The Hon. Asot A. Michael Minister of Tourism Economic Development, Investment and Energy Mango/Pineapple Culinary Competition 2016

Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honor to be addressing you all this afternoon “Possessing a healthy imagination is a necessary ingredient for creativity.” These words by Steve Vai express my simple message today, as the 11th Anniversary of the Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition gets underway. Today we’re showcasing some of Antigua and Barbuda’s finest professional chefs and their remarkable creativity in using two of our most delightful fruits. One of which The Pineapple, is the international symbol of hospitality as well as a being a national symbol of our beautiful country. Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that The Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition is an appetizer to one of the major events on our list of annual events “The Christian Valley Mango Festival”. It is a creative festival demonstrating the importance of linkages between our varied sectors, and more particularly, tourism and agriculture.

As the Minister of Tourism, seeing first-hand how our imaginations and inputs have led to creativity across the industry, I am bolstered by the planning and realization of this event for yet another year. Special mention and thanks should be extended to the entire Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition team, and the judging and participating chefs who made today possible. However I would like to commend and publicly recognise Mrs. Madeline McComas who came up with the original concept and idea for this wonderful competition, which has now become a permanent fixture on our product events calendar.

The Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition is a part of a unique festival that has been a medium through which the Ministry of Tourism and that of Agriculture have worked diligently to make the linkage between our hotels and our farmers become more than a simplistic reality. If truth be told, working together between the Ministries and with the people in the industry has made it meaningful for farmers and for the hoteliers. No doubt when we understand the importance of tourism to our economy and agriculture to our sustainable development, we soon realize that this is not just another festival.  There is a set policy in place where we encourage our hotels towards using more of local farmers’ produce. Farmers are keen of planting more of what we and our visitors eat.

This has an impact on the industry, which provides foreign exchange savings to our country, as well as bringing to the world the Antiguan and Barbudan flavor for which we can all attest is simply the best! Moreover, this Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition also serves to give our professional chefs  another avenue to publicly display their creativity outside of their usual environment. If as some do say that “Great people go wherever their creativity takes them”, it reinforces the strong message that the world is our market, and Antigua and Barbuda will not settle for second best. This culinary competition has served to unveil new and exceptional talent residing right here in Antigua and Barbuda.

My friends, we must applaud these chefs and our collective selves for what we have been able to accomplish being a small twin island nation with limited resources. Just think of the accomplishments that can be achieved such as the fielding of chefs for Antigua & Barbuda’s team at the “Taste of The Caribbean Competition”. As Minister of Tourism, I am heartily encouraged to suggest that soon, this regional competition will become one worthy of international recognition.

I say so, by dint of our hard work and the commitment of all stakeholders in making this Mango Pineapple Culinary Competition another pristine production of excellence in Antigua and Barbuda. The exceptional talents, which are displayed today in the kitchen by 12 of our finest culinary experts, are truly inspiring as well as amazingly inviting. As the Minister of Tourism I am heartened to know that the culinary aspects of our industry remains one of Antigua and Barbuda’s major selling points.

Ladies and gentlemen, today my challenge for you is to be aware that ‘Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends’. We must be able to dream of Antigua and Barbuda being a Center of Culinary Tourism excellence. The growing number of “Foodies”, which is the term used to describe persons who travel for great culinary experiences is growing exponentially year-by-year. This is a market that we must target and attract to our country as we continue on the path of using tourism to transform this nation into the economic powerhouse of the region.

We must work towards using our imagination and creativity for the good of all. In fact, one globally renowned chef – Nathan Myhrvold – insisted that: “Cooking is an art, but all art requires knowing something about the techniques and materials.” Our Mango Festival Culinary Competition is special. It brings into focus our people and our remarkable creativity in taking something simple and making it extraordinary! Antigua and Barbuda is blessed with a spirit of industry, and we must never be so relaxed that we fail to recognize that we are best when we compete with the world. Great things are coming to Antigua and Barbuda. As we seek to promote our country as one known for culinary excellence always remember that it is on the artistry of our chefs that the world will savour and come to know of our delightful cuisine. I thank you for allowing me to share these brief words with you. God Bless and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and every delight that has been prepared today. Thank you.