while preparing her winning dish ─ pan seared salmon, roasted pumpkin puree with lemon, roasted zucchini and gremolata. He said the pressure of competing at Marriott’s global headquarters in Bethesda, with Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Marriott looking on, didn’t seem to faze the young chef a bit.
“If she was nervous, she didn’t show it,” Farmer Lee said. “She was steady, focused, and stayed true to what she knew, and she did it very well ─ so well that she won the whole damn thing! She got my vote the day of the competition, and she has my votes. This is one extremely talented class act. It will be fun to see her continue to climb the ranks at Marriott.”
Chef Sharene expressed how important it was to receive Farmer Lee’s vote of confidence, “to think that he entrusts me to work with his ingredients and allows me to showcase the beauty of his vegetables from his farm.”
Besides accolades, recognition and prizes, Chef Sharene said a more valuable takeaway from her achievement is the opportunity to pay it forward.
“I get to impact my colleagues and junior chefs in an even more positive way ─ help in molding and mentoring someone to compete or even simply just believe that they can achieve great things,” she said. “It may seem strange to some, but it gives me such a humbling feeling when a young chef walks up to me at an event or a task force and says ‘I want to be the next Master of the Craft.’ To be a part of someone’s motivation is a big deal, and I have learned to embrace it, but never take it lightly.”