We are very fortunate in Orlando, Florida to be graced by many ethnic backgrounds. As in most divergent ethnicity there is the lure of great ethnic food. The Orlando West Indian Community delivers on that promise. Over the years, I kept hearing about this great event that happens once a year, The Duck Curry Competition. I’ll equate this to a Chili Cook off.
Notice the website is “curry duck curry”. It seems like the play which comes first the duck or ducklings, or curry duck or duck curry. This platitude played out over the event with announcers rallying on the play of words. There was more focus on words than food.
The event was held at Festival Field downtown Orlando next to the Citrus Bowl. Parking for downtown events are astronomical these days with the opening of the Amway Center. Thankfully, parking was only $10. Admission to the event was $5. If you did not know the price of admission good luck figuring that out before entry, there was no posted signs. The attendants did not care much for conversation and their attitude was of relaxed Caribbean, “It’s okay, relax.”
The cooking tents were arranged to one side of the field, with a stage at the end, DJs in the middle; bars, sponsors showcasing their products, and a politician running for local office, all graced the field. Closer to the entrance were stands selling food. Having never been to one of these events I was a unprepared. I assumed, and u know how that goes. Never ASS U ME anything. Since it was a food competition there would be contestants food to taste. Well there was, just not earlier in the day. I arrived at around 1 pm. and was told that the vendors were there from 10 am. Mind you, before going to this event I looked all over the internet for times or order of activities and found nothing. Just a place and date. I was also told that the contestants’ food would not be available until around 9 pm to taste. As far as I could ascertain none of the food vendors had food warmers. According to my calculation, if the set up was at 10 am, I was there at 3 pm, that is 5 hrs. Factor in travel time from wherever they prepared this food…… Huge safety risk? Maybe this is the Caribbean way? I wasn’t going to take a chance.
The food cooking was a simple set up. There were single outdoor gas burners with huge aluminium cooking vessels set up behind their respective tents. All the preparations were done on site. There were elaborate and simple tent set ups. Walking behind these tents were more of a leisure activity than cooking. Groups of people were gathered drinking Caribbean Rum and beers. It dawned on me that this was not an professional cooking competition. This was more amateur home cooks showcasing their cooking skills. This explains the very casual fare.
Apparently the main attraction was the entertainment. There were huge wall high speakers from Envy Sounds and DJ Shivy spinning the tunes. Local West Indian Dance schools performed various routines of amateurish sometimes downright sad routines. Young girls wore very revealing costumes and performed extremely adult themed dance moves. Maybe it’s an acceptable Caribbean practice.
Needless to say, since I went to this event with the intent of eating and was not going to venture into the unknown, I decided to leave. Somewhere along the way I must have picked up a flyer that advertised Radio Guyana International was broadcasting the event live. So after getting home I tuned in on and off to at least hear what I missed out on. Later in the evening this was a full blown concert. The popular Supertones Caribbean Band took the stage and the crowd went wild. Finally, the judging was done and winners announced, at around 11 pm. If, big if….I am to go next year, I will remember to go after it gets dark. No duck curry for me this year.