Final ‘Taste’ expands culinary explorations


The final night of 19th Annual Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival & Beer Garden highlighted the culinary ingenuity of some of the best up-and-coming junior chefs in the Marianas.

The annual Chefs Competition, jointly organized by the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands and Triple J Five Star Wholesale Foods, was held on Saturday, May 27, and featured live cooking on-site for the first time.

Antonio Agulto Jr. of Hyatt Regency Saipan won first place. In second place was Sonny Encarnacion of Kanoa Resort, while in third place was Vicente M. Montoya of Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.

Junior chefs from participating hotels were challenged to prepare a dish using this year’s featured cut, bottom butt flap. Chefs also selected local vegetables and herbs from Garapan Public Market, with at least two items incorporated. The top three winners won cash prizes, trophies, certified Angus beef items, and the opportunity to participate in this year’s CNMI Next Top Chef competition.

“Bottom butt flap is an interesting name for a cut of certified Angus beef that has a wonderful meaty flavor and fine texture when carefully prepared,” said Triple J Five Star Wholesale GM Jay Santos. “We’re excited with what the junior chefs came up with to feature this increasingly popular cut.”

“This year we explored some new ways of making ‘Taste’ even better than ever,” said Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Christopher A. Concepcion. “We have the Chefs’ Competition live for the first time onsite, we added live competitions for kadun pika [spicy chicken] and barbecue pork ribs, and we had live demonstrations of making apigigi and titiyas. Of course, the entertainment was diverse and exciting. I have to commend our MVA team and our partners for really putting together a great event enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.”

“And we’re not done creating opportunities for people to explore the Marianas with their taste buds. The MVA has something else brewing…” Concepcion added cryptically.

Fourteen food and three beverage vendors participated in the MVA’s annual signature event, which featured international cuisine at affordable prices from hotels and restaurant vendors, non-stop live entertainment on the main stage, nightly contests on the secondary stage, and arts and crafts sales.

Participating food vendors were Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, Hyatt Regency Saipan, Kanoa Resort, Mariana Resort & Spa, Herman’s Bakery, D’Elegance Cafe, Furusato Restaurant, Thai House, Tropical Chills, Sierra’s Pearl Shake, Sweet Escapes, Matty’s BBQ, Tony Roma’s/Capricciosa, and Kinpachi Restaurant.

Winners of the student “See My Marianas” Graphic Art Design Contest were also announced on the main stage at 8pm. The contest challenged students in grade 6-12 to use graphic design to promote their favorite sites in the Marianas. (MVA)

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