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Community Last Updated: Jan 17, 2019 - 10:57:42 AM

Junior Chef Apprentice Program Launched
By Felicity Darville
Jan 17, 2019 - 9:30:04 AM

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An apprenticeship program designed to help aspiring young chefs achieve their goals was recently launched by twins Rico and Ricah Neely. Although they are just fresh out of high school themselves, they know that there are limited opportunities available for students, and they wanted to create more in a field for which they are passionate about.

Rico is already an award-winning chef studying in New York City, and Ricah is at the University of the Bahamas pursuing a marketing degree, while already practicing in the field. Together, they came up with the Queen Esther foundation, named after their departed grandmother, well-known Elisabeth Estates community leader Esther Neely-Brown.

In December, seven young chefs met to be a part of The Queen Esther Foundation’s first-ever apprenticeship program in conjunction with Cooking with Nuncy. Rico and Ricah Neely Cooking with Nuncy summer camp in August, 2018 for two weeks. During the summer camp, the Jr. Chefs had the ability to cook alongside and learn from some of the nation’s best - Cacique Award holders; 2018 Caribbean Jr. Chef of the year; former Jr. Chef of the Year for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas; the Team Manager for the Bahamas’ 2016-17 National Jr Culinary Team and others.

At the end of the two weeks, students had the ability to show off all the skills they learned in the sessions in a Cooking with Nuncy Cook-off. The excitement of the students showed greatly in the bright smiles on their faces, their enthusiasm and the level of quality in the dishes they presented.

One of the Judges, Chef Kiesha Bonimy was especially intrigued by "the caliber of skill and workmanship each student" adding that: "If I didn’t know any better, I’d think seasoned professional culinarians made some of these dishes.”

The competition was separated to juniors and seniors. The first, second and third place winners will be coached for an upcoming competition of their choice by Chef Rico and a plethora of other leading chefs in the Bahamas. However, after hosting the classes, Rico and Ricah both knew that the seasonal annual sessions wouldn’t be enough to foster and hone the skills of the students determined to be a professional chef in the Food and Beverage Industry. For some of the students, those classes were a means of recreation, while, for others, it was the only real opportunity they had for them to connect and cook with actual chefs. For the latter, it was more than just a few classes, it was a step to their future. After Acknowledging this, the twins decided to raise the bar by by starting a Culinary Apprentice Program aimed towards students in the 7th-12th grade who are seeking culinary mentorship and coaching.

The top winners from Cooking with Nuncy Summer Camp Cook off were: Keanna Brown, Muricka Davis, Matthew Clarke, Brittany Butterfield, Xinaye Barr, Starr Jones, and Krystopher Clarke.

Over the course of three days from December 17th-19th, the seven junior chefs were given a sneak peek of what to expect moving forward as a team through an informational session/ video and photo shoot, as well as a scholarship session during the first day. On the second day, they volunteered at the Elizabeth Estates Children’s Home teaching them to decorate Christmas treats like cookies, cake pops, and brownies. On the final of the three days, they were able to reflect on what happened and what they hope to see in the new year, 2019. 

The Queen Esther Foundation hopes to create even better versions of each of these junior chefs in all aspects of their lives as they prepare for the 2019 Caribbean Junior Dueling Challenge in Barbados. As their individual expectations run high, the foundation will also assist them in creating a business of their choice, walking them step by step through making a business plan/ proposal and following through with it. The foundation will also help them with applying for scholarships to attend colleges/ universities after high school, while gaining exposure on National and regional platforms at the same time.

In the near future, this team will be hosting fund-raisers and the foundation urges the public to come out and support as all the proceeds go towards travel arraignments, ingredients and uniforms for young chefs. The Queen Esther Foundation in Conjunction with Cooking with Nuncy are requesting your most generous sponsorship to assist in the facilitation of this program.

"By investing into to The Queen Esther Culinary Apprentice Program, you will enable us to accomplish our goal of helping and teaching more young people, the fundamentals and soft skills of culinary arts and its vitality to our number one industry- skills that are needed in the fast pace competitive environment of The Bahamas," said Rico.

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