Chef Jonathan Pasion And Chef Leo Minelli Win Hyatt's The Good Taste Series

Eleven of the best Hyatt chefs from North and South America and the Caribbean recently competed in the fifth annual The Good Taste Series Americas Regional Competition at the beautiful oceanfront Bahamas resort Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, and I was lucky enough to experience it all first hand.

I was quite honored to be included as one of the judges for this special event, along with Kris Moon (COO of the James Beard Foundation), Klaus Mueller (Global Master Chef and culinary director of Swiss Chalet Fine Foods), Danica Lo (digital director of Food & Wine magazine) and celebrity chef Brother Luck. It was a tough job, but somebody had to eat all that glorious food!

Each talented chef was asked to develop two dishes from a mystery basket of local ingredients containing hog snapper, pigeon peas, squash and sugar apples. In addition to the mystery ingredients, each chef had access to a fully stocked food pantry to round out their recipes. The dishes were presented reception-style in bite-sized portions and presented to five judges and selected guests. All 22 dishes were judged while considering Hyatt's global commitment to the philosophy of "Food, Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served" and points were assessed based on flavor, presentation/creativity, and each chef's interaction with the judges and guests.

There were some outstanding dishes, and the competing chefs exhibited both creativity and amazing composure. (Let's face it, food competitions can be a little nerve-racking.) In the end, there were two chefs left standing as the winners: Chef Jonathan Pasion of Andaz Maui and chef Leo Minelli of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. The fun for these two chefs doesn't end with this win, as both earned a place to compete with other Hyatt chefs from around the world for the global The Good Taste Series title in Singapore, Spring 2019.

Chef Jonathan Pasion's perfectly plated winning dishes included a Kaffir Hog Snapper Tataki and Nori Emulsion with a sugar apple/coconut gelee, pickled onions, and a savory tuile as his first plate. He rounded out his offerings with a Zucchini and Pigeon Pea Bao Bun and Sous Vide Filet with a black pepper gastrique and topped with pickled chayote and pigeon pea furikake.

"Being part of The Good Taste Series has been an honor as I continue to hone my culinary skills," said chef Jonathan Pasion. "Winning this competition is a huge accomplishment, and I am proud to have presented dishes that represent my training and background alongside extremely talented Hyatt competitors whom I've learned so much from this week."

Chef Leo Minelli embraced the sustainability aspect of the competition with his first dish of Cured Snapper Tartare with pigeon peas and pickled squash, topped with a confit egg yolk, sugar apple and fennel foam, and crispy pieces of carrot skins. His second plate was Hog Snapper and Pigeon Pea Baba Ghanoush with grilled squash, texture of carrots, tarragon sauce, and a hog snapper skin chicharróne sitting right on top. Chef Leo also included a unique palate cleanser at the end, which he called "ginger shampoo." He made it from ginger, celery, water and a thickener, and it looked like shampoo when squeezed from its special tube.

"I feel very fortunate to have been part of this competition and lucky to work for a company that gives me the freedom to explore my culinary passions," said Chef Leo Minelli. "Cooking alongside my talented Hyatt colleagues has been a great learning experience as well, and I look forward to bringing all that I've learned during the competition back to my team and our guests at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar."

"We are extremely proud of our culinary talent in the Americas, and congratulate both chef Jonathan, chef Leo and all of our talented competitors," said Colleen Kareti, Vice President, Operations, The Americas. "As we continued this annual competition for the fifth year in a row, we centered this event around furthering the development of our culinary talent and showcasing Hyatt's commitment to culinary excellence."

Here's the full list of the region's top emerging culinary talent who competed:

  • Michael Cantin, Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport
  • Alejandro Ceja, Hyatt Regency Morristown
  • Bladimir Garcia, Andaz Mayakoba
  • Chris Ingmire, The Driskill
  • Bradley Jones, Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead
  • Nikolaos Kapernaros, Hyatt Regency Chicago
  • Michael Lombardo, Grand Hyatt Denver
  • Leandro Minelli, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
  • Jonathan Pasion, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
  • Ricardo Sanchez, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale
  • Keisha West, Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

Congratulations to all the chefs in this extraordinary culinary competition and best of luck to chefs Pasion and Minelli next year at the global competition in Singapore.

All expenses were provided by Hyatt. Opinions are the writer's own. 

Karrie is a member of The Daily Meal's Culinary Content Network known for Tasty Ever After. You can follow her at @tastyeverafter