Minister of Agriculture, Sen. Haynesley Benn (FP)??

The National Independence Festival of Creative Arts’ (NIFCA) Culinary Exhibition has been credited for not only developing home-grown cooking skills, but encouraging the use of local products.

This is according to Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn, as he delivered the feature address of the NIFCA Culinary Exhibition at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, last Friday evening.

Since being added to the festival in 1985, there has been growing involvement in the culinary arts segment of the exhibition, by both amateurs and professionals.???? This year, in particular, Minister Benn pointed out that there had been an increase in participation from secondary schools and professionals.??

In addition, he noted, several entries demonstrated the skilful use of Barbadian indigenous material and products. "This is an indication that persons are becoming more creative in the preparation of the variety of delicious dishes that can be conceivably made from local produce," Minister Benn suggested.

He said this highlighted the important linkages that exist between agriculture, culture and tourism, that could benefit local farmers, agriculturalists and ???agri-preneurs’. "We must recognise the use of indigenous agricultural produce in the preparation of local dishes, especially in the tourism industry… The cultural industry must be exploited to the benefit of the economy by enhancing the production of cultural or ethnic foods," the Minister emphasised.????

The winners of the Celebrity Cook-off held last Saturday were also announced that evening. Taking first place was Managing Director of Carlton and Emerald City Supermarkets, Andrew Bynoe. The first runner-up was Minister of Community Development and Culture, Steve Blackett, while third place went to Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation, Donna Hunte-Cox.?? In fourth place was entertainer, Carlyn Leacock.

The professional chef cook-off competition which began in 1996 was also held on Saturday and saw cuisine and pastry chefs and bartenders competing in an initiative created by a partnership between the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association and the National Cultural Foundation. Five winners from this competition will go on to represent Barbados on the National Culinary Team, both regionally and internationally.??

"It is worthy to note that the 2003 Governor General Award winners in NIFCA Culinary Arts went on to further make Barbados proud by winning gold at the Taste of the Caribbean held in Miami in 2005… This bears testimony to the quality and level of the judging process at NIFCA, and moreover, the high standard of competition which is generally exhibited," Senator Benn reminded those present.

The Agriculture Minister also used the opportunity to again urge Barbadians to utilise more local foods. "We must return to the basics and use more local fruits and vegetables like the mango, golden apple, guava, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, eddoes and yams," he implored.

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