St. John’s Antigua- Despite getting pregnant at 16 and having to leave school to raise her son, recipient of the 2012 Chef of the Year Award Maurine Bowers, who now has three children, said they have been her motivation.
“There are times when I just don’t want to come out of bed…sometimes I say what am I working so hard for? [But] when I look at my kids I have to stay positive for them. I put myself as a motivator and a positive role model for them, not only a mother.”
Bowers is encouraging young people to pursue their goals even after they would have made mistakes.
“I know I’m not the only person (to have gotten pregnant at a young age), it still goes on now. But, it just goes to show that young mothers or school dropouts, you can pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, work hard, worker harder and work harder again. There is nothing you can’t accomplish in life.”
A resident of Ottos Village, the 31 year- old single mother has been a part of the culinary industry for more than five years. Her career began in 1998 as a trainee at the Royal Antiguan Hotel and in 2003 she became Pastry Supervisor at the Carlisle Bay Resort. In 2007, she worked at Hermitage Bay as a Pastry Sous Chef. In 2010 she attained the same position at Sandals Resort and is currently the Executive Pastry Sous Chef at Galley Bay Resort and Spa.
“When I started out, I didn’t have any experience at all in the kitchen and that was a challenge. I had to work hard and push myself to a level to show people that even though I’m young I’m capable of accepting the responsibilities that were thrown at me,” Bowers said.
In 2005, 2008 and 2009, she obtained scholarships from the CHTA-EF (Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education foundation).
In addition to being the first female to receive the Chef of the Year Award from the Antigua Hotel & Tourism Association, Bowers is also the first female to walk away with the Caribbean Pastry Chef Award in 2010.
She has 11 accreditations from the Culinary Institute of America; seven for Baking & Pastry, three for Kitchen Management and one for Food Science.
“Being a female, I think that is an ultimate challenge when you begin first, but after you work and people see that yes, she’s a female but she doesn’t back down easily from anything, she accepts the challenges, she fights hard, it diminishes.
“The more you work hard and put yourself out there, I think the respect comes easier at the end of the day,” Bower said.
Continuing: “When you think that you’ve accomplished something, ask yourself what’s the next step? To get further in life you have to be self-motivated,” she added.
To the young females particularly, she said, “Women are strong, we need to find our inner strength and work on it, stick to it, do whatever you can to develop that strength.”
Professionally, Bowers explained, she would love for chefs to be more recognized. “The kitchen is at the back of the house, I would love to see the back of the house come to the front of the house, so to speak. Let’s bring out our chefs even more. They play a vital role in the tourism industry.”
The Chef of the Year attributes her successes to God, her family and friends and the many persons she has encountered along her culinary journey. Some of whom she named were: Mark Smith of Curtain Bluff, her first culinary trainer, Rolston Williams, executive chef at Jolly Beach, Stan Baxter, executive chef at Galley Bay, Dezi Banhan, and Louise John.