Prep weeks in advance and wear a nice dress.

Remember when people felt that pressure over the boss coming to dinner?

This mid-century scenario exists in my mind:

The wife of a fedora-clad commuting man, flips though her recipe cards to find just the right dish to serve at a forthcoming dinner with the head honcho.  The evening’s outcome may carry with it the potential of a promotion.  Execution of the dish, the home atmosphere, and personal dress, all reflect the best foot-forward for the couple.  One false move, or poor food choice, may result in agony at the work environment.  In fact, the couple’s future may rely solely on the quality of a meatloaf or perfectly crusted roast.

No pressure, right?

As crazy as it may sound, that same thought system was behind the Royal Jubilee Visit of Prince Harry to Belize. No, the prince is not really the boss, and nor is Belize trapped in a post-modern stereotype.  The visit and its events however, did carry with them the significance of promoting Belize, and supporting the role that the Royal family holds within the realm.

The visit meant big business for all invested – including the chefs that were asked to provide food for the street fair.

Friday March 2, 2012 marked the first night of celebration for Price Harry’s arrival. A short speech by HRH, was capped off by his Kriol pronouncement of
“Mek Wi Party” or “Let’s Party.”  It was followed by an escorted showcase of Belizean food and dance in the capital city of Belmopan.

It was the night for which Chef Sheridan Polanco and Chef Jenny Staines had been working towards for months.

Wonder if he knew about all the good food he would eat within an hour of his arrival?

Chef Sheridan Polanco and Chef Jenny Staines started weeks in advance- before anyone else knew what was going on.

“We were not supposed to tell anyone.  We kept it all a secret. Even the menu.” said Polanco.

“That is right.”said Chef Staines. “We knew what we were making and getting ready, but no one else could know.”

Chef Sheridan hails from the US, She is Belizean by birth, but moved to LA when she was a child. Returning to Belize, Chef Sheridan was able to showcase her skill set and take over executive management of the kitchen at the Hamansi Resort in Hopkins.  “Due to the fact that Hopkins is a Garifuna community, we were asked to promote that side of Belizean culture.” said Polanco. ” I made sure we had traditional dresses too, made from the Garinagu colors of black, white, and yellow.”

Chef Sheridan and her staff created several dishes, the star of which was her stylish version of Hudut: round bites of  fried fish  were served with okra in seasoned coconut milk.  The dish was topped with the brass ring of all Garinagu foods: cassava bread. “He loved our hudut!” said Polanco.

Chef Staines of the long-running and beloved, Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, was asked to create the Mestizo food – (A blend of European and Amerindian)

“We make all that Belize has to offer. Mestizo is a favorite for us because we have so many people of that background on the Caye.”  A warm and highly talented chef, Staines grew up in her mother’s Elvi’s kitchen. She moved to the US to train and perfect her craft, returning to the island to help her mother retire and to showcase her talents for locals and tourists alike.

“We made everything from tacos to panades (a fish filled, fried turnover) for the prince.”  Crowds flocked to see what he like best.  “He ate them all.” she said.

Staines and Polanco used food as their ambassador of goodwill – with savory success.

Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons

4 thoughts on “Prepping and Primping, Part two: HRH and BZ

  1. Chef Sheridan and Jenny both look so happy to be sharing their talent and their passion for their traditions. Wow it looks so great. Did they let you get any photos of his dishes before,or after? Love it!

    • No! The security was such that I ran out to the street to see the chefs just before the arrival of HRH. I got a few shots and then was shooed away by the police who were clearing all media out of the road.

      It was a honor to get streetside, as the public has to stay behind barricades. The chefs also prepped for for the media so we could taste what he had. The hudut and tacos were delicious.

  2. What a warm, inviting and tasty place Belize must be! Another great article!

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