Last year Mark was inspired by the plight of culinary professionals and students displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He became involved with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education Foundation, and through Louise John, the foundation’s trustee, he helped prepare the Team Haiti chefs for the prestigious Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition. Mark, assisted by Maureen Bowers, devised a pastry master class to train and prepare Haitian Pastry Chef Valery Abraham for the competition. Together they helped Valery to win the Pastry Chef Silver medal for Team Haiti at Taste of the Caribbean. The project continues and there are now 10 Haitian hospitality students studying for their diplomas at the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute.
This year Mark achieved one of his own personal aspirations and won the Antigua Hotel & Tourism Association – Antigua Chef of the Year 2013. “It feels good to be Antiguan Chef of the Year. I am very proud to have won; it’s an honour”, said Mark modestly. Next year he would like to go on to represent the Antigua team as their pastry chef at Taste of the Caribbean. “I want Antigua to win,” he proclaims. “The proudest moment in my career so far was when Maureen Bowers won Caribbean Pastry Chef of the Year. She won something I have yet to achieve.”
Mark has many qualities which make him a great all-round culinary professional. For seven years he has dedicated his creative skills to Curtain Bluff Resort, patiently training, motivating and sharing his talents with anyone who wants guiding and bonding his kitchen staff. “I wouldn’t have been so successful without the dedication of my long-term pastry team. June Harrigan and Anderson Charles are the ‘rocks’ of the pastry department. They have each worked over 25 years at Curtain Bluff.” “In fact,” Mark recalls, “I don’t think I have ever seen June look in a recipe book for anything I’ve ever asked him to make. Amazing! I have a lot of respect for the support of Rob Sherman (Curtain Bluff Managing Director) and Chelle Hulford (Curtain Bluff Founder). Working with Wendy Eardley (Resident Manager) and Christopher Eastmond (General Manager) is an amazing experience.”
Mark leads by example even outside the kitchen. On hearing that the local school at Old Road, to which many of the hotel staff send their children, needed a kitchen and dining area to allow the National School Meals programme to offer meals there, Mark and the hotel staff raised funds, involving the hotel and other contributors, to build a fully furnished kitchen and pupil dining area for the start of the new term. This is Mark Smith: inspired teacher, generous contributor to his community, and gifted chef.