Hyatt’s Borja rules Taste’s Chefs’ Competition

Competition pays tribute to Korean market

Hyatt Regency Saipan chef Jonathan Borja’s entry blew the judges away to rule the Chefs’ Competition at the final Saturday of the 20th Annual Taste of the Marianas.

Organized by the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands in conjunction with Triple J Five Star Wholesale Foods, the competition wrapped up the food festival, paying tribute to the Korean tourism market.

According to Guam Food critic Ken Stewart, the theme of this year’s Chefs’ Competition, which featured certified Angus beef, was Korean barbecue.

Last Saturday, seven chefs from some of the most popular eating establishments in the CNMI came head-to-head for a $500 cash prize and an automatic entry in the upcoming CNMI’s Next Top Chef Competition.

The contestants were given one hour to create one dish that was Korean barbecue inspired. The contestants were required to use three locally grown vegetables of their choice and Triple J’s certified Angus beef boneless short ribs.

After a full hour of intense cooking, the seven chefs presented their final dish. Borja prepared a Korean barbecue-styled platter where he created three different variations of the popular Korean dish, kimchi, and he also gave the judges different flavors of barbecued short ribs.

“My winning dish was Korean boneless beef short ribs that I marinated three ways…We got one spicy chili marinade, we got a traditional marinade with a local twist to it mixed with mango, and the last one was traditional Korean beef marination with persimmon and cinnamon and I also made three homemade kimchi. One traditional kimchi, one radish kimchi, and one mango kimchi,” he said.

Although this was Borja’s first Chefs’ Competition, he said he was happy with the outcome and he will be competing in the upcoming CNMI’s Next Top Chef competition in November.

“I feel happy and I am thankful that my chefs pushed me to join this competition…I am happy with the outcome and I worked hard for this,” Borja said.

Coming in second with an overall score of 341, just three points short of Borja’s score of 344, was Grandvrio Resort Saipan’s Richard Meimban.

Completing the top three with a total score of 312 was Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan’s Vicente Montoya.

Miemban took home a monetary prize of $300 and Montoya was awarded a monetary prize of $200.

The other chefs who participated in the competition were Tony Roma’s Daniel Atalig, Pacific Islands Club Saipan’s Paul Enriquez, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Gregorio Muña, and Kanoa Resort’s Francisco Codog.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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