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Rising to the top

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jul 06, 2013

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For the second consecutive year, plantain took the center stage during Island Flare’s fourth fight as high school seniors pitted their plantain platters against each other in a culinary competition. When the plantains were all fried, sliced, diced and mashed, it was Alysha Dean’s roulade taking the win.

Alysha prepared her dish which she called a beef log covered with bacon and stuffed with ground beef smeared in plantain with spinach, peppers and an orange marmalade, sausage mushrooms, with a croquette and steamed asparagus and carrot with a red wine reduction.

It was a dish that wowed the judges’ tastebuds with the sweetness of the plantain playing off the gamey flavor of the ground beef. And her croquette was indeed creamy inside.

She walked away with a Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus Career Exploration weekend where she will get to spend a weekend on campus and participate in classes; a gift certificate to The Mall at Marathon and a knife set from the Albany Resort.

The 17-year-old graduate of St. John’s College, who appeared nervous throughout the two-hour competition that took place center court at the mall, appeared relieved when her name was announced as the winner.

“It felt great to know that all the hard work you’ve done has paid off,” she said. “I must admit, I was nervous, but I had to stick with what my coach taught me and what the judges told me to do and not to do in the semi-finals,” she said.

The judges encouraged Alysha who had been on the verge of elimination after the prelims to incorporate more plantain into her dish seeing that it was the main ingredient, and to ensure that her roulade was tighter in order to execute. And her red wine sauce, which had tasted almost like candy in the prelims they encouraged her to work on to make it more of a sauce-like consistency. Knowing that her dish could be improved, if she took their advice, they advanced her through.

At home the night before the final, Alysha said she went home, practiced her dish again, taking into account the judges’ criticisms. She presented a much-improved composed dish during the final, and went from last place to claim the victory.

For Alysha, who says pastry is her first love, she said she decided to enter the competition because the opportunity arose and she decided to take advantage of it and explore her options.

“I did not expect to win. I had really felt intimidated, because it was a great group of children and it was a stiff competition,” she said. “I was nervous I must admit.”

She says she did not expect to win and had been intimidated. It’s a great group of children and it was a stiff competition.

Taking second place was Brianne Beckford who prepared a plantain trio — plantain ball with pepper jack cheese in the middle, fish ceviche and a beef and plantain wonton with remoulade. She took home a culinary experience at Johnson & Wales University.

Jamall Petty Jr. presented another trio platter — plantain and crab fritter with an oyster topped with plantain and a plantain and crab sandwich. He was scored third, and received a culinary experience at Johnson & Wales University.

Meagan Russell who had gone into the finals in first place, finished fourth. She took home a gift certificate from The Mall at Marathon. She had prepared a dish that showcased deep-fried plantain, deep-fried fish wrapped in plantain and a baked, stuffed chicken breast with sautéed asparagus and a fennel and carrot slaw.


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