The Unforgettable Faces Of Our Beach House
Introducing Sherene Hutchinson, Junior Sous Chef and Winner of Marriott's Master of the Craft Competition 2018
There has been a lot cooking at our Beach House in the last week! With our oceanfront restaurant Veranda claiming the prime spot on TripAdvisor as the best rated restaurant in Cayman – there is so much to shout about. But the icing on the cake was Sherene Hutchinson, Veranda’s Junior Sous Chef, winning the Final of the Master of the Craft competition for the Americas region on October 24th. The “Master of the Craft,” which is an internal competition of Marriott International, involves notable chefs and mixologists facing off “Iron Chef style” by creating their best concoctions from unique ingredients. Sherene competed against more than 2,200 chefs and came out on top by impressing the judges with a dish that included pan seared salmon, roasted pumpkin purée with lemon, roasted zucchini and gremolata. We couldn’t be more proud of her!
Still riding high on this amazing achievement, we sat down with Sherene to talk about what she loves about her job, her inspirations, how she felt getting into the Final and why we think she is the perfect Ambassador for our Beach House.
Sherene started her foodie career after graduating from the Culinary Plus International School in Jamaica. Shortly after she graduated, she moved to Doha to be a Culinary Trainee at the Ritz Carlton in 2010. She was so well-liked and respected in the kitchen that she was hired before her Training contract ended and she stayed as part of the team, moving from strength to strength, for the next five years. In 2015, she moved back to the Caribbean and joined our Beach House as a Line Cook. She was then promoted to Chef de Partie and subsequently Junior Sous Chef.
When asked what Sherene’s love about coming into the kitchen everyday, she spoke affectionately about her team and the other people she works with at the hotel. She explained: “What I love about my job definitely comes back to the people! I couldn’t have asked for a better team. They inspire each other everyday. And they inspire me to want to get up and come into work everyday. From a technical perspective, I love being surrounded by good leaders. For instance, Chef Andres Davila is very focused and is someone that I want to learn from. He is very precise and that is something that I admire very much about him. He is knowledgeable about certain things that I want to gain knowledge in. I think our Beach House does a pretty good job in the hiring process because there are people from everywhere. It is like a melting pot. And we all learn from each other. For example, I am learning to make curries from our Indian chefs. And when I make my Jamaican food, the other chefs ask me what it is and how to make it. Another thing that I love is that we can create what we want. It is a very nurturing work environment here.”
When asked what inspired Sherene to pursue a culinary career, she talked about her upbringing in Jamaica. She elaborated: “I had good support growing up. My mom, grandma and granddad were all chefs. My mom used to work for the airport. My grandmother used to cook for homeless people so every Friday morning she used to wake up and make this huge pot of soup. She made it at home and from the age of 11, I would watch her making it. She made it with love and everyone who had it said it was amazing. People would comment that it was the most delicious soup. When I got older, I always liked hosting people at my house and I would cook for them. I had a few friends who came over one day who worked at the Ritz Carlton in Bahrain; they were visiting and therefore came over for dinner. After dinner my friend encouraged me to go for it. In Jamaica it is very different, it is difficult to get training in the culinary world. It is very competitive to even get unpaid internships there for jobs. So after culinary school I applied for a training opportunity at the Ritz Carlton in Doha and they accepted me. Three months in, I was offered a job as a Line Cook. I am grateful that someone took a chance on me. I was in Doha for four and a half years. When I moved there, it was the first time that I left Jamaica. It was an amazing experience. And now especially after winning the Master of the Craft competition, I am falling in love with my job even more. The first place that I went when I landed back in Cayman was my kitchen. I went home just to drop off my bags and then went straight to work and asked my team “who is going to compete next?” And they all started smiling. My team is proud of my achievement and they want to do it too. That is the wonderful part of my job. And my team are the reason why I love my job and do it everyday.”
When asked what attracted her to Cayman, she spoke of many reasons, including her love of living near water. She described: “After a few years in Doha, I felt it was time to move and I wanted to go somewhere closer to Jamaica. There were also a few people that moved to Cayman from Doha who recommended it. I also liked how I would be close to the water. I love water. If you just take me to the river or the beach; any place that has a large body of water – I would be fine. And I like the fact that you can walk anywhere in Cayman and be next to the beach. It is so peaceful. In terms of the culinary aspect to Cayman, it wants to be the best at everything. Cayman is the best and every restaurant on this island has that same goal. It is a great place to live. And especially working for our Beach House, we are the trendsetters for everything. Everyone is watching us to see what we are doing.”
But besides working in the culinary capital of the Caribbean, what Sherene adores about the Cayman lifestyle is that she feels like she is on vacation everyday. She explained: “Veranda is right on the water. All I have to do is go outside and the water is right there. It is awesome. I do miss home sometimes but in terms of culinary progress, Cayman is the best place to be. I would love to go back one day and teach culinary workshops in my old high school.”
When asked how Sherene felt about making it to the Finals of the “Master of The Craft” competition, she fondly described her journey to victory: “During the Semi Finals, when I saw the ingredients that I had to work with, I just imagined myself back at Veranda. For instance, when a guest has a special request, what do you do? You just have to use what you can find in the kitchen and that is exactly what I did. But all the other contenders were really good – they were the best in their field and top in their region. But I was determined to get our little hotel on the map. When I reached the Final, I kept on repeating this to myself: “This small hotel is going to win it. Everyone is going to hear about the Grand Cayman Marriott.” I woke up at 3:30am before the competition with this just being repeated in my head.”
“They only tell you the ingredients about 30 minutes before and when I saw the pumpkin – I just immediately thought about me in the kitchen in Veranda. Pumpkin is something that I grew up eating. It is something that I work with everyday. For Veranda, it is about us keeping the ingredients as simple as possible and that was my goal as well during the Final. It was an amazing opportunity just to be there. I was happy that I could just be in the same room as Mr. Marriott as well as all those people who are already the best in their field. I really enjoyed it. It was a great day for me.”
“Chef Andres was one of the first people who encouraged me to try competing. I never liked competitions but he told me to at least try it so I would know whether I liked it or not. He has been there every step of the way. He helped me to make sure that I had the right equipment for example. He has done competitions before so he knows a lot about it. Chef Andres is a really great teacher.”
There is no doubt that Sherene winning the ‘Master of the Craft” competition has put Cayman on people’s radar. She concluded: “During the Final, when people asked me where I was from, I would say I am representing the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach House and they would say, “where is Grand Cayman?” I was surprised no one knew. And the more my determination grew. After I won, there was someone at the Final who said that he was going to visit Grand Cayman even though it was the first time he has heard of it. I told everyone I met that Cayman is an amazing place to visit and live. We have so many different nationalities not only working within the hotel but also on the island, which is one of my favorite things about being here.”
We think Sherene is the ideal spokesperson for Veranda and our Beach House. Congrats Sherene and thanks for sharing the love!